Is online education a valuable innovation that improves opportunities for student or is it a poor subsititude for traditional

5

1250

Technology is here to stay and everyone in an industrialized society needs to learn how to make the best use of it. This paper argues that online classes have numerous advantages over traditional classroom learning such as the following: the internet offers faster feedback, flexibility, and the opportunity to learn at one’s own pase. The case for online learning Online learning can be defined as “a form of distributive learning enabled by the Internet.” (Volery and Lord: 2000, p. 217). The term distributive learning in turn implies two essential ingredients: “first, a heavy reliance on technology, and second, self-learning.” (Volery and Lord: 2000, p. 217). It is important to remember that both sides of this equation are equally important: the technology must be there, and able to provide the learning opportunities, and the student must also be actively engaged and able to adopt a high level of self-management and motivation in order to engage in self-learning. A very strong advantage of the internet over other delivery messages is that it is extremely fast. A student can access almost limitless amounts of information through a few clicks of the mouse or taps on the keyboard. Questions can be entered, and responses appear instantly. There is even the potential to access quizzes and tests, complete them, and submit them for analysis. Feedback, often with grading and tips for improvement is built in and can be received also in an extremely fast turnaround. Human teachers just simply cannot deliver this high speed response because they have to deal with every student’s work consequentially and they are subject to the limitations of needing to eat, sleep and have a private life as well as being professional teachers. The internet is always available, and except in rare cases of technical failure, always reliably fast in its response. From a teacher perspective, online learning also provides economies of time usage. Instead of delivering information every year to each new cohort of students, the teacher supervising online learning only has to provide the main material once. Thereafter the job of the teacher is to keep the material up to date, and to monitor and support students as they learn. This is a far more effective use of time, and allows the teacher to achieve a much greater effectiveness with less repetition of tasks. Student participation and performance can be logged by the computer system, and this also removes the need for time-consuming administration. Teaching in a classroom usually operates to a defined curriculum with fixed content and clear goals. Online learning does this too, if it is well designed and focused on clear educational goals, but it offers so much more in addition to this core curriculum. The potential for hyperlinks to a vast global library of resources provides extension possibilities at every turn. A student who is not a native speaker of English, for example, can access dictionary and grammar support alongside the learning materials if required. A a student who struggles with mathematical or statistical concepts can immediately find advice on how to approach these matters. A student who is brighter than average, or one who has a special interest in particular points can undertake further research by using search engines like “Google” or encyclopedia and reference sites. There is even potential for students to contact other internet