ONLINE EDUCATION: PROBLEMS AND PERSPECTIVES by Jarrod Novicke ABSTRACT Online Education is a rapidly growing field within a highly competitive educational market. With the advances in technology over the last several years, more universities are offering an online curriculum to a diverse range of students. The increased demand for an educated workforce; has increased the need for additional means of education beyond the traditional in-classroom experience. Due to this increased demand, institutions are being tasked with developing a reputable form of online education.
The program needs to meet the needs of the faculty responsible for delivering the material, a growing student base, and also prospective employers. This study will look at the perspectives and problems faced by both the faculty and students as this medium for education continues to grow. In doing so, we will take a brief look at the history of online education and how its growth has affected students and faculty, both negatively and positively. INTRODUCTION Colaris, Gibson and Harris (2008) defined distance education as asynchronous or remote; computer based, and has an instructional system that supports it.
Contrary to what many people believe today, distance education did not begin with the electronic age. The first recorded instance of this form of education was much earlier. Distance education began in the United States as early as the 1800s, when the University of Chicago introduced the first major correspondence by mail program based on the fact that the teacher and student were in different locations (Seibold, 2007). From these early beginnings, distance education has thrived in the U. S. for many reasons such as the expansive geographical distance between U.
S. citizens from institutions, the great thirst of our citizens for education, and technologies’ rapid advancement (Casey, 2008). The technological advancement can be seen while tracing the origins of distance education. From the time of the first correspondence program in Chicago, technology has played a major role in the advancement of distance education. During the World Wars, our federal government granted radio broadcasting licenses to over 200 universities. This in turn allowed the use of radio as a medium to provide education delivery to flourish.
By the early 1940’s, several schools were using both radio and mail correspondence to educate their students (Seibold, 2007). By the 1970’s and thru the 80’s cable and satellite television became a popular form of educational delivery to distance education students. With the invention of the World Wide Web in 1992, a form of distance education referred to as online education has now become readily accessible (Harasim, 2000). One can define online learning courses as a course that has at least 80% of the content delivered via the internet without traditional classroom interactions (Dykman & Davis, 2008).
Over the past 20 years, the innovations and technological advancement of the internet has caused an exponential growth and expansion in the delivery of online education. While at first glance this may seem like a positive advancement, there are many problems associated with this new form of distance education. This paper will focus on the growth of this online learning aspect of distance education and will address these perceived pros and cons, along with the perspectives of faculty and students alike. LITERATURE REVIEW
Dykman and Davis (2008) wrote a series of three papers and in the second one, used for this research paper, the focus was answering the question of how online teaching is different from conventional methods. The article discusses topics including online course planning and organization, teaching constraints and guidelines, tutorials versus lectures, relationships among teachers and students, and student performance assessments. Bejerano (2008) looked at the increasing trend among colleges and universities of accepting the internet as a new medium of education.
The shift from traditional classroom learning to online learning was studied to see whether or not the students who are taking the online courses are getting a similar quality of education as the traditional face to face students. Bejerano also looks at the universities that offer online learning and the students who enroll in these courses. In the article College Distance Education Courses, Lei & Gupta (2010) evaluated the benefits and costs from the perspectives of the faculty, student, and institutions.
Through their studies they have found and suggested that online education maximizes and facilitates learning more efficiently than traditional student learning. They write that although the benefits of online learning are great, there are also some costs that must be carefully evaluated and considered. Mohamed, Hassan, and Spencer (2011) they looked at and tried to measure the perceived risks student’s feel with online education. Their study developed a valid and reliable scale to measure risk of online education by using both quantitative and qualitative techniques.
This study showed that the perceived risks of online education has five risk dimensions and the authors list and explain these five dimensions. In the research paper written by Seibold (2007), the author looked at the pros and cons of online education from several perspectives. In doing so, a brief history of online education was given from its early beginnings as distance education through the mail to the online education we a familiar with today. Also discussed is technologies impact on the growth of online education. GROWTH OF ONLINE EDUCATION
Faculty and students are turning to the Internet and online education more and more each year to supplement, or in some cases even replace conventional approaches to classroom teaching. With the advancements in both communication technologies and the computer itself, the internet has turned online education into a powerful new tool for teaching and learning. Many say that these advancements in technology have the possibility of revolutionizing higher education with a wider reach in the marketplace for education and increased access to educational services for the students of various institutions (Dykman & Davis, 2008).
