The future of online learning in HE

Kyong-Jee Kim and Curtis Bonk (2006) explored the future of learning online in HE. They share there is a mixed opinion on the benefit of online learning.

From the literature they learned:

·        Nearly 2.5 million students enrolled in online courses in 2004

·        Online learning is becoming a long term strategy for PS institutions

·        Online education is assessed by student achievement and satisfaction

·        Faculty training and support is critical

·        Constructivist principles include interaction, relevancy, and collaboration  along with learner choice and control over learning

·        Instructors ranked online courses higher that included inquiry, broaden learner experience, and critical reflection

·        A “significant gap separated preferred and actual online instructional practices”

Their study of future trends from instructors and administrators in PS institutions found:

·        Commonly held beliefs about online education as:

o   LMS and CMS use were increase in the next 5 years as well as video streaming and learning object libraries

o   They thought technology to mostly impact delivery of online was reusable content objects and wireless technology, and with advances in the Internet: multimedia and interactive simulations

o   but not so much e-books, intelligent agents, virtual worlds, language supports or wearable technologies

o   respondents still saw learning as content driven

o   they saw a growth in online certification, programs and degrees but less in graduate degrees offered by universities

o   monetary support and pedagogical and technical competency of faculty would affect the success of online programs

o   more emphasis is placed on blended learning

o   CMS might be more a way to manage learners than promote rich interactive learning

 

Survey participants felt the quality of future online education will:

·        improve

·        require students to be self-regulated learners (though captures in a CMS managed environment)

·        require better measure of student readiness and evaluation of students

·        require additional technology training

CMS environments can foster deeper student learning by “choice among various activities, reflection, apprenticeship, synthesis, real-world problems, and rich timely feedback” (p.27). AS well as rich in “critical thinking, student exploration, peer learning and knowledge construction, interdisciplinary experiences incorporating a community of educators (practitioners, business leaders, alumini, and others) and educational opportunities” (p.27).

Participants suggested for online teachers, online moderation and facilitation skills might be more important than teaching or lecturing skills. Thus, instructors also preferred online collaborating and working with case studies and problem-based learning. However, online teachers tend to use tools, resources and strategies that are easy to implement rather than complex activities and technologies.

To assess the quality of education, many respondent suggested to compare achievements to face-to-face classroom settings, assuming it is similar and superior. Other suggestions were student performance in simulated tasks, ROI investments plus student evaluation of courses.

Thus, there are many aspects to consider including the readiness of the institution to implement online learning, the necessary leadership to create support and vision, supportive faculty development, a review of the effectiveness of current learning technologies, the types of certification programs desired, and the use of emerging technologies.

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