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Posts tagged ‘teaching’

Top 10 Benefits of Online Learning

Choosing Online Learning

Choosing to go to school for an online education is a personal choice. Weighing the decision involves learning the benefits and the drawbacks of the online learning environment. Here we cover the benefits of online learning to the student in his or her personal and professional life.

Top 10 Benefits to the Student in Online Learning

1. Flexibility- learning online can give flexibility to the non-traditional student, professional student or the rural student, caused by saved travel time. Students will not need to plan for rush hour traffic. Also, harsh travel conditions call for students who go to a traditional class to prepare for extra travel time. Learning online saves valuable time and allows more flexibility in the learner’s life.

2. Diversity- students learn alongside people from all over the country and even world. This diversity causes the student to see different views, broadening their experience. This will teach students to speak better in their professional lives.

3. Technology- Student confidence will grow when he or she has better computer skill. Online students will also bring this knowledge to the work environment.

4. Deadlines- students must meet deadlines for reading, writing, and meeting online at set times. Meeting a deadline will be vital to work place success.

5. Support- students in an online learning environment share the experience and critique one another. Critique is meant to help; hence, students get more peer-guidance than in a traditional course.

6. Professional Growth- professional students will see the value of their education at work and motivated to continue. Transfer of learning from the classroom to work life will improve the student’s understanding of the subject matter and set him or her apart among other professionals.

7. Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking Skills- Working in an online course will cause a student to read and respond critically and articulate well and intelligibly. This is a great benefit to a future employer. Employees who speak well with other professionals form strong relations and respect in the work place.

8. Prioritizing- Students in online learning create a balance of other daily life activities. They must learn to arrange time as there are deadlines to meet. Coordinating activities and prioritizing tasks are vital skills in the professional environment.

9. Choice- This will give the online learner the freedom to decide when and where learning is right for him or her. The student can decide if he or she is a morning person or night owl. Students have the choice to decide if they like to study in a quiet room or where the family is.

10. Discipline- Students in an online learning environment will learn to take responsibility for their learning. They will learn to follow written directions, think and reply critically, and research online, all of which will improve professional abilities.

From Challenges to Benefits

In researching whether to go for an online education or not, one will become well aware that there are some problems to face when studying in an online environment. More research needs to be conducted so the schools offering online programs can improve the learning experience.

Also, online learning is not for everyone. Some students are incapable of handling the time restraints to meet the deadlines, finishing the independent work in the course, or overcoming the lack of face-to-face instruction and feedback. Yet, these challenges can be the same benefits of online learning if they cause the learner to grow personally and professionally.

Quality in E-Learning

I had the pleasure of participating in a small symposium on quality in e-learning last week, organized by Athabasca University and the International Council for Distance Education. One of the things that bothers me about the quality issue is that only seems to reach the top of the agenda when e-learning is involved. The discussion seems to always start from the premise that the quality of e-learning is inherently suspect and we need to ensure it meets the same standard as our face-to-face instruction. In fact, there are no system-wide quality standards for teaching and learning in higher education and most higher education institutions rely almost entirely on student satisfaction and graduation rates as their measures of education quality. Nonetheless, perception is often more powerful than reality and, according to Frits Pannekoek, President of Athabasca University, distance education and online learning is facing increasing restrictions around the world and its quality is being increasingly questioned. With this in mind, the 13 participants spent a day and a half exploring what the quality issues are, real or perceived, and what the key dimensions of quality should be. We used the Quality On the Line framework as a starting point. Although this was developed on 2000, we found the key categories still relevant:

  • Institutional Support
  • Course Development
  • Teaching/Learning
  • Course Structure
  • Student Support
  • Faculty Support
  • Evaluation & Assessment.

Trying to specify the actual benchmarks in each category proved to be much more difficult. At BCIT we have developed our own framework that took into account the Quality On the Line document as well as as several others. Ours is more course-specific, has more specific categories, and doesn’t address institutional factors. The categories are:

  • Course Overview & Introduction
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Assessment
  • Course Materials
  • Learner Engagement
  • Educational Technology
  • Course Resources
  • Learner Support Resources

Coming back to my opening point, what strikes me about both these frameworks, and the quality in e-learning discussion more generally, is that most of the issues are also directly applicable to all teaching and learning. So if we are going to focus on quality and invest time and effort in developing standards, let’s make sure they are not just applied to e-learning.

