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1 Running Head: Online Learning

Online Learning Azusa Pacific University Jennifer Freeman

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Online learning can be many different things. A concise definition could be the use of computing and telecommunication technologies to deliver and receive course materials, because these are essential components of online education (Excelsior College, 2013). This type of instruction is being utilized with all age groups, from infants to senior citizens, and in all settings, from nurseries to the workplace. Education online is in a constant state of evolution and change, but instructors usually utilize the Internet or videoconferencing to build communities online using materials on a website, often including email, forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and CD-ROMs. This type of education can take place in the classroom, at home, or from a computer at a public library, and provides hands-on experience using information technologies (Excelsior College, 2013) usually involving synchronous and asynchronous conferencing, problem-solving, and multiple products. Experts are consistently debating the benefits of online learning, so its fairly simple to locate online learning articles to support almost any viewpoint, but most statistics seem to suggest that digital lessons produce positive results. The most recent research proves that online education is growing in popularity, at a rate of 30% annually with 75% of school districts now offering online or blended courses (Dawley, 2010). More than four million students, K-12, participated in a formal online learning program in 2010.

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On average, online learners outperform those receiving face-to-face instruction and experience innovative pedagogy and curriculum. Studies have concluded that these students also benefit from an increase in time for learning, collaboration, reflection, and control over their interactions with media (Dawley, 2010). According to the Huffingon Post, preliminary data suggests that students learning online tend to perform modestly better than those in brick and mortar schools. Experts are beginning to take a closer look at the quality of online instruction and whether online learning success rates are different in younger and older students, but experts admit that there is no dependable scientific data comparing online learning to face-to-face learning of K-12 students. This may be due to the wide variety of digital learning methods, environments, and numerous factors that are difficult to control while conducting research. Online classes are also consistently being improved and changed to meet the needs of the students they serve. Benefits of these courses can be lower costs, allowing students to work at their own pace with greater flexibility (Huffington Post, 2011) and experience more choices in their education, including make-up choices and more electives. Online classes can involve large numbers of learners, be more cost-effective, provide greater access to education and the instructor, and potentially provide more feedback than face-to-face learning. Digital learning is associated with a constructivist approach and is usually student-centered rather than teacher-centered traditional instruction. It can be collaborative and interactive, fostering relationships between teachers and students.

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Its no wonder that educators are struggling to gather reliable data. Online learning became popular about 10-15 years ago, but it is constantly evolving. According to Gayle V. Davidson-Shivers and Karen L. Rasmussen in their book Web-Based Learning: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation, web-based learning can be a community made up of independent instruction with no interaction with other students or instructors, or it can be highly interactive and participatory, with a strong sense of community. (Davidson-Shivers & Rassmussen, 2006, pp. 3). The advantages and disadvantages of online learning vary tremendously from one program to another. Disadvantages can include isolation, technology roadblocks, and confusion about assignments. Instructors may not have the experience necessary for quality online instruction and may be required to work many more hours than when teaching a class face to face. Time teaching an online class can be two to three times more than a face-to-face class. (Davidson-Shivers & Rassmussen, 2006, pp. 16-17). Some online classes may reflect poor teaching skills and methods. However, choices for online learning are multiplying and, according to Bill Gates (Wired Academic, 2013), will eventually willow out the weaker and less effective courses. Our world is changing, and the truth is that the future business world will look quite different than it does now. Students need to learn to communicate directly with others around the planet, rather than simply reading about them. In 2006 more than 40% of IBMs employees worked from home or around the world. Companies are increasingly

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using videoconferencing and other corporate-wide collaboration tools. 21st century skills are not being gained by learning in homogenous groups, as many American adults and children are presently (Peters, pp. 99). The possibilities for future online education are only limited by our finite imagination. January 24, 2013, at the World Economic Forum, Thomas L. Freidman of the New York Times interviewed a panelist of experts about online education of the future during the Victor Pinchuk Foundations 6th Philanthropic Roundtable. Freidman described online learning as, The most exciting revolution going on in the planet today He states that, There are always two stages in a revolution: the first is when the new technology allows us to do old things better and the second is when it allows us to do radical new things, suggesting that we have yet to reach this second stage when it comes to digital learning. Khadija Niazi of Pakistan, a 10 year-old online prodigy who is enrolled at Udacity, an online school born out of a Stanford University experiment, stated that MOOCs [Massive Open Online Courses] may allow peace in the world, after experiencing the multicultural, peaceful, harmonious atmosphere in the forums for the physics course she completed (Wired Academic, 2013). Bill Gates, who was also on the panel interviewed by Freidman, adds that learning online does not necessarily enhance the information in a textbook, but that the greater degree of interactivity and collaboration in an online class tremendously affects its success. Gates believes that two things need to happen to help online learning become

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more successful. People must move away from the idea that a student must stay at a certain place for a certain number of years to earn a credential, and the quality of online courses needs to go up dramatically (Wired Academic, 2013). Making online learning attractive and collaborative is actually quite challenging and involves a lot of trial and error. Larry Summers, former president of Harvard, explains that experts are still learning what makes environments attractive and inviting to students. Football can provide an interesting example of this because there are two choices when a person wants to watch a game. One choice is to sit on an uncomfortable bench with poor food and bathroom facilities; the other is to enjoy the game from the comfort of your home with good quality cable, food, and other conveniences. It is interesting to consider which one people will pay for, because its not the one we expect. We dont yet understand what makes one online learning interface more attractive than the other and the football game example illustrates this (Wired Academic, 2013). Its difficult to understand the social preferences of online students and to predict what will engage and satisfy online needs and desires. In conclusion, no one can refute the fact that online learning is a growing trend that already affects hundreds of thousands of individuals around the world. Online education minimizes differences of ethnicity, religion, geography, and even economic status, using the technology tools of the present and future to educate students. Even the reluctant educator must admit that online learning is an important part of the successful future of our students.

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Davidson-Shivers, G. & Rasmussen, K. (2006). Web-based learning: Design, implementation, and evaluation. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. Dawley, L. (2010, June 29). Research round-up: online learning. Edutopia. Retrieved from Excelsior College. (2013). Student online success guide. Online learning Retrieved from M. McLaughlin (2011, September 19). Online grade schools becoming a popular alternative. Retrieved from Online learning: the pros and cons of k-12 computer choices. (2011, April 13). Huffington Post. Retrieved from Peters, L. (2009). Global education: Using technology to bring the world to your students. Eugene, Oregon: International Society for Technology in Education. Wired Academic. (2013, January 29). Davos: 12-year-old Pakistani prodigy girl talks about her online learning. Retrieved from