Peter Poer

Online Learning Can Work for Everyone

laptops“Our students don’t like online learning.”

This is one of the concerns I hear from administrators most frequently as I’ve worked to help schools and universities adopt Magoosh test prep into their curricula. And when administrators believe online learning can’t work for their students, they sometimes decide to continue offering more traditional test-prep methods at their schools, even if those methods aren’t working.

When I hear people say their students don’t like learning online, my first question is, “What does online learning look like at your school?” All too often, it looks like students being given account passwords, handed a computer, and told to use the program for a few hours a day. And what does the program involve? Long, boring videos and misaligned practice questions, with little (if any) feedback or explanation. Of course they don’t like that — who would? That’s why we take a different approach to online learning.

At Magoosh, we try our hardest to make our product fun, engaging, and easy to use. We have short digestible video lessons, content that directly aligns to what students will see on test day, question explanations that address student misconceptions, and data analysis tools that help students and teachers make informed study decisions. But even so, we don’t recommend that schools simply set their students on Magoosh and let them go. Our most successful school partners have gone with a blended learning model — one that provides individualized online study with in-class support and motivation.

Blended learning and why it works in the classroom

old classroomAt its most basic, blended learning is incorporating new tools and technologies into the classroom. When you think about it, we’ve been doing blended learning since the dawn of time — teachers incorporated literacy in ancient Greece, books after the printing press, and projectors and powerpoint in the late 20th century. In each of these phases, however, the teacher remained constant. So why should we replace the teacher now at the dawn of online learning?

We shouldn’t. Online learning can do great things, but it can’t replace teachers. At Magoosh, great teaching is at the center of our product. We use our team’s teaching expertise to put the best, most relevant information in front of students. We connect students with a network of test prep experts to answer questions quickly. And we keep tabs on the changes coming to the tests to make sure that our content is always accurate. In fact, our material is so good that hundreds of thousands of students all over the world rely on it to prep for their exams. But it can’t ever replace a great teacher or tutor. It can, however, make their jobs much easier.

Benefits of Blended Learning

studying togetherBlended learning combines online instruction with in-person teachers, with results that benefit both the teacher and the students.

In a blended learning environment, teachers’ roles change substantially — in a good way! They’re no longer the providers of content; they’re now facilitators, coaches, and data analysts. With online tools at hand, they can chart individualized courses for each student — checking in with individual students and providing guidance, motivation, and accountability. Rather than planning lessons that teach to the middle, a teacher in a blended learning class spends time reviewing student data and using it to push everyone forward.

This has tremendous benefits for students as well. Students get exactly what they need when they need it — no waiting for the teacher to catch other students up, and no feeling left behind when the class moves forward without you. Blended learning can engage students constantly at the appropriate level, making class more enjoyable while maximizing learning time.

Overcoming the fear of online learning

As I mentioned earlier, many students, parents, and teachers hear “online learning” and think that students will just be given a password and told to figure it out. While this kind of individual study can work for many students, we think it’s best when teachers are part of the process. That’s why we encourage teachers to be just as involved in the program as the students are so they can guide them along the way. The most successful classes we’ve worked with are the ones where teachers found ways to incorporate Magoosh into their already existing program.

In order to make sure that online learning works — and to assuage real concerns over its efficacy — there are three tips that schools can implement.

1.) Select the right product. All online learning tools are not created equal. Read student testimonials, talk to other school leaders, and have students take a look at free trials. The benefits of online learning really only kick in when the tool you’re using is well-made.

2.) Have a dedicated space and time. This likely comes as a shock to no one: some students don’t do their best work at home when no one is watching. Incorporate technology into the classroom by having students work in a computer lab at designated times. Students know when they’re supposed to study, and a facilitator can check in with individual students to keep them motivated and accountable.

3.) Plan ahead for student success. When prepping for tests, it is easy to default to cramming. Don’t! Magoosh has study schedules for a variety of lengths that can be great guides, but the longer you study the better you and your students will do.

When students are individually motivated, they’re likely to be sufficient self-studiers. But that simply isn’t how every student operates. If you’ve got a mandate to improve student test scores, online learning can — when done the right way — be an effective and efficient way to boost students’ scores.


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  • Peter Poer

    Peter helps make sure Magoosh students have the best possible content. A proud Arizona Wildcat and Teach for America alum, he worked as an instructional coach before getting an MBA at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He is passionate about student achievement and educational equity. Also prime numbers. Peter enjoys cooking, running (slowly), and going to bed comically early.