Here are some additional resources. Paul Bacsich, formerly of the UK Open Universityprovided these links to different quality frameworks:

Torstein Rekkedal from NKI Norway (one of Europe’s largest online distance education institutions) provided these references:

  • Rekkedal, T. (2006): Distance Learning and E-Learning Quality for SMEs – State of the Art. In: Paulsen, M. & Vieira, V. (eds.): An Analysis of E-Learning Experiences in European Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, pp. 11-18. Bekkestua, NKI.
  • Rekkedal, T. (2006): State of the Art Report on Distance Learning and E-learning Quality for SMEs. 27 pages. Paper prepared for the EU Leonardo project, E-learning Quality for SMEs: Guidance and Counselling, May 2006.
  • Rekkedal, T. (2002): Quality Assurance in Norwegian Distance Education – the Background for NADE’s Quality Standards with Reference to some European Initiatives. In: Hansson, H. (ed.): Eight Contributions on Quality and Flexible Learning. Report 1:2002, pp 27-53.Härnösand, Swedish Agency for Distance Education.
  • Rekkedal, T. (1998): Quality Assessment and Evaluation – Basic Philosophies, Concepts and Practices at NKI, Norway: In: Rathore, H. & Schuemer, R. (eds): Evaluation Concepts and Practice in Selected Distance Education Institutions, pp. 39-65. ZIFF Papiere 108, Hagen: FernUniversität, 1998.
  • Rekkedal, T. (1996): Quality of Education Produced and Delivered by Different Institutions.In: Helsinki University of Technology: Open and Distance Learning – Enhancing Mobility in Europe, the Future with Socrates, pp B1-B9. Espoo: European Commission/Helsinki University of Technology.
  • Ljoså, E. & Rekkedal, T. (1994): From External Control to Internal Quality Assurance: The Background for the development of NADE’s Quality Standards for Distance Education. In: EDEN: Human Resources, Human Potential and Human Development: the Role of Distance Education. Proceedings 1994 EDEN Conference, pp 153-166. Tallin: EDEN.
  • NADE – Norwegian Association for Distance Education (1993): Quality Standards. Oslo: NADE.

Teaching profession or teaching as a career ‘under-rated’?

The BBC Education news desk and the The Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) seem to believe that a recent ICM survey shows teaching is ‘under rated’.

Glass Ceiling

This may be the case but the study does not show this. The study actually shows us not that teaching is under-rated but that prospects for career development are perceived as relatively limited.

But we would argue that this is actually why many would wish to join the teaching profession in the first place: to get their hands dirty and not be moved upstairs. Teachers love teaching. Those who join teaching for non-teaching careers are missing the point and are better suited to employment in the private sector.

If teachers regained control of schools and were allowed to make decisions that are currently made by layers and layers of administrators and managers then schools would become places of education once more and not the plaything of career managers and administrators that they are at the moment.

Teachers who wonder about career progression are not in teaching for the right reasons. Teachers who are concerned about their low salaries we can understand as often career progression is a euphemism for the latter but the most straightforward of jobs doesn’t need the imaginary, hierarchical levels of bureaucracy that it is currently subjected to.

Allowing teachers greater independence to make decisions for their pupils and schools will reduce bureaucracy. It may up the workload but compensation for this would be higher wages funded with the money saved from cutting back on administrators and managers.

Another benefit of this is bad teachers will have nowhere to run. Where currently they can hide behind systems and the failings of managers, a more transparent, simplified and self-reliant teaching profession will see a teacher live or die by their own efforts, with responsibility for the well-being and successes of the classes.

So, the ICM study does not show that teaching as a profession is under-rated but that as a structured career it is. However, we think this is no loss. Those who join teaching initially for a career in management later on are not those who enter teaching for the right nor best reasons. Teachers teach, and managers manage.


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