America has long been known for its competitive edge in many aspects of society, especially in the quality of education it offers to students. Many students would prefer American universities as they perceive that once they finish their education, they will have an edge over their peers. However, in recent years, the quality of American schools and universities have significantly dropped due to factors like cost, security and accessibility. Several programs and initiatives were proposed to solve this issue, one of them was online learning. Since it was introduced, online learning has gained a huge following from students to educators alike due to its benefits. However, critics believe that online learning would not be able to produce the same quality as that of traditional earning. This paper will discuss the nature of online learning and how it impacts education and teaching in the present time.
The United States of America has long been known to have pioneered the standards to what society should be like to stabilize development. In the field of education, America is known for its quality education as it is the home to several of the world’s Ivy League universities and institutions. Many foreign students fly to the US for the hope of getting quality education that can help them in their career. According to the report of the Institute of International Education cited by Strauss (2013), foreign students hoping for quality education in the US now reached up to 819,644 students as of the 2012-13 academic calendar. The report stated that this number continues to increase each year, showing that many students trust America’s education system and its perceived ‘high-quality .’
However, in recent years, America’s educational system has been declining rapidly. According to Beard (2013), the country now records a decline of students proficient in mathematics, problem solving and even literacy despite being known in the past as a leader of innovation in technology. The country currently ranks 21 out of 23 countries cited by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in math proficiency while it ranks 17 out of 19 countries in terms of problem solving . Online learning has been proposed as a possible alternative to entice students back to school; but it has met opposition from those wishing to retain traditional learning. Online learning is more efficient than traditional learning due to its mobility and flexibility, costs and improvements it would give to both teachers and students alike.
Supporters to online learning often stress that this medium is very mobile and flexible for both learners and teachers alike as compared to traditional learning. According to Anderson (2008), online learning can be done no matter what time or place students or teachers may be at any given time. Students can opt to do their classes at any given pace while others can opt to use discussion forums and online meet-ups to discuss with their peers. These open access to resources also allows students and experts interact and discuss the concepts much like in a normal classroom. Educators can also use the online learning platform to do tutoring and monitor the progress or needs of the students .
In the study done by Alexander, Truell and Zhao (2012) many students in higher education have taken online courses due to economic situations and the lower cost it entails. With online courses, students do not have to pay travel and dress cost, as well as pay for fees such as parking and food . Ranasignhe and Leisher (2009) indicated that teachers would become more up-to-date as the access to the internet could open up-to-date databases regarding their specialties . For students, Good (2008) argued that online courses are beneficial especially for those who wish to take advance study especially if it is not offered in the current syllabus .
However, there are also disadvantages to online learning which affects students and teachers alike. Rosenblatt (2013) stated that some students and most teachers cannot have the same face-to-face component that allows further collaboration. The lack of face-to-face component also disables educators to determine the capacity of students in comparison to traditional classrooms. Further complicating the collaboration benefit of online learning is the technological complications this learning platform would require. There is a possibility that these platforms would bring poor processing performance or sometimes, cause technical difficulties for users .
However, the educators and some students are weary of the possibility of academic dishonesty. Luppicini (2007) stated that virtual learning environments often trigger poor learning habits as students could easily cheat on online learning platforms. Some students can obtain unauthorized files or copy other work to pass off as their own work. Teachers often have to read each work to ensure that it is correct and authentic. Cheating can also be done through the internet, especially in assessments .
Applying online learning in education, especially in the classroom, presents several enhancements that would improve the learning experience. Ranasinghe and Leisher (2009) argued that the application of new innovations would allow teachers and students to have a more interactive experience while in the classroom. The instructiveness and interactivity brought by computers or online networks would permit students to understand real-world problems for analysis. Online learning also give new mediums to understand otherwise complicated theories and concepts .
Online learning also enhances the learning experience as it continuous to change regularly in format. Mackness, Mak and Williams (2010) stated that new learning classroom environments such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are now becoming popular for many universities around the globe. These MOOCs allow interactive environments for both students and instructors to use, whilst following the same class and grading scheme like traditional methods. Instructors are allowed to use various technologies to introduce the topic and grade students while students are given autonomy as to how they will finish the course requirements .
