Online Learning in Higher Education
Online learning in higher education is no longer a trend. Rather, it’s mainstream, and it was so long before the pandemic. In the fall of 2012, 69% of chief academic leaders indicated online learning was critical to their long-term strategy and of the 20.6 million students enrolled in higher education, 6.7 million were enrolled in an online course (Allen & Seaman, 2013; United States Department of Education, 2013).
As developments in educational technology continue to advance, the ways in which we deliver and receive knowledge, as well as engage students in online learning in higher education, in both the traditional and online classrooms will further evolve. It is necessary to investigate and understand the progression and advancements in educational technology and the variety of methods used to deliver knowledge to improve the quality of education we provide today and motivate, inspire, and educate the students of the 21st century.
If you search ‘when was online learning introduced,’ You’ll find online educational programs emerged in 1989, when the University of Phoenix began using CompuServe, one of the first consumer online services. We’ve certainly come a long way. Here is a brief history of online classes.
The Western Behavioral Sciences Institute uses computer conferencing to provide a distance education program for business executives.
Ron Gordon, Atari’s former president, launches the Electronic University Network to make online courses available for people with access to personal computers.
Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale-Davie, Florida, creates the first electronic classroom through an accredited online graduate program.
The National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET) launches the first open computer network — a precursor to the internet — allowing institutions to create and distribute electronic information.
Jones International University opens in Centennial, Colorado, becoming the first fully web-based, accredited university.
CALCampus introduces the first online-only curriculum with real-time instruction and participation — i.e.,synchronous learning.
Nineteen U.S. governors found Western Governors University to help Western states maximize educational resources through distance learning.
California Virtual University — a consortium of California colleges offering around 700 online classes — opens.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launches the OpenCourseWare Project to provide free MIT courses to people worldwide.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a free online course resource, becomes available through Udacity and enables learners to take classes asynchronously at their own pace.
The COVID-19 pandemic forces nearly every college and university to switch to online learning rather than hold classes in person.
Online education & its advantages
The benefits of online education courses are well documented. Online education advantages far outweigh any of the downsides and include the following.
- Flexibility: Among the many benefits of online education, you’ll find virtual classrooms are great for people who are advancing their education while working. In a traditional classroom, lectures will be scheduled at a specific time of day and your schedule will be formed around the availability of classes. If you’re currently employed and courses aren’t available after your working hours, it can be difficult to juggle a course load in addition to your work duties. When attending a virtual campus, online education courses allow for far more autonomy in deciding your own schedule. That means you can study whenever it’s convenient for you. Live with some noisy roommates? Having more control over your schedule also means you can avoid distractions easier.
- Reduced Costs: Education can be expensive, but virtual learning can provide a number of ways for students to save. Not having to commute to campus can help you save on transportation costs. Every year, the average student spends more than a thousand dollars on textbooks and course materials. Virtual coursework often takes advantage of virtual resources, which translates into less money spent on textbooks. Tuition costs can also vary between online and on-campus programs. Between all these sources of savings, cost-cutting can be an enormous benefit of online classes.
- Increased Course Variety: Another reason why online school is better for some is the increased variety of education options. Since students are not required to travel to campus for courses scheduled on specific days and times, students can enroll in the courses they are most interested in. Students in an online program can take the course they want and complete the coursework at a time that is most convenient for them. Through online courses, students can gain the knowledge they need to earn their degree or grow in their profession. Online courses allow you to earn essentially the same range of different degrees that can be earned from a traditional educational environment. That includes learning certificates and professional certifications to master’s degrees or doctoral degrees.
- Career Advancement Opportunities: Online education importance can’t be overstated. Just like courses taken in a traditional classroom setting, virtual learning can provide you with a number of career advancement opportunities. Because you’re the master of your own schedule, students of virtual learning are better prepared to continue working while pursuing academic credentials. And for students who aren’t employed, academic work can serve to explain any discontinuity or gaps in a resume. In either case, the advantages of virtual learning can be clearly seen on a resume.
- Increased Collaboration: Online students have better opportunities to collaborate with classmates through virtual group work and meetings. One of the benefits of online courses are the online discussion boards and communication tools that allow students to post their feedback on readings and other assignments and respond to their classmates. Students may also receive more one-on-one time with their professor with virtual learning, which is beneficial for both learning and networking.
- Enhanced Time Management Skills: While the benefits of online education courses include the flexibility to complete assignments at a time that is most convenient to the student, the student still needs to manage their time wisely to ensure they complete their assignments by the deadlines set by the instructor. Online courses teach students how to manage their time better since the student bears the responsibility of engaging with the course instead of simply showing up to class on an assigned day and time. As a result, students not only gain knowledge from the coursework, but they also sharpen their time management skills.
- Immediate Feedback: Integrating coursework with technology provides a number of advantages. Rather than waiting days or weeks after exams, you can often get immediate feedback. In online courses, students upload assignments digitally for review by their instructor. Instructors review student work online and submit feedback electronically. As a result, students receive feedback right away. In a traditional classroom setting, students may need to wait a week or two to receive feedback on their assignments. By receiving feedback sooner, students can learn faster and make adjustments for future assignments.
- Access to Course Materials: Where a traditional lecture leaves you at the mercy of your best note-taking skills, video presentations can be watched and revisited as necessary. If a student didn’t quite understand some of the content covered in a video lecture, they can go back and listen to it again. Students can use lecture videos as a supplemental tool to help with competing assignments.
