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Effective online instruction depends on majorly advanced designed and facilitated knowledgeable educators. Because students tend to have different learning styles, teachers should design activities and several teaching strategies that will suit every student in the online class.
Online lectures can me presented in multiple forms and ways. Illinois Online Network cites that "Lecture notes can be placed on a web page for the learner to review. Notes can be put together in a packet and either downloaded from the Internet or sent via snail mail. Lectures can also be presented via audio or video over the Internet. Also, links to related resources and other Web sites can be embeddedÂ in online lectures. Online lectures are likely to be shorter and more to the point than lectures in live classrooms which often extend far beyond the attention span of the audience. Â Short lectures provide enough information to serve as a basis for further reading, research, or other learning activities." (Illinois Online Network, 2008)
There are many advantages of e-lecturing, but the most obvious one is that lectures are available online for longer period of time, they can be revisited and reread as many times as necessary by students in order to get better understanding.
Group Work in Online Courses can be very challenging and difficult for many students. Many students come to online classes thinking that they will be working independently, or they may be assigned into a group that is poorly managed. With proper and detailed managing, students problems and concerns can be overcome and group projects can be effective learning methods for students taking online courses. There are several benefits for using group work in an online course.
Students learn better when they have opportunities for collaboration (Millis, n.d.).
Students tend to learn more material better and retain the information longer than when the same information is taught in different methods (St. Philip's College, 2005).
Group members not only learn from their own individual efforts, but they also learn from the perspectives of the other members (Betz, 2005).
Several things must be taken in consideration when constructing teams for group work. It is very important that the group members spend sufficient amount of time together, online, so that they get familiar with one another. Very important part also to ensure heterogeneity in groups, mixing groups based on achievement levels, avoiding a single group of excellent students, and single group of poor students. Mixing the quality will encourage the lesser working students to strive and reach the same level as hard working students. Ideal group should not consist of more than 5 students, as it becomes more difficult to get in sync with online meeting times and everything else. In case of having students from different times zones, it is very important to try to keep the students of the same time zone in a group, especially if the time zone difference from one student to the other is more than 3 hours.
Self-directed learning is a term that indicates learning is initiated by the student and can include self timing and strategies. E-Learning probably supports self-directed learning more than any other strategy and method, simply because you are not in a teacher-class environment where discussions are constant. The students, working at a computer at suitable time and pace, is able to find and utilize incredibly large amount of resources online for pretty much any topic that comes to mind. Students can visit libraries, museums and various institutes world-wide, talk to professionals, access recent research, and read Â newspapers and peer reviewed scholarlyÂ journals online. Students can write collaboratively with peers and even publish written and multimedia products on web pages. (Illinois Online Network, 2008)
Obviously the regular classroom setup is very much teacher centered oriented form of learning. The teacher lectures, using various techniques, with the most recent and common technique being power point presentations. Teachers' work load depends completely on the subject he/she is working on. Science and Engineering classes tend to have a bigger work load for the teachers, simply because it is still very necessary to use some sort of writing board for problem solving. Social Sciences tend to have lesser work load, and most of the professors can get by with only power point presentations in classroom. One major disadvantage of teacher oriented learning is that the time is usually limited, and students do not have enough space for interactions with professors, not enough time to answer all the questions; which is not the case with e-learning as most of questions are send via email, and the professor has no way to choose what to answer and what not.
E-Learning is much more student oriented than regular classroom setup. A professor of writing composition in United States of America says "I am surprised to say that my Internet-based composition class is much more student-centered than the typical class I would offer on campus....the students are much more free to move in individual directions with me acting as the 'support person' for their learning experience" (Melzer, 2005). Another professor from Bucks County Community College says Â "Distance Learning is a teaching method that is centered around the student....The teacher no longer delivers the customary lecture, but guides the students through their studies."Â (Melzer, 2005).
Collaborative learning is probably the hardest part for implementation in E-learning. There are certain things that are required for effective collaborative learning. Obviously there is a need for workplace and learning environment in which collaboration can be accomplished, there is a need for a structure and facilitated process for learning experience, and usually the technology needs is not only limited to a computer and internet access, but sometimes it is essential to have videoconferencing capabilities and high level of technology. Collaborative learning cannot be confused with the Web-based training, where learner works alone, determines the pace of the course to be delivered using an Internet browser. Collaborative learning requires a team of learners led by a facilitator in a virtual classroom. In his article "The Network is the Teacher: Collaborative E-Learning," Richard Horn says "empowering learners in a collaborative e-learning setting fosters interactivity, responsibility for learning, and measurable learning outcomes...Collaborative learning is really not a technique as much as an architecture."
This form of learning has its advantages as it builds learners social and interactive skills, the way it is setup forces the learners to ask and be any point during the duration of class. Taking a back seat and not being active will almost lead to failure in this form of learning, there is no office hours where you can go to the teacher and ask questions; everything is online oriented. Advantages are many including: Huge amount of online data and information, faster communication, more possibilities and resources. It also has its own disadvantages including: Learners being in different time zones, which would lead to some students having online meetings at night or late night times, harder evaluation process etc.
Illinois Online Network, .(2008, May). Instructional strategies for online coerces. Retrieved from <http://www.ion.illinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/instructionalstrategies.asp#SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING>
Betz, M. (2005, January). Facilitating team learning means more than just assigning team projects. Online Classroom, pp. 4-5.
Felder, R. M. & R. Brent. (2001).Â Groupwork in distance learning. Chemical Engineering Education, 35(2), pp. 102-103. Retrieved from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Columns/FAQs-3.html
Millis, B. (n.d.).Â Managing - and motivating! - Distance learning group activities. Retrieved from http://www.tltgroup.org/gilbert/millis.htm
St. Philip's College. (2005).Â Group strategies. Retrieved from http://www.accd.edu/spc/iic/tedl/groups.htm
Melzer, DM. (2005). Constructivism online: a survey of freshman writing distance learning cource,. Informally published manuscript, Florida State University, Carrabelle, Florida. Retrieved from http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/currents/fall99/melzer/Introduction.htm