Education is constantly evolving, and one of the most exciting developments in recent years is the rise of online learning. While it benefits students of all backgrounds, it has proven to be a game-changer for neurodivergent students, especially those with ADHD.
I do want to start by saying that while I personally prefer distance learning, I still see incredible value in traditional in-person education. There is something to be said about being (physically) a part of your learning community, interacting in real time, and exchanging ideas in engaging conversations with like-minded individuals. However, I must admit that I have never enjoyed being a student as much as I enjoy it now, as an adult, taking classes through Athabasca University.
One of the standout advantages of online learning I’ve noticed is its flexibility. We all know that traditional school structures can be fairly rigid, most notably in demanding that everyone follow the same schedule. Looking back, I remember spending a lot of time at my school desk lost in daydreams. In contrast, most of my real learning happened at home, where I could absorb information at my own pace and create my own environment.
Since I started my online learning journey, I’ve found that there is no longer a need for me to “learn outside of my learning”. Because online learning adjusts more easily to individual learning styles and preferences, it has allowed me to personalize my learning environment and choose how and when to focus. One of the techniques that I’ve always found helpful has been to make numerous notes and highlight my textbooks in various colors. This was not something that was encouraged in traditional classrooms when I was younger. While neatness was the norm in school, my way of staying organized was (and still is) a bit different. The freedom to fully embrace this approach within online learning has been a breath of fresh air.
While I do believe there is an indisputable value to social interactions in physical classrooms, for some neurodivergent students this can be a double-edged sword. Being put on the spot or facing unexpected social situations can be anxiety-inducing and hinder one’s engagement with learning. I’ve been there – having ideas but struggling with shyness and anxiety. Online learning makes this communication easier by allowing students to share their ideas through means like email and discussion boards, taking the pressure off having to perform right there and then.
Furthermore, the sheer volume of stimuli present in traditional classrooms, encompassing not only social interactions but also visual and auditory elements, can lead to overwhelming experiences for students with ADHD. This sensory barrage often results in cognitive overload, making it challenging for neurodivergent individuals to focus and engage effectively. This, in turn, serves as yet another compelling argument in favour of the benefits of online learning and the opportunities it creates for individuals who work better in alternative environments.
Of course, I’m not trying to say online learning will solve all your problems if you’re struggling with your focus, anxiety, motivation, or facing any other challenge. There is no such thing as perfection, and every educational avenue has its pros and cons. However, the flexibility, reduced sensory overload, and accommodation of individualized learning needs that online learning offers does seem to make it a more inclusive and accessible educational option for neurodivergent learners.
So, if you’ve ever faced challenges in your learning journey and felt that the traditional educational framework doesn’t quite align with your needs, I strongly encourage you to explore the possibilities of online learning!