Along with the development of technology, new ways of learning are becoming available nowadays. Online learning can serve as a brilliant example of this alteration. Whereas the majority of people believe that online learning is the most convenient and beneficial way of learning, others condemn that conventional learning cannot be substituted by any other alterations.
In order to find the answer I have reviewed several scholarly articles and books about online learning. However, the works of Terry Anderson and Jullie Harvard seemed to me as the most informative and appealing. The first work I would like to describe is the article by Jullie Harvard. Jullie is the author of accredited online schools; therefore, she is supposed to be an expert in this field. However, in her article she considers only the pros and cons of online learning environment which could be a limitation of her work.
“The Theory and Practice of Online Learning” by Terry Anderson, on the contrary, is a collection of several practitioners’ works in the field of distance education. The book consists of four chapters. The opening section provides the theoretical foundations by presenting the foundation of education theory for online learning. It opens the debate by discussing the contributions of behaviorist, cognitivist, constructivist, and connectivist theories to the design of online materials. The second chapter discusses the various factors that should be considered in developing the infrastructure for online learning, including planning, structural and organizational issues, the components of a system and the interfaces among them. The next section is concerned with operations, design, and production of quality online courses. It also provides the detailed look on the costs of online learning. The final chapter continues the discussion by stressing the importance of setting up a supportive learning environment for online learners, by providing some practical advice (Anderson, 2004). The authors of the book attempt not only to provide authors the necessary information and knowledge about online learning, but also share their expertise and concerns about it. I find both of these works extremely valuable for gathering the information for my mini-thesis.
There are many definitions of online learning in the literature, definitions that reflect the diversity of practice. Online learning as an innovative approach for delivering instruction to a remote audience, using the Internet as the tool (Khan, 1997, as cited in Anderson, 2004). However, online learning process should not been considered as the processes of presenting and delivering the information through the Web; the learner and the learning process should be the focus of online learning.
Admittedly, online learning is advantageous for many reasons. First of all, online learning is giving people new choices and flexibility with their personal learning. The only things people need are computer and Internet access which is increasingly becoming available in many countries. Such form of learning is quite beneficial for people who live in rural areas, for people who prefer or have to work instead of full-time study. Besides, it is very useful for women who are in their maternity leave and are eager to continue their study. Moreover, students have a chance to choose the courses they want to learn or repeat the material again and again before passing it. The last point I want to mention is that online learning is cheaper than the conventional one.
However, the biggest argument that raises doubt is the quality of courses offered by online learning. As the only method of communication with a teacher is through e-mails or chatting, students have lack of information as for the effectiveness of the courses. Furthermore, students cannot interact with their classmates, which is also unnatural way of communication. The flexibility of planning the schedule in online education could be the disadvantage for a person who cannot manage his or her time probably between work, family and study (Harvard, 2015).
All in all, there are both advantages and disadvantages of online learning environment. People choose either conventional or online learning according to definite circumstances and personal favours. However, if students choose to pursue their degree online, they should be highly motivated and well organized.
Anderson, T. (2004). The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Athabasca, Canada: AU Press, 1200, 10011-109 Street Edmonto, p. 3-23
Harvard, J. (2015). Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning, Online University Degrees, retrieved from streetdirectory.com