Assessment of Web-Based Courses: A Discussion and Analysis of Learners' Individual Differences and Teaching-Learning Process

By Gulbahar, Yasemin; Yildirim, Soner | International Journal of Instructional Media, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

Assessment of Web-Based Courses: A Discussion and Analysis of Learners' Individual Differences and Teaching-Learning Process


Gulbahar, Yasemin, Yildirim, Soner, International Journal of Instructional Media


INTRODUCTION

Innovation in the development of technology has introduced different concepts for the teaching-learning process other than classrooms and homes. Many terms like web-based instruction, distance education, and life-long learning have gained popularity with this rapid developments in the 21st century. Hence, educational institutions are getting shaped by these emerging technologies, and the web has becoming an inevitable part of instructors' daily activities. Thus, in order to integrate these new emerging technologies into the existing curricula, it is obvious that instructors should take steps carefully. Thus, instructors have to "... create educational materials that instructionaly sound while delivered effectively through their intended media." (Osciak & Milheim, 2001, p. 355).

Educators have to consider all the possible factors which may have possible effects on the teaching-learning process, in order to improve quality of instruction. Researchers have been trying to solve educational problems by shedding light on a more effective environment, and to do so, they have been trying to systematize the steps or actions which take place during the teaching-learning process. Moreover, they have been outlining the variables which the educators have to consider. Although most of the researchers congregate in some common points, some may point out different factors according to their perception about the teaching-learning process (Carroll (1963); Bloom (1976); Bims & Moore (1993); Huitt (1995); Walberg, (1974)).

Investigating proposed models of teaching-learning process brings us to the point that many factors of the teaching-learning process are categorized generally as; learner characteristics and quality of instruction which seem to have considerable effect on learning outcomes. Here, learner characteristics refers to the special attributes of learners shaping their cognitive and affective characteristics, whereas the quality of instruction refers to the design and delivery of instruction as well as the teachers' qualifications.

The effective integration of technology is another factor directly affecting the teaching-learning process. Mellon (1999), considering the effectiveness of technology stated: "For technology-based learning to be effective, teachers must select materials that help meet carefully defined instructional objectives and integrate them into learning experiences that motivate and excite learners" (p. 34). Thus, to benefit from the technology integrated into existing learning environments, two key points are crucial: Which technology to choose and what degree to integrate the chosen technology. This point is also underlined by Knapp & Glenn (1996): "As the amount of technology has increased in schools, more attention has been paid to creating an environment that is conducive to its effective use" (p. 20).

For many of the teaching-learning processes, the most effective approach may not be pure traditional instruction or pure web-based instruction but a mixed approach combining the best features of each. As stated by Horton (2000), web-based and traditional instruction can be combined so that one can benefit from the advantage of the strengths of each. However, the question to be raised is "how effective is web-based and traditional instruction combination in the teaching-learning process?". Newby, Stepich, Lehman and Russell (1996) stated that among three major points, one or more can justify the investment done in the creation and use of instruction. These three points are; increased instructional effectiveness, increased instructional efficiency and increased instructional appeal (p. 9, 11). Sanders & Morrison-Shetlar (2001) have supported the traditional instruction by web technologies and tried to find out the attitudes of the learners toward this new system. Reporting the web components' highly positive effect on student learning, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, the researchers suggested the following: ". …

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