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Online Education Versus Traditional Education

Updated on July 6, 2014
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Online Education Review

The number of students taking online classes from accredited universities continues to grow at a rapid pace. Since 2007 online enrollments continue to increase by at least 9% each year. Nearly 30% of all college and university students now take at least one course online. The first online learning emerged in the 1960s before home computers became popular. In the past 50 years e-learning has continued to develop. Online learning offers students easier access to learning, along with a more flexible and customized learning experience. E-learning opens up doors to broader education and more proficient learning.

Due to the benefits of online learning, popularity is increasing among students, including working professionals interested in lifelong learning. With this increase in popularity, higher education is undergoing a period of transformation that embraces the digital age. Today’s digital environment makes communication and information sharing far easier than ever before. In the online environment, interaction between faculty and students increase. The ability to reach a greater number of learners also increases, resulting in increased diversification and globalization. In addition, the needs of students with responsibilities, such as a career and family are met. Furthermore, as educational institutions experience decreased financial support, online education provides them with additional revenue, without the needs of additional on-campus facilities.

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Researching the Effectiveness of Online Education

Despite the rapid growth of online education there still remains a number of participants, both students and faculty alike, that are not thoroughly convinced online education is as effective as traditional education. Much of this is due to the still somewhat limited research on the topic. While the amount of research focusing on faculty and administrator’s perceptions of online education is growing, there is a need to focus on faculty attitudes and specific factors,motivating and inhibiting, that are affecting participation in online, web-based teaching.

Typically research done focuses on individual implementations of instructional methods within a single class by a single instructor. However it is necessary to go beyond that to get a broader view with a wider range. Effective research should expand beyond the review of single practices to include an overview of the current state of online instruction. Developing effective online learning environments is becoming more of a challenge as the number of students continue to increase at various institutions. Because of this, there is more competition amongst institutions to persuade students to use their services. In order to attract more students, it is important to understand students’ academic needs in relation to their learning. By investigating ways students perceive online learning, and tools available, improvements will occur.

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Differences in Perceived Effectiveness

Based on research done, distance learning remains viewed by some as less effective than traditional learning. While on the other hand, viewed by others that anticipate great advances in knowledge sharing tools. Faculty and students that see it as less effective don’t see online courses offering the same benefits to learners as face-to-face interaction available in a classroom. However it appears that as communication technology improves, the requirement for meeting face-to-face diminishes.

Research reports a higher number of students for online education than not. Faculty seems to be leaning that way as well. While there are real concerns from both faculty and students, the majority are for online advancements.

Some of the concerns from faculty consisted of a lack of standards for online courses. Another concern is a decline in use of full-time faculty, along with a lack of scholarly respect in the areas of promotion and tenure. Additionally, lack of training in online tools, with a lack of institutional support raised concern amongst faculty. Contrary to the concerns, other faculty found self-gratification from teaching online. Faculty was pleased to be able to teach from any place at any time. The faculty excited by online advancements, were interested in online collaboration opportunities with faculty from other institutions. Faculty and students were interested in becoming more involved with technology, as they realize the importance of technology in all areas of today’s world. Online education is a benefit to them in an opportunity to use technology more innovatively to enhance course quality.

While the majority are in favor of online education, limitations to expansion still exist. There are still those that remain intimidated by technology, although the number is decreasing. Instructors intimidated typically have not used technology much and find teaching an entire course online daunting. A few faculty members with limited online experience perceive online teaching as sacrificing quality. In addition, some faculty believe that online learning will foster a decrease in student interaction and social development. Furthermore, faculty are concerned regarding competition from peers within private and public institutions, as more online options become available. Although a benefit to students, still a cause for concern from faculty and administrators.

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The Future of Online Learning

As someone who has experienced both the traditional setting and the online learning settings, the benefits are numerous. It appears that the majority of experts within the higher educational field feel the same. Most are looking forward to continuing advancements and making education more attainable for all who seek it.

Further investigation into specific communications would be beneficial in learning more about the benefits to online learning, along with gaining a better understanding of which methods of communication are most valuable. Simply assuming the link between perception and outcome based on past research is not sufficient. Comparing students’ actual use of communication technology, with the expectation of use, in the online classroom will further expand on future studies of student perceptions of online learning.

Online learning is here to stay. A better understanding of its benefits will continue to promote improvements. Students look for effective education. If they perceive online education to be the best and most flexible route, they are likely to choose that method. University’s need to continue to strive for improvements to online learning. The days of education carried out in buildings by carefully regimented and standardized classes of students led and instructed by teachers working alone are long gone. Education will involve the community as a whole by individuals studying personal curriculum at their own pace, guided and assisted by community facilitators, online instructors and experts around the world.

The education experience will reform into an enriched and enhanced collaboration with people from around the world involved in various discussions. This experience greatly increased by engaging educational software. Instructors able to take a specific route to enhance their teaching will benefit students of all types. Some instructors will form personal and supportive relationships with their students guiding them through the vast material available. Other instructors will choose to become an expert, serving as a resource to their students and the society as a whole. Continued change is expected and something to look forward to.

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    • Leslie Ramos profile image
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      Leslie Ramos 3 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you for reading! I completely agree, the potential is unlimited and very bright for online learning. While traditional learning was a great start, I feel we are very fortunate to have so many options for going forward.

    • Deepesh Biyani profile image

      Deepesh Biyani 3 years ago

      Online education is very very effective and the future of online education is very bright. Your article on this topic is very well written well structured, it helps in understanding the real potential of online learning. In todays fast life nobody got time and energy to dedicate full time at college so the solution is here..

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