Online education via the collegiate level has risen at an astounding speed, and it is doing so in ways no one would have foreseen years earlier (Lei & Gupta, 2010). Research done by Allen & Seaman (2009) illustrates that for six consecutive years the number of students enrolled in at least one online class has continued to grow at a rate in excess of the growth rate of higher education enrollments overall. Their research showed that for the fall of 2008, 4. 6 million students were enrolled online which represented a 17 percent increase over the fall of 2007. In contrast, there were 1. million students taking at least a minimum of one online course in the fall of 2002. The growth of students from 2002 to 2008 represents a 19 percent annual growth rate. Over that same time period the vast majority of the collegiate student body increased at a growth annually of only 1. 5 percent. As of 2008, over twenty-five percent of all higher education students enrolled in at least one course online (Allen & Seaman, 2009). Several of these students are considered to be off campus learners and have a wide range of work experience, ages, and family circumstances.
At a number of institutes of higher learning however, close to half of the online students are estimated to be in school full-time and are students that are traditionally educated in the classroom that enrolled in an online course for reasons of scheduling or that of convenience. Most of these students are enrolled at public state-run universities, community colleges and other colleges which all offer at the very least a portion of online education (Mayadas, 2009).
Virtually all of the institutions of higher learning that have the desire and capabilities to add online courses to their curriculum are currently doing so. The small number of schools that still might launch their first programs online is for the most part, small, and has a minimal impact on the overall online enrollment figures. So who is benefitting from the latest growth in online enrollments? The answer to this question is that the majority of online enrollments are coming from the large, more established schools.
These schools are in a better position to be able to increase their offerings of online education. The larger institutions on average teach more students online than any other size of school. The mean number of students who are enrolled online per institution has a correlation positive to that of the actual size of the institution. The pattern may be true for both graduate and undergraduate enrollment levels’, however there is a stronger relationship among the undergraduate population.
The larger institutions show a pattern of bigger online enrollments which result in a greater concentration of its online students at just a few universities. As an example, 89 percent of all the online students are studying at universities with more than one thousand online enrollments even though these institutions only make up 38 percent of the ones that offer some form of online education (Allen & Seaman, 2009). The institutions that offer these online education programs are actually both public and private, as well as institutions that are for-profit like the Universities of Phoenix, Capella, and Kaplan for example.
Overall, the highest rates of growth in online education are located at community colleges and also at the aforementioned institutions that are for-profit. While the for-profit institutions are growing at a fast rate and definitely meet a big need, online enrollment is still dominated for the most part by the more traditional universities who have acquired the skills, faculty acceptance, and infrastructure to allow them to compete effectively (Mayadas, 2009). CONS OF ONLINE EDUCATION
Although online education has grown rapidly over the past several years, to the benefit of many, it has not done so without its share of costs/criticisms. One of the factors of online education that is having a major negative impact to the overall acceptance of distance education is the relative ease to which anyone can purchase a degree that is actually fake. The advancement of the internet has created a rise in a new form of graduate school, the diploma mill.
It has become extremely easy to create a fake university online that looks like a credible major university simply by using fancy computer graphics and optimizing the search engine so that the school comes up on the first page of any online college searches (Seibold, 2007). Diploma mills are considered any institutions of higher learning that are unregulated and grant degrees with basically few academic requirements, if any.
Due to these so called diploma mills, other legitimate institutions offering online courses are having a hard time establishing their credibility. It was estimated in 2002 that the sale of fake degrees topped the $200 million dollar mark around the world. Commercialization is another aspect in higher education resulting in a negative impact to the perception of online education. Commercialization among institutions is on the rise and several universities are now considered to be teaching toward a job.
Many see higher education and specifically online education as becoming more and more controlled by business rather than government and because of this, courses are focused on strictly preparing for the job. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, but many say that this intense focus on job preparation leads to a less rounded student (Vukelic, 2011). With the growth in online education, faculty members see many cons in this relatively new form of online learning. First and foremost among faculty concerns is the risk of academic dishonesty increasing.
