Online Learning: The Good, the Bad, and the Reality

 (Photo credit: Alex Castro, The Verge)

The idea of students learning in the open, out on the Internet, is not new. But it remains a practice that I am not entirely comfortable with. As an individual, I value my privacy and take it seriously. As I mentioned in my introductory post last week, I do not particularly like the idea of being search-able online. Stories of security breaches, such as this one, where millions of people’s identities are being stolen, resonate deeply with me.

(Photo Credit: Mike Norton)

The Bad

I once had my own identity compromised, on a small scale, and a credit card was used fraudulently. To this day, I have no idea how the information was procured. Although my contact with the credit card company was relatively painless, with an insurance claim processed over the phone and transactions instantaneously rolled back, a queasiness remains to this day.

I think it’s only natural that my own personal experiences will greatly influence my views and how I engage with student learning in online spaces. Bad things can happen on the internet. There have been many high profile stories, such as this , this, and this, of serious cyberbullying and harassment even leading to death.


The Good

Although  my own predisposition makes it easy to dwell on the risks and dangers of having an online presence, the benefits of engaging in online learning are certainly not unknown to me. Elizabeth Goold (2015) summarizes key benefits well in her article Student Blogging Matters. For one, by engaging with learning online, the relationship expands beyond a one to one student-teacher interaction. The audience becomes more authentic, involving peers, parents and potentially the wider public. A second benefit is that it teaches students how to create a positive digital footprint by providing structured interactions that are overseen by the teacher. Another benefit is that the opportunity to write online can be very engaging to students who struggle to engage with paper and pencil tasks. Finally, by blogging, or using other online learning platforms, parents can more easily and meaningfully engage with their student’s learning.


The Reality

In the end, I believe I must simply reconcile that students learning online is a fact. There are benefits, and dangers, but this can be said for just about anything. But learning online, and using the Internet socially, is going to happen, so I really have no choice but to be a positive force in shaping student’s online behaviour, and this can start in early grades. Ben Gary summarizes my position well in his article A Scary Reality (2011): “Yes, bad things happen on the Internet, but we can address them in a way that doesn’t keep students from using on of the most powerful tools in history.”

Like any tool, the internet can be used for in any manner of positive or negative ways. Students will be accessing the internet with or without support from schools. As a teacher, it is therefore my responsibility to have the skills needed to guide students in responsible use.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to  be an expert on every social media platform that students use. But I can certainly model responsible use of what I do know as I promote digital citizenship, and by providing students with opportunities to learn and share learning online, it can give me the platform to teach responsible behaviour. If nothing else, my own deep-seated caution with social media can serve as an example of the kind of self-talk students might engage themselves in when posting content online.

It is this line of thinking that has led me to enroll in EC&I 831.


Grey, B. (2011, March). A scary reality. Technology & Learning, 31(8), 58. Retrieved from

Goold, Elizabeth. “Student BLOGGING Matters.” Momentum, vol. 46, no. 4, 2015, pp. 16–17,12.

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