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Online College Programs

Page history last edited by Walter Shu 7 years, 3 months ago







In the United States, e-learning has become a predominant form of post-secondary education. Enrollments for fully online learning increased by an average of 12-14 percent annually between 2004-2009, compared with an average of approximately 2 percent increase per year in enrollments overall. In 2006, 3.5 million students participated in on-line learning at higher education institutions in the United States. Almost a quarter of all students in post-secondary education were taking fully online courses in 2008. In 2009, 44 percent of post-secondary students in the United States were taking some or all of their courses online; this figure is projected to rise to 81 percent by 2014. During the fall 2011 term, 6.7 million students enrolled in at least one online course. Over two-thirds of chief academic officers believe that online learning is critical for their institution. The Sloan reports based on a poll of academic leaders, indicated, that students are satisfied with on-line classes as with traditional ones (Allen & Seaman, 2003).






Taking classes online is a popular way for working professionals to have the chance to earn a degree at their own pace. People who take online classes usually are looking for career advancement, career changes, or just want to finish a degree program they started at another college. There are hundreds of online programs and online schools to choose from, making it easier than ever before for prospective students to find the right one.


Earning a degree from an online college can possibly lead to a promotion and/or salary increase, or prepare you for a new career. Even though classroom learning may be

considered more traditional, online education is beneficial in its own right. Below are the benefits and downfalls to online learning:




-       Improved open access to education, including access to full degree programs

-       Better integration for non-full time students, particularly in continuing education

-       Improved interactions between students and instructors 

-       Provisions of tools to enable students to independently solve problems

-       Acquisition of technological skills through practice with tools and computers

-     The ability to take courses anytime, day or night

-     Allows repeating the same lesson as many times as you like

(Strengths and weakness of online education, 2008, Brown & Corkill, 2007)




-       Potential distractions that hinder actual learning

-       Ease of cheating

-       Bias towards tech-savvy students over non-technical students

-       Teachers lack of knowledge and experience to manage virtual teacher-student interaction

-       Lack of direct and immediate feedback from teachers

-       Asynchronous communication hinders fast exchange of questions

-       Danger of procrastination 

(The disadvantages of online learning, 2013)





Online schools vary in many of their key elements. A set of the defining dimensions of online programs, represented in Figure 1 describes whether the program is supplemental or full-time; the breadth of its geographic reach; the organizational type and operational control; and location and type of instruction. Some of these attributes may be combined or operate along a continuum (e.g., location and type of instruction). Of the ten dimensions listed in the figure, four are especially significant:



Comprehensiveness (supplemental vs. full-time): One important distinction is whether the online program provides a complete set of courses for students enrolled full-time or provides a small number of supplemental courses to students enrolled in a physical school. Full-time programs typically must address the same accountability measures as physical schools in their states.


2.   REACH

Online programs may operate within a school district, across multiple school districts, across a state, or in a few cases, nationally or internationally. The geographic reach of online programs is a major contributing factor to the ways in which education policies can be outdated when applied to online programs, because the policies do not account for the possibility that a student in California may be learning from a teacher in Illinois who is employed by a program in Massachusetts.



Most online programs are primarily asynchronous—meaning that students and teachers work at different times, not necessarily in real-time interaction with each other—but those that operate classes in real time may present a somewhat different set of program and policy questions depending on state policies.



Many programs are now combining the best aspects of online and classroom instruction to create a variety of blended or hybrid learning experiences (Allen & Seaman, 2008). Blended or hybrid classes are designed to address the lack of interaction between the instructor and students in fully online classes, by holding at least one meeting on-campus.





The radio has been around for a long time and has been used in educational classrooms. Recent technologies have allowed classroom teachers to stream audio over the internet. There are also webcasts and podcasts available over the internet for students and teachers to download. For example, iTunes University has various podcasts available on a variety of subjects that can be downloaded for free.