Students that want to cheat will find a way to cheat regardless if the class in online or in a classroom, however research found that it is much easier for a student to cheat in an online class (Nagel, Maniam, Leavell, 2011). The eCollege system of course management continues to make changes in regard to its software packages, however students can simply use screenshots of their test questions and save them to share with other students. For this reason, faculty must think of new ways to assess their students to ensure the validity of the test results (Nagel, Maniam, Leavell, 2011).
Faculty also might find that online teaching is extremely time consuming and not as rewarding as they would like. Instituting an online class demands a good deal of organization and continuous monitoring during throughout the course. In the beginning, instructors may not be familiar or trained with the tools and the technology that are available to them which makes the job of developing and translating the good practice’s of the classroom they are used to seeing, difficult to achieve (Bejerano, 2008).
Once the course is created, instructors might find the rewards associated with the daily interaction and student contact which is immediate in the classroom, is now lost because of time and space. Instructors often lose their chance to mentor, lead, advise, and become a role model amongst students because of the loss of personal interaction and communication with the student on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean that teacher and student interaction totally disappears, it is just not as rich of an interaction because the online environment is more restrictive in nature.
Faculty members that enjoy teaching and are excellent at motivating and engaging their students, often do not find the same dynamic with online education that allow them to show their passion and experience the joy and excitement that you get from teaching face to face (Bejerano, 2008). From a student’s view, there are also cons associated with online education. One of the major issues is that not all students or potential students have access to nor can they afford new computer technology.
In some instances a teacher might want his or her students to participate in a chat session on the web or discussion on the web, however a number of students might not have the ability to immediately access the internet or the means financially to obtain a computer with high speed internet, Skype, or chat capabilities (Lei & Gupta, 2010). Students are also required in many cases to have an excellent understanding of technologies and advanced skills with a computer.
Oftentimes students do not have the patience for difficulties with technology that pertain to a sluggish internet connection or certain other issues related to a computer which results in a high level of anxiety from students evident through frequent email and voicemail messages especially at the beginning stages of an online course. Students are afraid that they may have missed important assignments or that they are not sure of their responsibilities (Lei & Gupta, 2010). Another argument of online learning is that the chances for student’s social and academic assimilation into the learning environment or institution are minimized.
These are factors that are a known contributor to student success. Basically, students taking an online course miss the campus experiences which link them to other students and faculty. Since this integration with peers and faculty is lacking, some students begin to feel isolation and alienation which could lead to students not completing their degree. However, many of these students are not aware of how important social and academic integration is and thus view online classes as a replacement to in class learning and they in turn miss the face to face educational experience.
The traditional classroom setting provides students with not only a great education, but it gives them a community of their peers where they can engage, interact, and be supportive of one another (Bejerano, 2008). Although there are many cons associated with online education, growth has been staggering which leads us to believe that the pros are outweighing the cons. PROS OF ONLINE EDUCATION Around the world universities and colleges are turning to the internet as a new method of instruction at a rapid rate as seen from the rapid growth stated above. Recent research has shown that the effect of online learning has been positive.
Studies conducted in the area of legal, communication and social work reported no difference of significance between the traditional forms of education and that of online learning. This is true so long as the student has the proper technology and the technology works well (Seibold, 2007). In fact, the technological skills that are gained through the virtual classroom benefit the student and have become a second learning outcome. In terms of the positive effect online education has had on educational institutions, there are important and significant benefits that have led to the significant growth levels we see today.
It has become apparent to educators involved in higher learning that the continued growth and demand of online education is changing the way instruction is delivered in a major way. Probably the most significant positive impact of the technology of online learning is that the limitation of space and time that used to exist has been removed for the most part by networking capabilities. Even during the major budget crisis of the past several years, universities are still embracing the same philosophies and educational missions which are to educate their students.
The offering of online courses has allowed institutions to meet the educational needs of those students. Online classes tend to reach a broader audience with students from varying geographic areas than do the conventional classrooms. Online courses can help students who are isolated geographically, disabled, or have extremely busy schedules actually obtain a quality education. Additionally, online learning does wonders to decrease classrooms that have become overcrowded.
The online classes allow faculty and institutions to present additional courses at the most popular times demanded throughout the course of the week, which maximizes the resources available that are in short supply by increasing the flexibility of scheduling class. Students that may have had a schedule conflict can simply enroll in an online course. While comparing costs between educating a student in a traditional classroom versus an online course, the latter can decrease the costs of paper as well as the costs associated with photocopying since the majority of communication is done via email.
