Monday, April 11, 2011

Guest post

5 Ways Online Education Has Changed College Learning
As more and more universities make online courses and fully-online degree programs available, the way students access higher education has changed significantly. Here we'll explore the five main ways online education has impacted and changed the way students learn in college.
1.) Delivery.
For decades, instruction was delivered by a professor or lecturer from the front of a classroom using classic tools such as slides (or more recently PowerPoint presentations), illustrations, blackboards, whiteboards (or more recently SMART Boards or interactive white boards). Professors would pass out any necessary handouts and administer exams directly. The onset of online education has moved instruction to the Internet, where professors upload their lectures and courses materials in the form of video and audio files and documents for students to access at their convenience. Professors can also stream their lectures live from a classroom for students to view in real-time from their home computers. Instead of a college classroom, the learning environment can be a student's living room, a coffee shop or a Wi-Fi accessible public park.
2.) Communication.
Communication between students and their professors used to take place in pre- and post-class discussions, as well as in office hours and via e-mail. Professors would encourage class participation by asking students in the classroom to share their thoughts on the material and call on students to answer questions. They can use Web 2 tools such as Wallwisher where students can post ideas/arguments about a topic. With online classes, communication takes place primarily via email, virtual office hours, and online message boards. In other words, most online students can't just raise their hand to have a question answered, although some new online learning technologies that focus on real-time lecture delivery are working on this. Instead, students have to articulate their questions well in emails, or wait for the professor to show up for his or her virtual office hours to chat live or video conference with their professor in real-time.
3.) Class discussion.
Hearty class discussions in liberal arts courses such as philosophy and history are what many people who attended traditional colleges remember enjoying about the college experience. In online education, these class discussions haven't gone away they've merely moved to the Web, where robust debates and discussions on the class material take place on online message boards. Professors and lecturers may pose a scientific or philosophical question and ask his or her students to weigh in with their thoughts. The professor then uses student contributions to these message boards as a means of gauging individual students' class participation.
4.) Testing.
In the traditional college setting, professors and their teaching assistants proctor exams in person to prevent cheating. With online college, tests are handled in a variety of ways. Either they are delivered in the form of timed essays, forcing students to demonstrate their knowledge in words, rather than multiple choice questions and cutting off their ability to refer to textbooks; they are scheduled with an online proctor who observes the test-taking via webcam with technology in place that prohibits students from accessing external websites for answers; or students are asked to show up to a physical campus to have their scheduled exam proctored by a person.
5.) Audience.
The traditional age for campus-based college students is 18-24, with a limited number of older adults, working parents and other non-traditional students. While many campus-based colleges cater to non-traditional students by offering night and weekend classes, class scheduling still tends to cater to the younger student who can realistically schedule classes throughout their weekday. Many online universities, however, cater to older working professionals (30+) and working students of all ages by offering asynchronous courses, which allow students to access their courses at the time of day that works best for them, rather than trying to fit their job around rigidly-scheduled courses on a campus.
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031


  1. This is a very succinct observation as to how learning has changed. I think Delivery is the most drastic and will only get more and more advanced until we can learn anything from anywhere.

  2. I think online classes are abosolutely great, particularly facilitating adults in continuing their education at a time convenient to them.