Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

The Impact of Asynchronous E-Learning Tools on Interaction and Learning in a Blended Course

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

The Impact of Asynchronous E-Learning Tools on Interaction and Learning in a Blended Course

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Due to the introduction of information and communication technology (ICT), teaching and learning in the 21st century is changing fast. Therefore, it is important to design a learning environment that promotes student interaction, engages learners, enables changes, and moves them "towards an action state of goal attainment" (Wagner, 1997, p.21). Interaction is defined as "reciprocal events that require at least two objects and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another" (Wagner, 1994 p.8). The literature indicates that interactive instruction or 'learning by doing' has been found to result in positive learning outcomes and it is crucial in promoting academic success (Picciano, 2002; Watkins, 2005). More specifically, interaction serves as a purpose of increasing participation & motivation, developing communication, receiving feedback, enhancing elaboration & retention, supporting learner, discovery& exploration, clarifying misunderstanding, and achieving closure (Wagner, 1997).

Consequently, there have been a variety of technologies designed to support active interaction in learning. For example, asynchronous e-learning applications could promote active involvement among students who would be driven to be involved in the knowledge construction process or to be innovative (Driscoll, 2002). Moreover, it could develop critical thinking or deep learning through applied and reflective activities (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2000; Driscoll, 2002; Karl and James, 2006).

Asynchronous e-learning takes place when there is an interaction between instructors and students with intermittent time delay. Examples are self-paced courses taken via the Internet or CD-ROM as well as in mentoring online discussion groups and e-mail. More specifically, asynchronous e-learning includes variety of tools and applications such as email, discussion board, group work, social networks, groove, blogs, wikis, and podcasts. Such applications and tools have the potential to create environments where students actively engage with materials and "learn by doing" as well as refine their understanding as they build new knowledge (Johnston, Killion, and Omomen, 2005).

E-learning tools and applications have opened up new possibilities for combining learning with other life activities in ways that are optimally adopted to suit the needs and preferences of the students. The desirable characteristics of using asynchronous e-learning in traditional courses are mainly: flexibility, easy accessibility, and cost-effectiveness. In terms of flexibility, e-learning technology can provide an interactive environment whereby students may contact each other, share information, ask questions, and test their own abilities without any barriers. Furthermore, each student may work with the teaching materials according to his/her own abilities or level of knowledge and can practice as much as possible. Students with different levels of knowledge and abilities should not cause any interference in each other's progress. Whereas accessibility ensures that materials are easily accessed anytime and/or anywhere with a computer and networking technologies at the students' convenience. In addition, there is a wealth of evidence which suggests that e-learning can make learning activities more cost-effective and efficient, by eliminating time and location-based constraints which tend to affect traditional types of learning.

Although the blended learning approaches that integrate e-learning components into traditional classes have continued to grow rapidly, it is still at an infant stage of development where the challenge of internalizing such knowledge requires significant amount of time, effort, and planning. At the same time, there is a lack of evidence to support many of the assertions made about the benefits of asynchronous e-learning tools in promoting students' interaction and learning in blended courses. …

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