Videos allow teachers to reach students who are visual learners and tend to learn best by seeing the material rather than hearing or reading about it. Teachers can access video clips through the internet instead of relying on DVDs or VHS tapes. Websites like YouTube are used by many teachers. Teachers can use messaging programs such as Skype, or webcams, to interact with guest speakers and other experts. Interactive video games are being integrated in the curriculum at both K-12 and higher education institutions.

Research on the use of video in lessons is preliminary, but early results show an increased retention and better results when video is used in a lesson. Creating a systematic video development method holds promise for creating video models that positively impact student learning.



Computers, tablets, and smartphones allow students and teachers to access websites and other programs, such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PDF Files and images. Many mobile devices support mobile learning. 


Blogs allow students and teachers to post their thoughts, ideas, and comments on a website. Blogging allows students and instructors to share their thoughts and comments on the thoughts of others which could create an interactive learning environment. 



Video cameras that allow you can connect to the internet and see other internet users. Allows students to become engaging and be able to see who everyone is.



Interactive whiteboards ("smartboards") allow teachers and students to write on the touch screen, so learning becomes interactive and engaging.




Screencasting is a recent trend in e-learning. There are many screencasting tools available that allow users to share their screens directly from their browser and make the video available online so that the viewers can stream the video directly. The advantage of such tools is that it gives the presenter the ability to show his ideas and flow of thoughts rather than simply explain them, which may be more confusing when delivered via simple text instructions (Dalsagaard, 2013). With the combination of video and audio, the expert can mimic the one-on-one experience of the classroom and deliver clear, complete instructions. From the learner's point of view this provides the ability to pause and rewind and gives the learner the advantage of moving at his or her own pace, something a classroom cannot always offer.






Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) also known as learning platforms, utilize virtual classrooms and meetings which often use a mix of communication technologies. One example of web conferencing software that enables students and instructors to communicate with each other via webcam, microphone, and real-time chatting in a group setting, is Adobe Connect, which is sometimes used for meetings and presentations. Participants in a virtual classroom can also use icons called emoticons to communicate feelings and responses to questions or statements. Students are able to 'write on the board' and even share their desktop, when given rights by the teacher. Other communication technologies available in a virtual classroom include text notes, microphone rights, and breakout sessions. Breakout sessions allow the participants to work collaboratively in a small group setting to accomplish a task as well as allow the teacher to have private conversations with his or her students (Zameer, 2010).


The virtual classroom also provides the opportunity for students to receive direct instruction from a qualified teacher in an interactive environment. Students have direct and immediate access to their instructor for instant feedback and direction. The virtual classroom also provides a structured schedule of classes, which can be helpful for students who may find the freedom of asynchronous learning to be overwhelming. The virtual classroom also provides a social learning environment that replicates the traditional "brick and mortar" classroom. Most virtual classroom applications provide a recording feature. Each class is recorded and stored on a server, which allows for instant playback of any class over the course of the school year. This can be extremely useful for students to review material and concepts for an upcoming exam. This also provides students with the opportunity to watch any class that they may have missed, so that they do not fall behind. It also gives parents the ability to monitor any classroom to ensure that they are satisfied with the education their child is receiving.


Using Second Life, college instruction can be taken to a new level.





US News & World Report: 5 tips to succeed in an online course

The New York Times: The year of the MOOC

University of Phoenix

Capella University

Kaplan University


 Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) - Another form of online college



Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2003). Sizing the opportunity: The quality and extent of online education in the United States. Wellesley MA: The Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/sizing_the_opportunity2003.


Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the course: Online education in the United States. Needham, MA: Sloan Consortium.  Retrieved from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/staying_course.


Brown, W., & Corkill, P. (2007). Postsecondary Online Education. Education Digest, 73(1), 39–42.


Dalsgaard, C. (2013). Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems. University of Aarhus.


The disadvantages of online learning. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.elearning-companion.com/disadvantages-of-online-learning.html.


Strengths and weakness of online education. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/overview/.


University of Wisconsin-Madison (2013). Asynchronous vs. Synchronous. Retrieved from http://academictech.doit.wisc.edu/ideas/otr/communication/asynchronous-synchronous.


Zameer, A. (2010). Virtual education system. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/Papers.cfm?abstract_id=1709878.


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