Institutional costs also lessen as its students grow to be more knowledgeable about the multiple resources that are made accessible on the internet. Universities can now communicate effectively with their students and faculty by electronic means which reduces costs of printing class schedules, bulletins, upcoming campus and academic events as well as other forms of advertisements. Students and educators alike believe that by using online learning technology that they are promoting the green revolution, giving them the benefit of personal satisfaction of being socially responsible (Lei & Gupta, 2010).
An institution’s faculty can also benefit from the use of online learning as a tool for education. An important benefit of online education for faculty is that the online environment is both place and time independent. Online learning provides professors with flexibility and convenience (Nagel, Maniam, Leavell, 2011). Due to the decreasing demand of work, an institution’s faculty is now able to present papers, attend conferences, and take part in university recruiting.
An additional benefit of the online learning environment is that it trains students in the same technology that is giving global corporations a competitive advantage and allows them to build communities of international knowledge at the same time. Another positive impact of the steady rise of online learning is that this medium provides opportunities for students and faculty to interact as well as students to interact with each other during online discussions which might promote critical thinking and deep learning.
By using online teams and round table type discussions students are sure to develop the sharing of knowledge and the construction of global communities of knowledge (Lei & Gupta, 2010). Many faculty members feel that there is a personal dialogue that occurs among them and their students in an online classroom setting that they simply do not get in the traditional classroom. Faculty reported that by using electronic communication, students are able to be involved more than they are in a traditional in-class setting. In general, aculty perceive that students often are more relaxed and open in expressing their ideas when they are blogging and chatting via the internet, as opposed to face-to-face interaction in the classroom. While there are many positive aspects of online education for the institutions and faculty, students also see the positives as well. Students rely heavily on the computer and internet applications when learning in online courses. The teachers have limited face to face communication which may remove any misinterpretations that may occur due to possible poor communication skills by an instructor.
Students enrolled in an online class can take the class wherever they are in the world. If they are taking a traditional campus course, they have to become accustomed to different classroom cultures, and form various learning styles to accommodate their professors. Students often can do away with this bias through online learning (Lei & Gupta, 2010). Another positive in the eyes of students is the flexible nature of the course and the independence they have to work at their own speed. Online students also have the ability to hold a full-time job during the day, managing their schoolwork and studying at night and on the weekends.
Students can access courses and engage in online learning from anywhere in the world. Many universities are beginning to account for students with busy family and work schedules. Since many students rely on a steady stream of income to cover bills and other expenses, several universities have turned their marketing efforts to take into account the working adult’s lifestyle. Many accredited institutions are recognizing the need for a program that is time sensitive and are adjusting their curriculum for that reason.
If students have certain family and job responsibilities but still wish to carry on with learning and developing in their career, online learning is an excellent option. Students also no longer have to worry about daily parking and commuting issues associated with driving to campus. Not having to drive to class is a positive aspect to a student that is trying to live a more frugal and greener lifestyle. Since the materials, coursework, and teacher is accessible anytime and anywhere, there is not a need to commute to campus which thusly translates to lowering carbon emissions.
Without having to travel to class, students are able to save money on gas and are able to decrease the amount of wear and tear that commuting puts on their vehicle (Nagel, Maniam, Leavell, 2011). As you can see, there are several positive factors that have led to the growth in online education FACULTY PERCEPTIONS AND PERSPECTIVES Whether you see online learning in a positive or negative light, it is continuing to grow at a rapid pace and many faculty members have strong feelings and perspectives about it.
Faculty members are attempting to adapt to the increasing demand for online education while universities and other institutions of higher education are steering toward online methods of course instruction as an answer to increasing number of student enrollments. Innovation in online education is imperative to not only meet the growing need in the marketplace for higher education, but also to sustain the continued advancement and growth of today’s institutions. In a traditional, classroom-setting education, faculty generally implements a standard 40-40-20 to their workload. This is in reference to the total hours spent instructing a course.
Teaching in the classroom accounts for 40% of time spent, 40% spent on course-related research, and the remaining 20% of workload is dedicated to service (Mupinga & Maughan, 2008). This formula for teaching, however, can bring about obstacles when applied to instruction of web-based courses. The inherent nature of a successful online course requires a certain level of technical “know-how”, technical support capabilities, a need for infrastructure, and an altered course organization from that of a traditional course format, which can create a significant disconnect between time spent and compensation earned.
