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It was reported that the global e-learning markets will reach US 107 Billion by 2015 InterActive. Malaysia has been experiencing the second highest growth rates in the world at 39.4% (PR Newswire). With the rapid market growth in e-learning, there need to be a corresponding growth in demand for the product and the need to understand the factors that influence decision makers to create the derived demand for the product.
This thesis investigates the factors that influence adults to pursue degrees through the e-learning mode. As opposed to the traditional classroom-based learning which is face-to face group learning lead by an instructor, usually a subject matter expert, e-learning is an environment where learners interact with learning materials, their instructors and other learners from various locations and often at various times using network technologies. Hence, e -learning offers flexibility as to when and how learning occurs and includes independent, facilitated, or collaborative approaches to learning.
In e-learning, the learner is in control as to when to complete his or her learning activities or modules and is independent of a facilitator and the other learners. The learner can choose whether to contact the instructor, when to contact and for what.
Background of the Study
With advancing technologies education methodology has also changed from traditional classroom to digital training or education categorized as e-learning. The scope of e-learning is amplifying in both length and breadth where more and more educational institutes are opting for e-learning which has, over the past decade, revolutionized education.
The New Ambient Insight Report shows that Asia has the highest growth rate for e-learning in the world at 17.3%. The market is expected to grow from $5.2 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion by 2016. The two countries with the highest growth rates in the world are Vietnam and Malaysia, at 44.3% and 39.4%, respectively (PR Newswire). The top ten countries with the highest growth rates are Vietnam, Malaysia, Romania, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Kenya, Slovakia, the Philippines, India, and China. The growth rates in these countries are all above 30%, more than four times the worldwide aggregate growth rate (New Ambient Insight).
In Malaysia, the Open University Malaysia, Malaysia's first open and distance learning university, is owned by the first 11 Malaysian public universities. Since its establishment in August 2000, with the first intake of 753 learners, OUM has grown tremendously with a current intake of 67,745 students (MOHE) and a current cumulative intake of over 100,000 (OUM).
A thorough online search of statistics on the number of Malaysian university colleges and universities providing degree programs online has not been successful. However, most of the websites of university colleges and universities revealed that they do provide degree programs online. The public universities providing such programs are Universiti Teknology Malaysia, University Utara Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, University of Malaya, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, etc and the private university and university colleges are Multimedia University, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Universiti Tenaga Nasional, Sunway University College, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, etc.
There are also numerous foreign online degree programs that are also available locally. These programs are provided by universities from throughout the globe. However, it should be noted that there are also bogus programs offered by non-existent universities.
Many adults want to take advantage of learning opportunities, but find it difficult primarily due to their struggle with their busy schedules, balancing work and family commitments, and the ability to attend classes traditionally, or face-to-face (Pusser, et aI., 2007). However, in recent years, the advancements in information technology have dramatically changed the education landscape. The fast growth of e-learning has made it possible for adults to obtain their degrees without having to go to the classrooms at a specific place with fixed schedules and having to struggle with their busy work schedules and family commitments. Currently, with the flexibility of e-learning and the widespread availability offered by higher learning institutions, adults are given more opportunities to pursue post-secondary qualifications and as a result, more and more adults are acquiring their degrees through the e-learning mode.
There are various factors that influence adults to pursue their post-secondary qualifications through the e-learning mode. Such factors can be attributed to the e-learning format itself that provides convenience and flexibility that allows them to manage their work and family responsibilities while obtaining post-secondary education. Other factors that can influence these adults to take up degree programs through the e-learning mode are source of finance, career development, job requirements and personal aspiration such as self-esteem and self-actualization.
The decisions by adults to take up e-learning mode degree programs are influence by various factors. This study is an attempt to identify the main factors that influence adults to take up degree programs through the e-learning mode.
It is the focus of this study to determine what are the main factors that influence adults to pursue degree programs through the e-learning mode. Therefore, the questions that need to answered are:
Do personal inspirations influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
Do availability of financing influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
Does e-learning format influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
Do job requirements influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
The purpose of this qualitative study is to gain an in-depth understanding of factors that influence adults to pursue degree programs through the e-learning mode. The objectives of the study are to determine whether:
Personal achievement influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
The availability of financing influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
The e-learning format influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
Job requirements influence adults' decisions to take up degree programs through e-learning mode?
Significance of the Study
The findings of the study may provide valuable information to institutions of higher learning to understand the factors that influence adults in pursuing degree programs through the e-learning mode. By understanding these factors, improvements to the current format can be adjusted to meet the learners' specific needs.
By understanding the underlying factors that influence adults to take up degree programs through e-learning, the government policy makers may also find the results of the study useful in terms of coming up with policies to encourage more adults to take up degree programs through e-learning mode. For instance, such policies may take the form of incentives to be provided by the government to this group of adults.
The private sectors may also use the findings of the study, for example, to come up with policies to encourage more employees to take up e-learning which will benefit the organization with a pool of employees having better knowledge. The banking industry may also find the result of the study useful in coming up with a more lenient policy in giving out study loans to applicants who intend to pursue post-secondary education.
In general, the study will also add to the body of literature for future reference by researches.
Scope of Study
The subject of study is limited to the factors that influence adults to take up degree programs through the e-learning mode. The factors are grouped into the four areas as follow:
Availability of funds
Career advancement, and
The respondents in the study, who are made up of those that are pursuing degree programs through the e-learning mode, are confined to the district of Johor Bahru to save cost and time on the part of the researcher.
Limitation of the Study
There are several limitations to the study. One, is due the scope of the study which covers factors related to the four specific areas of personal achievement, availability of financing, career advancement and program format. There are also other factors, such as cultural and social factors that may have an impact on adults' decisions to pursue degrees through the e-learning mode that have not been considered.
Second, the limitation of the study may also be due to the questionnaire survey that was conducted. The respondents may not have enough knowledge pertaining to the e-learning concepts and practices to answer the questions accurately which may affect the accuracy of the findings.
Third, the sample for the questionnaire survey was drawn from within the Johor Bahru district and the findings of the survey may not reflect the general findings elsewhere.
Finally, the output of the study is dependent on the input that goes into it. This means that the quality of the findings very much depends on the answers provided in the questionnaires and if there is no honesty by the respondents due to, for instance, lack of seriousness or plain ignorance, the quality of the findings will be affected.