Vol. 16 : No. 2< >
Editor's Note: In this article, Ms. Land provides integration of extensive field experience and perceptive research. She offers Distance Learning students excellent articulation of these two paths for success and evaluation of learning models.
Experiencing the Online Environment
the Knowledge Olympics begin. The torch of e-learning is ablaze”
distance-learning environment taps into the innovation of technology to offer a
flexible and engaging adult learning opportunity. Students engaged in distance
learning are able to learn anytime, anywhere, in a collaborative learning
community. Online learning promotes the globalization of adult learning by
opening the boundaries of learning (Neo & Eng, 2001).
Online Learning Benefits
institutions of higher education are met with the triple challenge of keeping
education activities moving forward, supplementing research opportunities or
expanding customary classroom offerings with e-learning opportunities and, of
course, keeping an eye on their profit margins. Competition from accredited
online universities leaves traditional institutions scrambling for innovative
avenues that will salvage long-existing traditions of academia.
of Phoenix-Online now advertises via television in the fashion of correspondence
schools, but with a product that surpasses traditional institutions of higher
education by providing-instant entree to online libraries, study groups, and
anytime, anywhere access to learning. The benefits of e-learning include:
lightning-fast materials access;
(c) improved learning retention;
(d) real-world application;
(e) practicality, flexibility and learning consistency;
(f) just-in-time information for career-active students;
(g) global incorporation of new concepts;
(h) minimal disruption of family and work life responsibilities;
(i) elimination of space, time and geographical constraints;
(j) increased peer interaction due to the collaborative learning environment;
(k) increased interaction with more accessible teachers;
(l) increased quality of learning with deeper critical reflection; and,
(m) a methodical construction of ideas; and,
(n) increased access to information and other resources not available in traditional environments.
Online Dialogue Engagement -- Challenges, Value, Sharing
learning is important to keep individuals competitive and up-to-date in a fast
passed, competitive, knowledge-based business economy. To stay ahead, employees
must seek ways to improve themselves even when they have full-time employment.
Distance learning online programs allow adult learners to combine learning,
family and work responsibilities.
distance-learning environment is never static, but reflects the dynamism of the
learning communities. The dialog of the online classroom stimulates the learning
environment in which students interact with each other to expand their ideas via
electronic forums and communication tools such as learning group discussion,
bulletin boards, internet relay chat, newsgroup discussion, E-mails, etc. (Atwong
et al, 1996; Natesan & Natesan, 1996; Seibert 1996; Siegel, 1996). This
model assumes that learning is a social activity and learners tap the learning
network to verbalize their thoughts. The technological advantage of online
classrooms promotes active group learning through computer-mediated dialogs
(Cordell, 1996). There is never a dull moment online due to the interactive
nature of collaborative learning. In addition, the somewhat impersonal online
medium promotes greater student reflection.
the student, online learning provides:
Greater cognitive development.
Critical thinking skills to challenge
Exploration to further professional
Empowerment of professionals to heighten
personal responsibility toward creating social change.
Discovery of new knowledge.
challenges of online learning include:
(a) technical frustration due to the total reliance on technology and outside support systems;
(b) increased time-on-task due to the slowness of the medium and the higher volume of messages, which can also contribute to feelings of information overload;
(c) possible miscommunication due to the loss of visual cues and confusion in the sequence of events; and,
(d) disjointed flow of communication because of the asynchronous time frame.
Distance Learning Assignments: Papers Relevant to Real-life Issues
The reflective writing practice of online learning environments is a highly interactive learning activity that requires students to reflect upon their readings, classroom discussions, and application of content to their personal and professional experiences. The learner regularly submits written materials to the teacher for review and feedback. Papers are an excellent medium for teacher-student dialogue. They serve to strengthen the student's self-understanding while increasing the teacher's understanding of the student's insights and abilities.
in Learning Teams
By working in networked
groups and learning real-world tasks, learners are encouraged to develop
personal understanding and meaning. In
addition, the distance learning environment promotes a cross fertilization of
ideas. Technology enhanced team collaboration allows learners to
communicate ideas and exchange views with distant partners from around the world
whose perspectives might differ dramatically from their own. Learning
team members often comprise members from different backgrounds, schools,
countries, etc, who are united in a mutual learning goal. To be successful, team
members must develop skills to build relationships quickly and to work together
effectively despite the physical distance between them. Establishing a learning
team partnership charter can help in planning work, setting deadlines, comparing
understanding of key issues, and sharing sources of information such as useful
web sites, books, journals, and contacts.
Strategies Helpful for Online Student Success
its very nature, distance education relies heavily on the individual students'
ability to manage and control their personal and situational circumstances to be
successful. Academic achievement correlates with more positive internal beliefs
(Riipinen, 1994; Phares,1976; Findley & Cooper, 1983). These include:
competitiveness, motivation to learn for its own sake rather than for
performance, and motivation to avoid failure (Platow & Shave, 1995; Eppler
& Harju, 1997; Thorne, 1995). In reflection, additional keys to success
include: (a) the ability to balance student studies with other personal and work
commitments; (b) comprehensive orientation to expectations and learning
objectives; (c) universal and user-friendly technology support; (d) a positive
attitude about overcoming obstacles and challenges; (d) write it down -- journalize achievements, learnings and
useful resources; and, (e) getting appropriate training to master basic academic
skills, such as library and writing skills is especially helpful. For the adult
learner, the principles of online learning are compatible with the strategies of
adult learning that include: self-directed learning, using past experience as a
resource base for learning, fitting knew knowledge into current work and
personal life situations, real-life problems-solving advantages, and
time-management advantages for the time conscious student.
Teacher Assessment and Feedback – What is the Most Helpful!
For teachers, facilitating a distance-learning program is a very different skill from lecturing or other forms of instruction in which the teacher dominates. Teachers need to be able to assess students' readiness for such learning and guide them from a position of dependence to independence. Teachers should provide a structure, in terms of offering guidance, checking plans, suggesting resources, and clarifying the basis on which work will be judged.
Teachers have all heard the call "Back to Basics!" Effective strategies include: (a) creating an awareness of the strategy to be learned, (b) modeling the strategy, (c) providing practice in the use of the strategy, and (d) applying the strategy in real-life situations. The most in-depth and perhaps most important goal of teaching is to enhance comprehension, learning is more meaningful when students are active participants. We all remember best that in which we take an active part.
Higher-level critical thinking skills are an important part of comprehension. Asking questions that cause students to use inductive thinking is important. Another strategy is to provide activities that are open ended and allow students the opportunity to come up with a variety of answers. In addition, having to explain how they arrived at their choice and discerning whether or not they have used logical thinking is also important to student development.
For the student eager to engage in the advantages and stimulation of an active adult learning environment distance learning online education programs are highly advantageous. Few learning opportunities can provide the combination of enriched collaborative learning environments offered by a quality online environment with the freedom and flexibility advantages necessary for the success and inclusion of active professionals. In addition, the collegial support of cohort learning partners and professors with professional experience greatly enrich the environment, the learning challenge, and the learning outcomes.
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About the Author
As Deputy Director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Placer County, Ms. Land is responsible for fund development, finance administration, multi-agency collaboration and integration strategies, fee reimbursement strategies, and family support program technical assistance. Ms. Land has had experience working with diverse communities, particularly in the areas of child development, abuse prevention and intervention. She holds degrees in Social Work and Gerontology. As a student of the University of Phoenix Doctor of Management program, Ms. Land has taken courses in Financial Accounting, Philosophy, Organization Theory and Leadership Paradigms.