When did online learning become popular
When did online learning become popular? Some may 2020 — for obvious reasons. And there may be some truth to that. As more and more schools and universities go online, it has become clear that the widespread availability of Internet access will make a world of difference in how we learn.
You can now take any course you want at any time with no worries about missing lectures or assignments due to scheduling conflicts. And you don’t have to worry about wasting gas money on long commutes either. Here’s one reason that shows the evolution of online learning is here to stay — you can literally learn anything you want!
But what is online learning? Online learning is education that takes place over the Internet. It is often referred to as “e-learning” among other terms. However, online learning is just one type of “distance learning” — the umbrella term for any learning that takes place across distance and not in a traditional classroom.
When online learning is allowed, many universities and colleges will expand the areas of study that they offer. Even if we’re not all meant to be astrophysicists and accountants, that just means that we’re not all meant to be lawyers, doctors, and engineers either. That’s one of the benefits of online learning—it allows for more diversity in who decides to pursue what career.
Areas of study are expanding. Many universities and colleges will expand areas of study when they allow students to take online courses. These institutions have found that by making a wider range of courses available to students, they are increasing the diversity of the students who pursue those subjects. So, if you’re not sure what you want to study, or if you want to study something not offered at your school, online learning provides an opportunity to do just that.
Online learning articles
If you do a search for online learning articles and its effectiveness, you’ll find budding research on the topic, including new research on the effectiveness and importance of online learning during the pandemic. Pandemic aside, in a study on the effectiveness of online learning to students, researchers suggest that the physical “brick and mortar” classroom is starting to lose its monopoly as the place of learning. In fact, the advantages of online learning far outweigh any potential downsides.
For example, the Internet has made online learning possible, and many researchers and educators are interested in online learning to enhance and improve student learning outcomes while combating the reduction in resources, particularly in higher education. It is imperative that researchers and educators consider the impact of online learning on students compared to traditional face-to-face format and the factors that influence the effectiveness of online courses.
This study out of Vanderbilt University examines the importance of online learning by organizing and summarizing the findings and challenges of online learning into positive, negative, mixed, and null findings. Particular attention is paid to the meta-analyses on the effectiveness of online learning, the heterogeneous outcomes of student learning and the endogenous issue of learning environment choice. Taken as a whole, findings show robust evidence to suggest online learning is generally at least as effective as the traditional format. Moreover, this body of literature suggests that researchers should move beyond the “no significant difference” phenomenon and consider the next stage of online learning.
Effectiveness of online learning during COVID-19
The impact of covid-19 on online education continues to be studied. Using qualitative exploratory research on the effectiveness of online learning during covid-19, researchers from the University of Southern Maine documented the experiences of 90 undergraduate and graduate students on how online education was affecting their learning during the pandemic. Data was collected from School of Social Work students at a northeastern public university in the United States. Their findings showed that participants were unsatisfied with the unexpected disruption to online education. However, they had adjusted to digital learning and stated that they would rather have subpar education than put themselves and others in danger due to COVID-19. The major challenges of online learning during covid-19 that the students encountered were: (a) struggles with online education, (b) difficulty connecting with instructors, (c) lack of motivation, (d) losses, (e) difficulty accessing other learning resources, and (f) unsafe/inaccessible home environment.
From this experience, we collectively asked how to improve online learning during covid-19? What emerged was an opportunity to embrace and apply what we have learned to instructional design, resources and tools, and effective online course development processes — including designing courses with a better mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. With this strategy in hand, instructors can improve the effectiveness of their online courses, focusing on:
1) powering collaboration during course prep with faculty and among students in blended courses,
2) creating pathways for multidirectional communication during coursework, and
3) fostering inclusive opportunities by removing barriers, enabling flexibility, and expanding technology access both in teaching and learning.
Tools for online education
Harmonize offers a range of tools for online education to improve retention, including rich multimedia discussion and Q&A boards, polling, chat, and more — all of which allow students to participate in the ways that work best for them. Using online tools for student engagement increases the quality and quantity of student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-instructor interactions.
✔ Rich Multimedia & Annotation
✔ Built-in Chat, Polling & Q&A
✔ Tagging, Notification & Reactions
✔ Streamlined Grading to Save Instructors Time & Focus on Feedback
A good student engagement platform also provides tools for instructors to monitor student engagement and interactions to see who needs extra help. For example, with the platform’s activity reports, instructors can view student participation and see who is the most or least engaged in course material. This is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of your engagement techniques and activities. Engagement tools like these can be used to create a more positive learning environment for students and instructors alike.
The bottom line is that having access to the right tools to power effective online learning is paramount. Making sure the student engagement software is inclusive of different learners’ styles, fosters social connection and community, and is designed to help instructors track student participation could spell the difference between student success or attrition. To do all of this, some institutions rely on a variety of disconnected tools that aren’t fully integrated with the LMS — creating additional barriers for instructors and making it more difficult to create a cohesive learning experience that engages students.
Harmonize is a single suite of digital discussion and collaboration tools that integrate seamlessly with your LMS to facilitate a more engaging online learning experience. It’s everything an instructor needs to increase student engagement online and promote inclusive learning, while saving time and eliminating manual tasks.