It is not difficult for one to clearly understand the concerns that faculty face when expected to provide online course instruction. Unfortunately some professors who have never instructed an online course have mistakenly believed the process would be fairly easy, and flexible, unaware of the significant challenges that exist in the creation of the course program. However, often times, professors are very well aware of the technological difficulties related to online course delivery causing them to be apprehensive over participating in this method of education. Colaris, Gibson, & Harris, 2008) Some feel that with the increased demand of time required to effectively educate students through an online course, there should be an increase of compensation to match. However, it is commonly understood by most instructors that additional compensation will not be paid for teaching an online course. Most likely it is the case that additional pay would only be applied if the course enrollment numbers become unmanageable or if the technology tools necessary for course development are not provided.
These very issues of workload and pay are those that universities and other institutions absolutely must address in order to sustain successful efforts to provide an answer to the needs of online education, while maintaining a focus on achieving their own unique goals within the world of education (Orr, Pennington, & Williams, 2009). Additionally, as universities are continually expanding their reach, and aiming to bring in higher numbers of enrollment, further hiring of faculty is necessary to serve the student body as well as redesign and devise innovative methods of online education (Good & Peca, 2007).
Older generations of students are continually seeking out both new skills and new knowledge to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace and economic landscape, adding to the demand for institutions and universities to provide effective and relevant options for online education (Kolowich, 2009). Simultaneously, institutions of education are continually looking for creative solutions to sidestep tuition hikes as they suffer the microscope of tight budget constraints.
Aside from the technological, budget, and staffing concerns that go along with an online course, an important question to ask for faculty members responsible for providing quality online instruction is whether or not the institutions where they are employed are effectively responding to the obstacles facing them in both planning and executing the courses. Overall, most faculty members feel that the institutions are doing a satisfactory job in addressing the concerns, though there are still some specific areas that need adjustment and improvement as this sector of education becomes higher in demand.
In terms of compensation and allowance of time off, faculty are well-pleased. These are not however, typical motivating factors for educators. The faculty members at institutions of higher education tend to genuinely enjoy their profession, and are committed to furthering their careers in education. Excelling in the realm of online education instruction only adds to, and broadens the spectrum of their experience, helping them remain competitive in today’s market of higher education where online instruction is no longer just an option, but an expectation of most students seeking higher education.
In large part, educators are motivated by concern for meeting education needs of the students, leaving this to be the main factor that drives ongoing dedication. They hold a strong interest in making sure there are ample avenues for students to acquire their degrees and complete their education in a timely fashion. Faculty of higher education believe that they are morally and ethically obligated to provide alternative learning formats for the benefit of the students, while some also feel it is important for students to take part in, and experience what the environment of online learning has to offer.
Generally, professors share a similar set of values, with compassion, caring, and commitment to their students’ education at the core, fueling the motivation for teaching. Naturally, the effective development of a quality online course is a legitimate concern across the board. Simultaneously the concern of adequate time allotment is consistently a concern at hand with faculty members. When it comes to online education, a member of faculty serves both as role of instructor as well as the role of facilitator.
For an instructor to make a quality online learning experience possible for the students, there is the prerequisite of a higher time commitment from that faculty member. Clearly this concern could be mitigated by additional support staff to take part in the workload of online course development. The professors must be involved with the development of online courses at various levels of the process. They are the sole individuals responsible for the content to be taught in the class, but this allows them a solid understanding of course structure.
There are many institutions that are beginning to provide teams of developmental support to work alongside faculty members, to remove some of the pressure, as they will then have the ability to delegate much of the basic development activities to the support staff. For some professors who are accustomed to the freedom and creative flexibility of teaching in a traditional setting, learning to adapt to collaboration with a course facilitator or online course development team can be somewhat of a difficult adjustment.
For these, the open access to their course through the online system by administrators or other faculty can cause them to feel uneasy, making it the change in course medium quite challenging to accept. A loss of control at some degree exists, so this challenge to their teaching habits and preferred style of course conduct is still very real to many, even after mastering the technology involved with instructing an online course (Dykman & Davis, 2008). However, as a professor gains experience with the technology, process, and systems of online course development, the amount of required ongoing support from other staff will decrease.
