Research Paper on Online Learning

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1723 Words
Date:  2022-07-08


What is online learning? The term is broadly used to refer to the method that is used to deliver educational information via the internet. This includes the use of downloadable content such as digital textbooks, video and audio materials, informal teaching as is the case in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and fully structured online courses, which includes assessments and awarding degrees after completion (Allen & Seaman, 2011). Online learning can simply be defined as any form of learning that is achieved with the assistance of an internet connection and a personal computer (or a mobile-enabled technological device).

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Online uses a variety of techniques to ensure that there is the transfer of knowledge from the teacher to the students. It can use real-time interactions such as the use of Skype and Canvas Conference. The teacher-student interactions can also occur over an extended period of time such as through an email or an online discussion board (American Association of University Women, 2001). In most cases, online courses are broken down into modules, which contain various learning content and activities that a student needs to complete before moving to the next module. The modules usually contain text readings, powerpoint presentations, and lectures that provide the relevant information that a student will need to complete the assignments that are at the end of each module. It is important to point out that the learning activities normally vary in the different modules and may include things like discussions, scenarios, simulations, projects and even term papers.

The online learning phenomenon is not a new concept. In fact, throughout the history of education, both the educators and learners have been seeking flexible alternatives to the traditional, face-to-face instruction, which transcend both distance, space and time. For instance, in the 1890s, the University of Chicago began to offer correspondence courses via the mail. During the 20th century, educators began to experiment with radio and television to deliver instruction to students- programs such as the Sesame Street have over the years been instrumental in teaching children about different concepts in social, mathematical and speaking skills (Area-Moreira, 2000). However, the two methods that have been described above had limitations that were more or less similar to the traditional face-to-face learning process. In the case of the use of television or radio programs to teach students, its limitations included but were not limited to: time, as the programs were aired at a specific time. Also, they are passive forms of learning for the students due to information transfer being one-sided.

The introduction or the development of the World Wide Web in the 1990s meant that information could now be transferred via the internet in the form of images, audio, and videos to the students both in real-time and over an extended period of time. In the past decade, there has been an increasingly widespread access to computers and the internet in both the developing and developed nations (Bates, 2011). This has meant that online learning has also become a consistent presence of learning at all levels of education. The online learning platform provides the students with the ability to extend the teacher-student communication and also access their resources outside of the school or work environment. In addition to that, this platform allows them to be able to not only supplement but where possible to fully replace the different activities that at one time were reserved for the traditional classroom or workplace.

An important point to note is that online learning is not necessarily the opposite of traditional learning or classrooms- they are at times presented in such a manner. Online learning can be viewed as a different teaching and learning method from the traditional brick and mortar format (Bold et al., 2010). In fact, it can be used to complement the traditional classroom teaching through the blended format of learning. It is also important to mention that when referring to online learning, it does not mean replicating the face-to-face teaching via an online environment. For the formal online learning to be effective, for both the learning institution and the students to have a reliable internet service, which they will have access to at a convenient period. The students also need to have an adequately equipped mobile-enabled device such as a desktop PC, laptop, tablet or a mobile phone. It will make the teaching and learning process easier, effective and of high-quality.

Online learning is becoming a highly popular form of learning because of its unique ability over the other forms of learning in providing flexible access to learning content and instruction at any time, and from any location. The motivation behind online learning is that: it increases and improves the availability of the learning experiences for learners that may not be able or choose not to attend traditional face-to-face learning programs (due to disability or a busy schedule), assembly and dissemination of instructional content in a more cost-effective manner, and ensuring that more students are provided access to qualified instructors even in locations where they are not available (Bouchet et al., 2016). It, therefore, leads to an improvement of the quality of education.

