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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Online Student Services: Help or Harm?

Today students exist in a completely different environment from their counterparts twenty or even ten years ago – the ubiquity of the Internet and the proliferation of various services offering their assistance to struggling students has completely changed the rules of the game. While in the past each student has been largely isolated and independent, with only his or her wits and immediate acquaintances to ask for help, today the possibilities are endless. But is that good or bad?

1. Grammar Checking Services
Grammar checking websites are exactly what it says on the tin – they are services like Grammarly, allowing you to put in any text and quickly check for grammar mistakes. While some state that such services make writing and revising texts much quicker, their opponents claim that over-reliance on crutches like this makes students negligent and creates an impression that learning grammar and spelling rules are unnecessary. There has to be some truth in both statements.

Even the best of them provide only superficial reports and point out only the most obvious mistakes (and often make mistakes of their own). They may be useful for foreign students because they explain the reasons for their corrections and can help them learn the rules quicker, but they cannot compare to a skilled proofreader or knowing the rules yourself.

2. Writing Services
Custom essay help services usually state that they sell academic paper samples you can use to better understand how to write an assignment of this or that type, but it is quite obvious that students go there to hire somebody to do their homework. One can argue about the ethics of this arrangement and the quality of education received by a student who resorts to such methods, but there are situations when it may be useful or even indispensable. For example, a student may know the subject fairly well but be atrociously bad at writing, or just at a specific narrow topic. Or writing an essay may be a mere formality you don’t want to waste time on – in other words, there are situations when using such assistance is quite legitimate.

3. Online Tutoring
Some students who find themselves lagging behind their peers resort to tutoring websites so that they can catch up with them. Although in most cases it is a completely harmless arrangement, it has its opponents – one of the reasons for this being that no one controls the quality of education received in this way. Theoretically, anybody can become a tutor and teach students something that doesn’t coincide with the approved learning program or, indeed, reality. Of course, there is a degree of control, and most respectable services of this kind don’t hire random people, but it is still more liable to foul play than regular education.

4. Language Services
Students of foreign languages are among those who benefit most from the Internet: while in the past their direct practice of the language was limited to trips abroad and pen-pals, today there are entire communities dedicated to mutual learning. You can learn a foreign language while teaching other people your own – which provides indispensable practice. However, the quality of tutoring received this way vary considerably and depends on what kind of people you encounter – and wrong learning partners may do more harm than good.

In summary, all the most popular services for students have their good and bad points; their advantages and disadvantages. It’s hard to categorically judge them entirely helpful or entirely harmful.

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