Online Learning Offers Flexibility and Convenience for Teacher Education
Wooten, Brent, Hancock, Thomas, Momentum
Teachers can balance family and work while advancing their professional education
Learning online is becoming more and more popular, especially for adult learners, because it provides the flexibility and convenience diey need as diey balance family responsibilities, work demands and active, busy lifestyles.
According to research from SloanC, a consortium of institutions and organizations committed to quality online education, "almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term, a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported the previous year. The 9.7 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds die 1.5 percent growth of die overall higher education student population. More than two-thirds of all higher education institutions now have some form of online offerings, with the majority of these providing programs diat are fully online" (http:/ /www.sloan-c .org/publications / survey / online_ nation).
Broadly defined, online education is the delivery of educational programs to students via the Internet. Students and instructors usually are separated by geography and, frequently, by time zones. Students and instructors can be across the street from each other, across the country or even in some other part of the world. Online education can be synchronous (students and instructors are online at die same time, regardless of where diey are located) or asynchronous (participation by students and instructors takes place at each individual's personal convenience). Course schedules can be fixed term (fall, winter, spring, summer) or have variable start and end dates. Some online courses incorporate bodi classroom time and online activities and are therefore referred to as hybrid courses. Most online programs are asynchronous and use some type of online course-management system where each student has a personal password to access course materials, discussion boards, grades and other course content.
The benefits of online learning to school teachers are many. Probably most advantageous are flexibility and convenience. The "classroom" is as close as one's Internet connection. Because online learning is so flexible and requires no travel, teachers can get the education they need widiout having to be away from dieir jobs and families. Today's busy teachers appreciate being able to learn without sacrificing important family time or missing other current activities.
Online learning also brings the world to the teacher-student. Students far from centers of Catholic education can have die same access to learning as those who are geographically close. For example, courses such as "Catholic School Principal as Educational and Spiritual Leader" or "Catholic Social Teaching" offered by Saint Joseph's College of Maine are not limited to those in southern Maine. These courses, as well as pastoral theology and Catholic healthcare courses, are equally available to students in Montana, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, California or anywhere else.
Traits of Successful Online Learners
Teachers most likely to succeed with online education are self-motivated, self-managed and self-monitored. As you consider pursuing your education online, you should ask yourself the following 10 questions:
1 . What motivates me to pursue my education?
Do you need to earn your master's degree to stay competitive in your career and advance in your profession, or do you need just a course to learn a new skill?
2. Do I have daily (or nearly daily) access to a computer with an Internet connection?
Regular Internet access is essential because an important component of learning online is consistent and regular contact with your instructor, other students and the institution itself. Most online education providers provide a number of student services online (e.g., library, advising, career counseling, etc.), so your physical presence on the campus is not necessary. …