Several studies have been done throughout the country to determine the position of educators and students on online learning. Kim and Bonk (2006) stated that many instructors – mostly women – have been using online learning as a means to teach online. When asked through the study, users of online learning indicated that they prefer online education given the various tools that can be used to keep up with students. Respondents on the survey cited that online learning would not be possible without technology. However, it is important that online learning must be revised consistently to keep up with the enormous learner demands for new programs and instructor capacity .
Allen & Seaman (2011) stated that Americans – from students to institutions – are now applying online education in their education scheme. In the study, 65% of all institutions are now using online learning to sustain the demand of learners. At least 6.1 million students are now taking one online course as of 2010 and this number increases in each educational level. With regards to the quality of online learning, at least 57% of academic experts are now saying that online learning is similar to face-to-face learning. They also believe that these online offering would help in introducing new concepts to students and get them to keep studying .
In another study, Swan (2003) argued that there is not much difference between online learning and traditional learning. What did vary is the form of interaction, consistency and assessment forms used by both learning platforms. The study indicated that if educators are going to apply online learning in their scheme, there should be training done to ensure that support can be provided to learners. Courses must also be up-to-date and feedback should not be limited to ensure that students can be tested with their proficiency .
Finally, Jaggars (2011) also supported Swan’s study and indicated that online completion and progression can still be improved. First and foremost, online assessments can be used to determine what type of lesson plan can be given to students. Colleges can use online learning to serve as a prerequisite for specific courses to improve computer literacy and other skills. Each online course should also be retrofitted and designed to accommodate the needs of the students, especially those who are struggling to keep up with the study .
Even if there is apprehension in the side of educators, it would be difficult to ignore the benefits and advantages posed by using online learning environments. For this writer, online learning is very beneficial and efficient especially now that traditional learning is very costly. Many aspiring students have also been unable to achieve their dreams due to the accessibility of education in their communities, while teachers would need alternative classes to bring students’ interest back through interactive learning. However, this writer also concedes that online learning does have its setbacks that should be taken care of before it is considered. As online learning would allow students to use the internet to help in their work, there might be overreliance and poor learning habits to develop for both teachers and students.
Excluding this writer’s opinion, educators should maintain an open mind when it comes to the use of newer innovations such as the use of online learning mediums. It would be difficult to exclude technological advancement from education, especially now that technology is an integral part of life today. Admittedly, online learning is still far from perfect but if educators work hand in hand with its developers, there is a possibility online learning can become at par with traditional learning. With the increasing fees of traditional learning and factors hindering students in using traditional means, it is important that alternatives are ready to accommodate them. Online learning may possibly reignite the spark of students’ desire to learn and give teachers the inspiration to incorporate the 21st century to their specializations.
Alexander, M., Truell, A., & Zhao, J. (2012). Expected Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning: Perceptions from College Students Who Have not Taken Online Courses. Issues in Information Systems, 13(2), 193-200.
Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011. New York: Babson Survey Research Group.
Anderson, T. (2008). The Theory and Practice of Online Learning. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.
Beard, K. (2013, November 13). Behind America's Decline in Math, Science and Technology. Retrieved from US News: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/13/behind-americas-decline-in-math-science-and-technology
Good, T. (2008). 21st Century Education: A Reference Handbook. New York: SAGE Publications.
Jaggars, S. S. (2011). Online Learning: Does it help low-income and underprepared students? New York: Community College Research Center.
Kim, K.-J., & Bonk, C. (2006). The Future of Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: The Survey Says Educause Quarterly(4), 22-30.
Luppicini, R. (2007). Online Learning Communities. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.
Mackness, J., Mak, S. F., & Williams, R. (2010). The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC. Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 266-274). Bailrigg: University of Portsmouth.
Ranasinghe, A., & Leisher, D. (2009). The Benefit of Integrating Technology into the Classroom. International Mathematical Forum, 4(40), 1955-1961.
Rosenblatt, H. (2013). Systems Analysis and Design. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Strauss, V. (2013, November 11). Record number of foreigners study in the U.S. while more American students go overseas. Retrieved from The Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/11/record-number-of-foreigners-study-in-u-s-while-more-american-students-go-overseas/
Swan, K. (2003). Learning Effectiveness Online: What the Research Tells Us? In J. Bourne, & J. C. Moore, Elements of Quality Online Education, Practice and Direction (pp. 13-45). Needham: Sloan Center for Online Education.