Thursday, April 26, 2012

Online it effective?

This week, I took the time to really investigate online learning. Online learning, also known as distance learning, distance education, and/or e-learning, is defined to be a web-based classroom. Throughout the state of Colorado, there are approximately fifty different online programs that are available from various school districts. Some online programs are designed for strictly high school level, but there are many that offer K-12 education.

Due to the fact that so many districts are now starting to offer online learning programs, I decided to look into them. Before I started my research, my biggest question was "Are online learning programs as effective as traditional classrooms?" Throughout my research, I discovered there were some definite advantages and disadvantages to online learning. However, it was remarkable to learn what these online programs offer students! Online learning provides students with flexibility, time saved, transportation costs decreased,  progression of technology skills needed for future careers, as well as the ability to communicate with teachers on a one-on-one basis. On paper, online learning looks to be the best. However, there are also some big disadvantages. These include things like the lack of face to face interaction, possible lack of the development of social skills among peers, the need to stay motivated and organized, and the possibility of technology issues.

In addition to investigating the pros and cons to online learning, I took some time to interview a teacher that is able to teach online classes as well as in a traditional setting and a student that has taken online and traditional classes. Some of the questions I asked included the following:
How do you like teaching/learning in an online classroom setting?
What are some of the advantages/disadvantages?
Which way (online learning vs. traditional setting) do you prefer to teach/learn in? Why?
Do you feel online learning is as effective as traditional classrooms?

Both interviewees agree that online learning provides a flexibility and convenience that traditional settings do not. The teacher really enjoys the fact that she can communicate with students early or late in the day without any time constraints. However, the one disadvantage to teaching online classes is the difficulty to develop relationships. Due to the lack of face to face interactions, it can be hard to learn each students personalities, quirks, ticks, etc. Knowing each student's personality can really make a difference when it comes to motivation and active engagement. So, she feels that she has to really to work and pulling out each student's personalities. This helps her with keeping students motivated and on track. This teacher really does feel that online learning can be extremely effective, for the right kind of student. Students that struggle with organization and time management can really struggle. As a educator that has the ability to teach in an online and traditional setting. She enjoys both. She likes the ability to connect to students from all over the state as well as see the faces of her students that are in her traditional class. She finds herself taking many of her online strategies and using them to blend her curriculum in her traditional classes. She plans to keep teaching both ways.

The student I interviewed agreed with the teacher about online provided so much flexibility, but she realized this is not the way to learn for her. This is due to the fact that online learning really is student-focus and requires students to stay organized and stay motivated. For her, this was difficult.

With these interviews, as well as other research, I was able to come up with an overview to online education. Below is the link to conclusion:
Online Learning Overview

Overall, I believe education is extremely important. When it comes to education, it comes in a variety of ways. It could be in a traditional classroom with a teacher and thirty other students, or it could be on an individual basis through the Internet, or it could be a mixture of both. There advantages and disadvantages to all ways; the key is to finding out which way works best for you.

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