Trend and Development: A Retrospective Exhibit

The technological revolution has immersed the traditional educational model in a transformation process; in a relatively short period of time it has gone from being based on paper and pencil to using a vast number of audio-visual media and technology, however, it is not the use of audio-visual media that has facilitated the change in the methods and organization of the learning processes but the use of the new technologies. New technologies have impacted schools and universities all around the world at all levels (Carmody, 2011). Nowadays, basic operations such as enrolment and obtaining grading information can be done using the university website. Not only that, but students can also access information and communicate with each other using the same website, and, more importantly, teaching itself can be done online. The height of the Internet has caused an increase in the number of online learning platforms that evolved from mere repositories of didactic resources to learning systems (Chen & Shaw, 2006). When using online learning systems, students have to interact with the system if they want to learn, this is not always true in traditional classroom settings (lecture), in which due to overcrowded classrooms, and the students adopt a passive role and leave the active roles to their professors (Area-Moreira, 2000). The organization of the information in the online learning systems according to the needs of the students is very important.

Currently, students have then to select what is important; this selection can be too overwhelming cognitively for the students and may lead them to quit the training process. It is our understanding that most online learning systems make a great deal of information available to the student. It is particularly important that the online learning systems are able to integrate different paces of content and navigation in order to be able to respond to the diverse needs of the students and to avoid the cognitive overload. The concept of online learning integration into an educational system begins with the teacher and the ways in which teachers teach. The challenge for many if not most teachers, particularly in developing countries, is changing their practice of teaching in ways that accommodate the use of technology. Blending how they have traditionally practiced teaching with the use of technology beings to create online learning solutions (Coombs, 2000). In online learning, technology is simply a tool that educators may use in a number of ways within the new environment that can impact student learning and outcomes. A teacher deciding to use technology needs to consider how it may provide a solution to a particular problem of practice they have within their learning environment.

Technology and its Relation to Teaching

In this blending of technology, pedagogy, content, and knowledge, a theoretical principle has evolved known as TPACK which reflects the intersection among three domains of teacher knowledge: content, pedagogy, and technology (Koehler and Mishra, 2008). Research has shown that teachers can move from seeing content, pedagogy, and technology as independent domains of knowledge to recognizing the transformative potential of the interdependence among the three domains (Koehler and Mishra, 2009). In this framework, the starting point is an analysis of both the complexities of teaching and the nature of technology. The framework was developed as an extension of Shulman's influential conceptualization of pedagogical content knowledge (Koehler and Mishra, 2009). The conceptualization highlights what good teachers know about how to teach a particular subject matter in addition to their knowledge of what to teach, explore how teaching and learning can change as the result of using a particular technology. The US Department of Education (1998) developed a simple visual that has become standard of the basic changes that occur in a shift from traditional to online learning (Table 2.1). These are the basics behind teaching students what has become known as 21st Century learning and innovation skills (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity) (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2009).

Considering the relationship between technology and pedagogy thus leads to understanding how teaching can change as the result of using a particular technology. As such, new technologies encourage teachers to confront basic educational issues in new ways. The range of online learning technologies and their uses are described as follows (Curtis and Lawson, 2001):

One-to-Many (communication between the teacher and the class as a whole):

  • Online classes. Content can include lecture notes, assignments, message boards linked bibliographies of readings and websites, quizzes, and chats
  • The viewing of TV shows, videos or other previously prepared material at a central location
  • The teacher in a multi-media classroom projecting content using a projector or screen or using an interactive whiteboard. The content can range from PowerPoint slides, news broadcasts, interactive websites, and the teacher drawing graphics, to educational software demonstrating a virtual chemistry experiment.
  • Distant learning classroom or video-conferencing, in which a teacher is broadcast live to a single or to multiple remote classrooms. The distant rooms can communicate to the teacher and others through text or audio chatting, or video.

One-to-One (student and teacher communicate):

  • Teachers monitors individual student activity and progress using a feedback program
  • Teacher reviews assignments, questions, has office hours.

One-Alone (student alone with course content, self-paced):

  • E-reading devices with textbook or other reading material
  • Interactive lessons, exercises, quizzes, games or other soft...

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