Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Creating an Effective Online Learning Environment: A Shift in the Pedagogical Paradigm

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Creating an Effective Online Learning Environment: A Shift in the Pedagogical Paradigm

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web has significantly changed every aspect of business. Education, too, has changed considerably as evidenced by the exponential increase in online courses. Online courses offer numerous advantages over traditional courses to administrators, instructors, and students. However, while the use of online courses is increasing, it remains unclear whether the pedagogical and learning approaches, that are required to make these courses effective, are keeping pace with the ability to deliver such courses.

The primary objective of this paper is to describe the growth and development of distance education, discuss the three dimensions of teaching online courses, examine some of the issues and concerns for faculty teaching online courses, and provide some implications for faculty either teaching or considering teaching online courses.

INTRODUCTION

Distance education has experienced exponential growth in the past decades. An increasing number of universities, both large and small, currently offer entire degree programs in a distance learning environment. More than half of the 2,215 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. offer distance-learning courses (Gubernick and Ebeling 1997; Vasarhelyi and Graham 1997). In 1998 there were 710,000 students taking distance education classes and that number is expected to climb to 2.2 million in 2002 (Koury 2000). While total college enrollments are increasing at a rate of about 2% per year, distance education enrollments are increasing at a rate of approximately 30% per year (Bertagnoli 2001).

The most recent development in distance education is the use of online courses delivered through the Internet. Three major factors have spurred the growth of online courses. First, the cost of education has soared, and universities are seeking more economical methods of course delivery. Second, compression technologies, increased computing power and speed, reduced costs, and an increased comfort level with technology have increased the ease of learning online. Third, the remarkable growth of part-time, non-residential, non-traditional students has further increased the demand for these courses since these students do not have the flexibility to enroll in traditional courses (Hubbard 1997; Green 1996; Schwartz 1995).

Growth in online courses and programs appears to be strongly supported by administrator's motivations of increased enrollments and perceived cost savings. In addition, recent research indicates that the quality of online education is as effective as the traditional classroom format (Borthick and Jones 2000; Schulman and Sims 1999). However, in spite of the continued strong growth in online courses and the advantages it offers, reaction from academic circles has been mixed at best. The American Federation of Teachers (AFI) has publicly voiced concerns about online courses and has asked its members to oppose such technology-based programs unless they are sure that quality standards are being met (Blumenstyk 1996). Faculty members have raised concerns about job security, lack of personal interaction with students, and decrease in the quality of education when online learning technology is used. Thus, although the use of online courses is increasing, it remains unclear whether the pedagogical and learning approaches that are required to make these courses effective, are keeping pace with the ability to deliver such courses.

The primary objective of this paper is to describe the growth and development of distance education, discuss the three dimensions of an effective online course, examine some of the issues and concerns for faculty teaching online courses, and provide some implications for faculty either teaching or considering teaching online courses.

GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF DISTANCE EDUCATION

While it may appear that distance education is a relatively recent educational phenomenon, it can actually be traced back one hundred and fifty years. …

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