Many professors feel that the learning curve in transitioning into online course instruction may be significant, but moving forward into this method of educating students is pertinent to the ongoing growth of their careers as well as the future success of their institution. In order to support and enhance an instructor’s success with online classes, it is best that the faculty members have a clear understanding of exactly how their programs work into the bigger picture of the institution’s efforts (Orr, Pennington, & Williams, 2009).
The members of faculty need to have clarity and specification of their institutions goals and direction to truly be fully committed to online learning. It is then possible for an instructor to ensure that his or her efforts of designing an online course fit nicely within the framework of their institution. Just as traditional classes, it is very important for online courses to fall in line with the objectives of the school goals. By insisting that these objectives be met, an institution can communicate an unambiguous message of the value and significance of the activities crucial to web-based learning programs.
This sets up the instructors for a greater level of focus in designing and implementing an online course with the same degree of passion in educating online students, as they express in instructing a traditional classroom. This can likely lead to higher student success and personal satisfaction of faculty. In addition to creating an environment to encourage internal gratification of educators’ efforts, it is essential for universities and other institutions to provide substantial outward recognition of instructors’ online teaching efforts by department.
By instilling a stronger system of recognition for online instruction and providing an outline of how opportunity for promotion is possible, instructors are more likely to increase their skills and master online course development in such a way that meets the institutions standards and goals, ultimately fulfilling the student body’s growing expectation of high-quality online education. It is also critical that institution solicit input from the teaching faculty when addressing various quality concerns of online courses and the reality of student learning outcomes.
The majority of professors want to ensure that their students receive an excellent education experience, therefore are open to accepting suggestions to improve the overall efficacy of current programs. This cooperation between instructors, staff support and administration will enhance every aspect of the overall design and delivery of online courses. In planning for an increase of online education courses to meet today’s demand, it is imperative that institutions take into account the motivation behind faculty charged with instructing them.
By clearly understanding why an instructor is driven to educate, an institution can help show them the value of teaching online. It is then possible to lead faculty members to appreciate exactly how online learning programs are critical in accomplishing the institution’s ability to offer a diversity of courses required to meet the students’ educational needs. Aiding faculty in understanding the true value of online education will increase their proficiency of online class development as well as instruction.
This type of support and motivation is a key element in teaching a course online, as faculty members in general need to feel a sense that their efforts add value to the institution where they teach. Online education has become a proven method for fulfilling the learning needs of today’s students. This can be seen from its exponential growth over the past few years, and for universities and colleges planning to further develop and enhance online education courses, they stand to benefit greatly from ongoing research into methods of faculty motivation. STUDENT PERCEPTIONS & PERSPECTIVES
With online education growing like it is in universities, students are now granted the choice to attend traditional face-to-face classes or choose an online option. Today’s online education opportunities allow students to meet their educational goals in a convenient, flexible, and cost effective manner. While having a bevy of educational options open to them is great, there are many risks that students perceive to go along with the positive aspects of an online education. There is no such thing as a typical student, however online education courses tend to attract mature students hat have several demands on their time so they tend to be in particular fairly discerning regarding their courses. This is the result of the conflicts the course could potentially create with the students’ personal and professional commitments and also because there is a tendency for students to either pay for their own education or be sponsored by their employer. Therefore institutions that provide online education must be conscious of the fact that they are dealing with a student body that value their education and are more than willing to criticize the courses they feel are wasting valuable money and time.
These students share in the fact that they invest a substantial amount of time, money, and effort so they are conscious of the way that their investment is being used and/or misused (Tricker, Rangecroft, & Long, 2001). As demand for online education continues to rise, online students are seeking programs with the best reputations, so it is imperative that educators strive to meet the highest standards in this regard. The risks a student perceives while making the decision on whether or not to take an online class are many, especially considering those students who are new to the concept of online courses.
The student may be attracted to this type of education because of its convenience, but at the same time, they may be concerned about course effectiveness, their ability to interact and communicate with their classmates, and the likelihood of their success. Mohamed, Hassan, & Spencer (2011) define risk as “the variation in the distribution of possible outcomes, their likelihood and their subjective values” (Mohamed, Hassan, & Spencer, 2011). The decision to take an online class can involve some risk because in doing so, there could be uncertain or unexpected consequences which may be negative in nature.
