Online learning. What we know about it?

Online learning. What we know about it?

Rapid development of technologies encouraged the change in delivery of education to the public. Thus, education, alongside with being traditionally classroom – based, since 1980’s has gained one more, distance form.

At present with introduction of Internet communication distance education has become available online. Thus, the issue of online learning is the focus of our discussion.

Researchers find it important to distinguish between various modes of distance learning (Moore, Dickson-Deane, and Galyen, 2011, p.129). Thus, the authors state that there should be a clear definition of such terms as e-Learning, distance learning, and online learning as the “terms such as online, web-based, and e-Learning are interchanged when describing the learning environment” (Moore et al., 2011, p. 130).

Meanwhile, online learning is defined as “access to learning experiences via the use of some technology” (Benson, 2002; Carliner, 2004; Conrad, 2002 as cited in Moore et al., 2011, p. 130).

Moreover, the authors distinguish three characteristics of online learning environments: self-paced, self-directed or instructor-led. The most typical one, ‘instructor-led’, is “described as an environment where an instructor guides learners through the required instruction content and controls the instructional sequencing and pacing and all learners participate in the same learning activities at specified times” (Rhode, 2009 as cited in Moore et al., 2011, p. 131). Another learning environment, ‘self-paced’, “enables individuals to study online in their own time and at their own pace, from their own location. It provides the learner more autonomy to proceed at their own pace, while their progress is monitored to assess their achievement (Rhode, 2009; Spector et al., 2008 as cited in Moore et al., 2011, p. 131). The term self-directed is defined by Garrison as “a mode of learning which is learner-controlled; where the learner is more in charge of their own learning and they monitor and manage the cognitive and contextual aspects of their learning” (Garrison, 2003 as cited in Moore et al., 2011, p. 131).

The above-mentioned characteristics contribute to the tendency of increasing number of people who prefer to get higher education online. In this term, there arises a need in thorough consideration of advantages and disadvantages of online learning.

The major strength of online learning is that it provides access to higher education for disabled and “those restricted by geographical distance” (McNaughton, 2001; Raymond, 2000; Evans and Fan, 2002 as cited in O’Donoghue, Singh, and Green, 2004, p.64).

Besides, according to Evans and Fan (2002 as cited in O’Donoghue et al., 2004, p. 65), online learning allows students to “choose their own place of study, … organize their own individual learning schedule, … and set their own individual pace of study without being held up by slower students or vice-versa”.

Evans and Fan (2002 as cited in O’Donoghue et al., 2004, p. 67) also state that online learning through “greater use of text, sound and video, helps to enrich the learning process”.

Among the drawbacks of online learning researchers distinguish a tendency of restricted “interaction between both student / instructor and student / student, posing the threat of isolation” (Wang and Newlin, 2001; Kruse, 2001a as cited in O’Donoghue et al., 2004, p.64)

Moreover, “online courses often limit interaction activities such as teamwork, which tend to be offered more frequently in the conventional classroom” (O’Donoghue et al., 2004, p.65).

Finally, “there is a necessity for students to have frequent access to a computer, a modem, and a telephone line or cable connection” (Uhlig, 2002 as cited in O’Donoghue et al., 2004, p. 66) which is hardly available to every student.

Thus, awareness of terminology related to distance education, various learning environments, advantages and disadvantages of online learning might contribute to our understanding about online education, which has become a significant additional tool to the traditional education.


  1. Moore, J. L., Dickson-Deane, C., & Galyen, K. (2011). e-Learning, online learning, and distance learning environments: Are they the same?. The Internet and Higher Education, 14(2), 129-135. Retrieved September 9, 2015 from
  2. O’Donoghue, J., Singh, G., & Green, C., (2004). A Comparison of Advantages and Disadvantages of IT Based education and the Implications upon Students. Interactive Educational Multimedia, 9 (November 2004), 63-76. Retrieved September 10, 2015 from
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10 thoughts on “Online learning. What we know about it?

  1. Dear Gulnaz,
    Your post has provided very interesting and insightful ideas on online learning. I agree that online learning has some advantages compared to traditional in-class teaching, such as accessibility, quality and respond to each student’s needs and abilities.
    I agree with your argument that not all students can have an equal access to internet, especially in remote villages of our country.
    Another issue with online learning is that it deteriorates socail skills as the learners have a limited opportunity for peer and teacher interaction gaining knowledge in an individual way. Personally, I consider this drawback as the most significant among the others as it does not affect learning but it has a detrimental effect on student personality.
    Could you share your view regarding which drawback is the most detrimental for student learning?


