Rapid proliferation of the Internet has provided learners around the world with more opportunities for receiving education through online learning environment. Higher Education Institutions nowadays offer online courses in a variety of disciplines. Such mode of learning is considered beneficial in terms of place and time independency, cost effective learning environments, and student autonomy.
The study conducted by Kim and Bonk (2006) focuses on the exploration of future trends of online education. More specifically, the authors suggest possible changes in the roles of online instructors, e-learning pedagogical techniques, and student expectations and needs. Kim and Bonk (2006) claim that in order to improve the quality of online education instructors must give preference to such methods as collaborative tasks, group discussions, guided learning, case-based strategies and problem-based learning (PBL), which tend to facilitate development of student interaction, critical thinking, evaluation and assessment skills. Furthermore, the study indicates the importance of blended learning and proposes a view that this type of learning might be “a more significant growth area than a fully online learning” (Kim & Bonk, 2006, p.29). As recommendations for further research, the authors suggest to have a deeper insight into the aspects of blended learning, its types, and activities that make such mode of learning successful.
Mupinga et al. (2006) propose the study that investigates the learning styles, expectations, and needs of students engaged in online learning for further improvement in the organization of the learning process. Based on the results of the free online Myers-Briggs Cognitive Style Inventory personality test two types of common learning styles emerge: extrovert and introvert in terms of interaction patterns, and judger and perceiver regarding life construction patterns. When summarizing the expectations of online students, three aspects are mentioned most frequently: 1) regular communication with the professor, 2) constructive feedback from the instructor, 3) challenging online courses. In addition, the needs of the students taking an online course include the following: technical help (logging on to the university network and navigating through the course management platform), flexible and understanding instructors (in terms of deadline changes), advanced course information, provision with sample assignments, the same course management platform for all the online courses, equal recognition with on-campus students. The authors believe that the students’ journey into Web-based learning will be more effective and productive when the needs, expectations and peculiarities of the students’ learning styles are taken into consideration.
It is beyond doubt that online learning is a great innovation in the world of education. This mode of learning provides more student independency and autonomy, gives an opportunity for obtaining education to the students unable to attend on-campus courses. However, online learning is not possible to take place without the access to the Internet (which is a common case in the remote regions of Kazakhstan). Moreover, it requires computer and technology literacy skills that are often in deficit among older generation. Apart from that, through the courses offered for studying online it is not always possible to know the level of student engagement within the study process. Finally, Web-based learning lacks face-to-face communication and does not establish much interaction among students.
As a distant master student, I have seen the above mentioned strengths and challenges of online learning in my own practice. What about your experience?
Kim, K., & Bonk, C. J. (2006). The future of online teaching and learning in higher education: The survey says. Educause quarterly, 29(4), 22. Retrieved September 10, 2015 from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eqm0644.pdf
Mupinga, D.M., Nora, R.T., & Yaw D.C. (2006). The learning styles, expectations, and needs of online students. College Teaching, 54(1), 185-189. Retrieved September 10, 2015 from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3200/CTCH.54.1.185-189