Online learning is really a comprehensive term which includes a wide variety of educational approaches and settings. This type of learning generally does not occur in real time. Instead, students are given assignments and related material and are given a fixed time period within which to complete various class tasks and final exams. Throughout this process, the student maintains a level of control over the learning process, is free to pursue any educational goals that they may have, and continues to advance throughout their academic program.
With the advent of distance education, online learning has also taken on a whole new direction. Whereas in the past we’ve typically seen the development of traditional textbooks and lecture materials that are delivered via teleconferencing or Internet video, today we see a whole new field of educational materials that are more hands-on. In addition to using the Internet as a means of delivery, online courses can be offered in the form of interactive online learning experiences that require students to interact through various means, such as forums, blogs, chats, video presentations, discussion boards, wikis, document sharing and more. Many of these instructional techniques are emerging at a rapid pace. In fact, recent studies by the National Association for the teaching of English (NAETE) indicate that the number of online courses offered has more than quadrupled since 2021.
Of course, while the development of these instructional techniques is very real, the emergence of online classes is also arguably as important as the previous development of online learning. This is because the experience of learning online, while significantly different from traditional education, can actually be more beneficial to students. After all, while traditional education involves the delivery of material in the form of textbooks, lecture notes, and other reading material, online classes allow students to gain access to more information, which can be valuable both to students and to instructors.
In general online classes provide a flexible learning experience and, as a result, there is much less resistance to the student movement and disruptions caused by traditional forms of instruction. For example, in traditional face-to-face classes, disruptions that can result from a conversation tangent or a student forgetting his book to go home are simply not possible. With e-learning technologies, this is completely unnecessary – e-learning platforms enable complete discussion of lessons while still allowing the course to move forward.
Additionally, it is not difficult to imagine the benefits that blended courses may bring over traditional ones. For one, online learning environments offer the ability to create truly personalized learning environments that are unlike anything else available. By allowing students to interact with instructors, they can gain access to information that they would not otherwise be able to gain access to. Online, blended courses allow students to see all of the reading materials, participate in discussions, and take exams from their personal computers – all of this is on the Internet, accessible to them wherever they have Internet access available.
Finally, there are the benefits that are rooted in the way that these courses are delivered. With traditional on-campus courses, students typically report feeling “stuck” in a classroom environment where they are forced to participate in group activities and readings. This, coupled with the difficulty of remembering materials and performing assignments on-site, causes many students to give up before even reaching completion. Online learning courses offer an alternative delivery system that helps alleviate the problems associated with traditional courses while still providing the same level of interactivity and convenience that students expect.