    1. Dear Bakhyt,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree, that lack of interaction is one of the weaknesses of online learning. Researchers see the cause in approaches used in this mode of learning. Thus, they identify, that “majority of online courses still adopt an Asynchronous approach to learning, and Asynchronous learning limits the amount and depth of interaction amongst both students and instructors”. On the contrary, “a Synchronous approach to online learning would provide students and instructors with a more interactive environment” (O’Donoghue et al., 2004) through systematic collaboration and team-work.

      Personally, I see as the most detrimental, the lack of standards or requirements which would define and regulate the quality of online education. Otherwise, we never know what we are learning online and how it will affect us.


      O’Donoghue, J., Singh, G., & Green, C., (2004). A Comparison of Advantages and Disadvantages of IT Based education and the Implications upon Students. Interactive Educational Multimedia, 9 (November 2004), 63-76. Retrieved September 10, 2015 from


  2. Dear Gulnaz and Bakyt,
    As online learning continues its rapid expansion in Kazakhstan and internationally, the issue of quality has become increasingly important. I agree with you.
    Online courses are under a microscope now and it is vital to start being concerned with maintaining academic quality since the number of students enrolling online courses are escalating day to day.
    I think, however, there are certain factors affecting the quality of an online course and, therefore, the likelihood of remaining in that course. Regarding some personal factors are student motivation, for example. As for environmental influences, family and work responsibilities play a part as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dear Gulnaz,
    Thank you for providing valuable information about the strenghs and weaknesses of online learning. I really appreciate that you mentioned about the connection of online learning with Inclusive education. Researchers tend to study these two topics in Education seperately and little research is done about the impact of online learning on Inclusion.This is a paramount advantage of online learning that provides with Education learners with barriers. Children with special needs and health impairments are able to study and develop through online education.Moreover students coming from rural areas benefit from online learning much. This is a great chance for them to get access to education resources.Village school are lack of books and other teaching equipments. But online education provides them with equal access to everything including qualified teachers who can give online lessons.


    1. Dear Zhuldyzay,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I agree with you that online learning is beneficial for those who experience geographical or physical challenges. Still, researchers state, that one should be financially able to afford online learning and that might be considered as a drawback of this mode of education.


      Gulnaz Zhukenova.


  4. Dear Gulnaz,

    Thanks a lot for your informative post. I definitely agree on the point that we should be aware of concise definition of what constitutes an online learning since to my best of knowledge lots of terms such as e-learning, distant learning or, for instance, blended learning are employed interchangeably or sometimes contradict each other in our local context. Moreover, the advantages and disadvantages you provided in the post are invaluable to us since we, as online distant learners, encounter most of them if not all on a daily basis such as limited social interaction among learners and teachers and issues related to the Internet access, equity, etc.


  5. Gulnaz, this is a thorough post which shows a strong understanding of the main ideas of these two articles.

    I would recommend trying to paraphrase and summarize more than using direct quotes. You’ve citing everything beautifully, but a large percentage of your post isn’t in your own voice. Try to save direct quotes only for those “gems” in a paper that you just have to preserve as they are.

    Also, I would recommend avoiding a one-sentence paragraph. A paragraph is a group of sentences around a central idea. Build your writing from bigger building blocks and your essay structure will be much stronger.

    Finally, careful with questions: “What ___ we know about it?” is missing an important two letter word…



    1. Dear Phillip,

      Thank you for the comment, I see how my writing should be improved.

      Still, I want to clarify that I intentionally selected this way of citing since I wanted to preserve the authors’ words.

      Another point I need to clarify: the way I build my question does not mean I do not remember how to make up a question, this has been done, again, intentionally for the heading of the post.

      I should admit, paragraphing is not appropriate. I have to work a too.


      Gulnaz Zhukenova


      1. Thanks for the reply. These comment sections are one of the only places we’ll get to have much “dialogue” in this course.

        About citing/quoting/paraphrasing: I agree that there are benefits of preserving the author’s in a direct quote, but I see too many students who rely too heavily on the direct quotes and don’t develop their own authorial voice. I look forward to reading your future assignments where you’ll be asked to add more interpretation and analysis.

        About the question in the header: “What we know about it?” doesn’t work well as a title if it is grammatically incorrect. If you are looking for a shorter version, make it affirmative: What we know about online learning.


      2. Dear Philip,

        Thank you for the constructive comment, now I see the point about the heading.
        I admit, that there is still a lot to be done in terms of my writing. Thank you again.
        Best regards, Gulnaz Zhukenova


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