e-Learning is the next big thing to revolutionize education, K-12 and beyond. The statistics are amazing as an Edutopia article, Highschool.com, just reported. The Florida Virtual School is a great example of distance education making a difference for many individuals. Students no longer need to attend a brick and mortar environment for a quality education. In fact, students learning via distance are learning as much as those in a face-to-face environment.
The face of the distance learner is changing rapidly. The traditional distance learners used to be comprised of adults with familial or work obligations that made distance learning attractive. Distance learning now has evolved to include these adult students as well as college and high school students. Distance Learning also comes in many forms. Some courses and programs are completely remote while other hybrid programs combine remote and in-class activities.
States that are leading the way toward e-Learning include largely-rural states, such as South Dakota, Iowa, Texas and West Virginia. Some factors contributing to the appeal of e-Learning in these states are declining and aging populations, an eroding tax base, and severe teacher shortages. Many schools have been closed and school districts consolidated, with the result that long school commutes (up to 60-minute each-way) are increasingly common.
wiki's are way cool and I want to use them in my classes in the fall. I think that ID is completely dependent on the content and the students. An English 9 course would have a completely different look/feel than an AP U.S. History course. But I'm sure all you smart people know this.
The major conflict regarding implementation of e-learning is the students' preference to learn face-to-face vs. their demand to be permitted to learn at a distance. This is mostly founded in student perceptions of e-learning and e-learning systems, distance education learners generally have a more favorable attitude toward e-learning than traditional learners. One method of easing the anxiety for traditional learner is to expose them to the technology used in online environments prior to taking distance courses. Research suggests that students benefit more from distance learning as they become more comfortable with the technology used in distance learning environments.
Although the quality of distance education is still questioned by some, research in the field of distance education seems to suggest that there is little difference in the learning outcomes between face-to-face instruction and distance education. The medium seems not to make a difference when it comes to student learning and achievement. This suggests that more studies are needed to examine the pedagogy behind distance education and how it is being used in teaching/learning.
Both Distance learning and teaching learning can be used successfully in the classroom. Especailly when both are playing an active role in supporting the other learning style.
It seems that the struggle of developing research that truly eliminates the extraneous factors in education is surmountable. I challenge those in the field of research to tackle this compelling topic and produce some innovative, clear and provacitive research that addresses the benefits of e-learning.
Another major challenge for educators will be a shift in educational philosophy from that of a behaviorist approach to a constructivist one. This will include a change in the role of the educator from that of timekeeper to moderator, goal-setter to scaffolder, reactive to pro-active. This shift will also been seen in changes in the learner. With proper support and constructivist activities provided by educators, the student will follow this shift and become more self-sufficient and internally motivated. While making this transition, educators must also take into account individual differences in the student population when developing instruction. Although many students are comfortable with collaborative environments, others find it difficult to make the transition from instructor-led to student-led learning environments. This may be particularly true for older generations of students that have only been exposed to lecture type learning environments. These students can become discouraged from the challenges of the technology as well as the instructional methods.
It seems that most of the research regarding distance education focuses on high school and collegiate education. Education in middle school grades centers around on-line use in the classroom rather than distance education. Is it too much to expect middle schoolers to be able to learn in a distance education environment? Is it age appropriate? Obviously, distance education is not a panacea, but how far can educators push the envelope?
Life Long Learning (through an electronic channel or media) - is what the principle of e-learning is all about, however there is a real distinction between informal and formal learning. Many studies have concluded people have greater retention and overall benefit when they are in a self drive informal environment. Examples include browsing Wikipedia, Watching Cable TV, listening to a blog, or reading any form of electronic magazine. Increasingly with good editing, documentaries and lectures on-line will be an important method of informal electronic learning, however the informal element means there may be no structure, recording or acreditation. This form of learning is interest and immediate needs driven, and therefor is a skill we all need to practice through life. How to find what we need when we need it.
Formal learning on the other hand is where we could be at school, college, university, or on a training course or structured / recorded and assessed e-learning program. Here, the principle is there is a level of planning which takes place, and there is some form of assessment and or accreditation at the end. In the business world, this type of learning is important if you need to ensure your employees comply with legislation, or you need to provide certification up to a certain standard - graduation level for example. In formal e-learning, although this is fast changing, for a variety of reasons, unfortunately a lot of content has been too prescriptive and forced. This has meant the learner, whoever they are has to complete a set amount or go through the structure a certain way, when this might not suit the individuals learning style, or it might mean they go through 2 hours of content when only 10 minutes gives them what they want and need. A lot of people have been put off the concept of e-learning because of this, however with XML and dynamic personalisation, and with changes to content and learning companies, and content models, increasingly the learner and if appropriate their employer will get what they need when they want it.
Ultimately though a big generalisation, the blended learning approach is best, where formal structured learning is mixed with informal self drive, and where we can all work out what we need, where we can get the information to up our knowledge or skill level, get it, and move on - fast.