With the Internet becoming such a prevalent part of life, it’s no wonder it’s constantly becoming a part of the educational experience. This article focuses on online learning, how it was developed, what factors to consider when developing an online course, the rationale for creating an online learning environment, the different types of online learning, and tips for maintaining and optimizing a course. online.
Online learning is the use of multimedia tools and technologies (ie computers, videos, kiosks) through electronic media to demonstrate and/or teach a concept and/or skill.
Did you know that when you insert a keyword into a search engine it is an online learning method?
More than 70% of people use online search sites as a way to do secondary research. However, it is up to the web user to determine what information is considered important and reliable. When results appear on a web page after a keyword search, most people see the results on the first two pages. The use of online search is considered an “unstructured learning environment” as there is no set agenda or sequence for learning (unlike a structured learning environment where resources (including text and hyperlinks) are in a complete format, such as a web page or a compact disc (CD).)
Someone may be looking for a particular product. There is no “default” path or procedure, as long as they find the product. When consumers visit different sites to compare prices, it is an online learning method. Some people refer friends and family to their online “wish list.” Why? So they can learn what gifts they want to buy for themselves.
There are two types of online learning. The first is a practical synchronous learning environment. This is also known as live, real-time learning. Examples of this can be found in webinars, live chats, and conferences.
The other type is asynchronous learning. This type of learning occurs at the pace of the computer user. Learning can occur beyond class hours. Forums where you can do that are by emailing the instructor for tips and guidance, through a discussion, on a bulletin board, or by submitting assignments by posting them online.
Despite the resources available in today’s world, instructors and institutions alike are not using online learning to its full potential. About 90% of educational institutions have Internet access; however, only a fraction of instructors are implementing it as part of their curriculum. Another challenge is the “digital divide”. Lack of income, limited or no access to a computer, and lack of Internet access are all contributing factors to the “digital divide.” Students who are on the short end of the gap may be reluctant to work in a new environment.
Institutions are not immune to the “digital divide” either. There is increasing pressure on education budgets that technology is sometimes seen as an afterthought rather than a necessity.
Online learning is not a medium reserved only for academia. Corporate environments use online learning tools to train employees. Many continuing education and adult education courses and seminars are also conducted online. Software companies often offer regular training sessions to customers on how to use their products.
To ensure the success of online learning, planning an online course should begin by establishing the goal and objectives of the course. Once the goal is established, determine how the online course will help improve the class experience in terms of reaching the goal. Is the online medium a tool that the student will actively use, or is it a medium that would be used to display items of interest, ie tables, graphs, or videos?
Before creating and delivering an online course, it’s important to gain first-hand experience with the resource. If one has not taken an online course, it is suggested that one do so. Online courses can last from half an hour to an hour to a full semester or year. When taking an online course, here are some questions to consider:
o How easy and/or difficult is it to navigate (move) and explore the website?
o Were you able to access the materials you needed to complete tasks/assignments?
o Were there additional resources listed?
o What are your likes and dislikes regarding your online learning experience?
o How responsive was the instructor?
o What aspects and factors can you take to create your own course?
After you have taken an online course, you have first-hand primary research as a student in the online learning environment. She can now take the experience and focus on making the online learning environment for her students enjoyable and informative.
The first step is to plan the content. What type of content will be on the course site?
What content is needed for the course?
o Evaluation information
o Shipping protocol
o Measurement of student progress
o Confidentiality issues
o Instructor Information
or email address
or office hours
According to the web didactic guide A good method to use is to take index cards and write on each one what type of content should be on the site and organize it into an easy-to-navigate sequence of events.
Once you’ve organized the materials, it’s time to figure out how to make the course accessible on the Internet. Below is a list of routes one can take to get their course online:
o Internal Resources (Institutional/College/University)
o Equipment (Computers with Internet Access)
o Installation of computer lab
o Editorial Resources: Examine your textbooks.
Some publishers have online resources that are available to instructors, such as websites and CDs that may be free to use.
o Web space may be available to instructors at your institution. Check with the educational department and/or the MIS department of your institution.
o External resources
o If web hosting space is not available, there are web hosting packages starting as low as $5 USD per month. Most web hosts have easy to create templates where all you have to do is insert text, documents and/or images.
o A domain name is also required if you are hosting with an independent company. Domain names typically cost around $9 USD per year.
When you have the online course, there are still factors to consider.
How receptive will students be to the online format?
Some students may not have the experience of learning in an Internet-based environment. If this is the case, recommend hands-on training. Many libraries and community centers offer free “Introduction to the Internet” courses that cover the basics from email, to searching, to browsing.
Does the instructor have enough time to devote to the course, beyond class time?
If the instructor is not responsive and not engaged in using the online medium, how do you expect students to learn to be comfortable in the online environment? It is also recommended to have a variety of methods in which students can communicate other than the phone and office hours. Bulletin boards, online forums, webinars, an email group are practical examples. This will empower and encourage students to check the site and participate in the bulletin boards and/or forums on a regular basis.
Below are some final tips that will help in the maintenance and management of an online course.
o Take an online course at least once a year.
o Keep your online material up to date.
o Be accessible both online and offline: Students tend to ask more questions via email than in the classroom.
o Be open to feedback from students, they are helping you improve the online experience for them and future students.