Potential students might wonder if they will be able to learn online as well as they do in a traditional classroom setting, whether or not they will have communication with their teachers and/or peers, if their grades may suffer, and whether they will be able to finish their course on time and so on. The perception of these various issues, accurate or not, will likely affect potential student’s intention to enroll in an online course. There is a perceived psychological risk that reflects the concern regarding the tension and discomfort that might arise due to enrollment in an online education ourse. Research has shown that some online students often feel more isolated, anxious, frustrated, and confused than a traditional student does (Mohamed, Hassan, & Spencer, 2011). In addition, online education students can also experience a reduced feeling of belonging to the class and may miss the participation and discussions associated with a traditional university classroom. It is very important that instructors stay sensitive to the needs of the students, and have programs in place to reduce these emotional reactions by creating a culture of involvement.
Finally, there is some research that suggests online students might fear they will be unable to complete their course work because of lack of discipline, self-motivation, and writing skills. Today the attrition rates for online students are 10 to 20 percent higher than those of students in a traditional classroom setting (Dobs, Waid, & Carmen, 2009). Performance risk is related to concerns of whether the program will deliver benefits promised or perform as desired. Many students experience some form of technical problems during their course (Mohamed, Hassan, & Spencer, 2011).
And at times, online students perceive instructors to be less prepared, use teaching methodologies that are not appropriate, and often give bigger workloads than are given in traditional classrooms. Online students also show less satisfaction than their counterparts on campus with the degree of interaction with their instructor and it primarily occurs when they did not grasp the material in the lecture. Additionally, online students have reported that their understanding of the subject increases at a lesser rate and the course held less value than the students participating in a traditional classroom.
Further, the perceived risk of time demand involves the fear surrounding the required amount of time and the effort that is required to complete the online course. Many students see the convenience and flexibility of taking online courses as a major benefit, however for those that are full time employees or have obligations with their family; concerns often arise about the demands on their time. In a study of student perceptions in online learning performed by Eom and Wen, the study participants often complained about losing work that was previously saved, the length of assignments, and the slow times of screen loads.
Another item of note reported by online students is the frustration they felt with the time that was spent doing online administrative service tasks like ordering textbooks, advising, and library access (Eom & Wen, 2006). Students also feel a form of social risk that is related to the concern they have regarding what others will think about their degree. Students might fear that their online degree will not be accepted well by family, friends, or most importantly by employers.
This perceived risk is an important hurdle that institutions face in attracting online education students. Finally, the last source of perceived risks that students face is source risk. Source risk is the concern for the credibility of the institution that is offering the online education course. When students are deciding on whether or not to enroll in an online course they often worry about the reputation of the institution, the institution’s location, and whether the online program will accept other institutions transfer credits.
The students also may worry that potential employers might question the value of the online education institution in comparison to an education in a traditional manner (Mohamed, Hassan, & Spencer, 2011). CONCLUSION Through the research conducted for this paper, it is evident that online education is not only here to stay but growing at a rapid pace. From the beginning of distance education in the early 1800’s to today’s online learning, the advancements in technology have been immense.
This advancement in technology has opened up education possibilities to student’s from all walks of life and connected students from all over the world. The first people to embrace this new revolution of online learning were the educators and now with the new and improved online learning tools and amplified opportunities in education, society as a whole is being influenced in ways never seen before. As we delve into the 21st century, the implications behind this newfound educational conversion are beginning to be recognized by the public at large.
With it we have seen an extraordinary level of investment, changes in public feelings, and a fury of (sometime not realistic) expectations regardless of the progress that has been made in altering pedagogic and institutional strategies. As we move forward, online education is no longer supplementary or peripheral, it has turned into a vital part of mainstream society (Smith & Mitry, 2008). Though we have seen that there are many pros and cons as well as varying perceptions among students and faculty, no one can deny the level of growth in online education over the years.
It is obvious from the growth seen that the pros are outweighing the cons as well as the rewards outweighing the risks for both faculty and students alike. Only time will tell when this explosion of growth in online enrollment and the technology advancements will level off but for now online education is here to stay and growing rapidly. Dedication to advancement and growth in online course development by institutions and instructors alike are pertinent to the future of today’s student. References Adams, J. , & DeFleur, M. (2006). The Acceptability of Online Degrees Earned as a Credential for Obtaining Employment.
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