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E-learning systems have several names which basically mean the same: Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Management System, Course Management System, Learning Content Management System (LCMS), Managed Learning Environment (MLE), Learning Support System (LSS) and Learning Platform (LP). In Europe the term VLE is mostly used, but in United States the term CMS is favored over others (Kanninen, 2009).
Today's learners can use some different ways to learn. One of them is technology based environments is inclusive of using of computers and Internet. Online learning is one of these type environments. An attractive side of online learning is that education service to come to the learner itself and flexible usage of it. In online learning, to perform effective instructional design is being difficult because of the learners characteristics that are related to learning are not being known. As a matter of fact, to bring into existence of effective learning for the learners in online learning environments, needs and expectations of the learners that are in these environments are comprehended and development of convenient environments which are adequate for different learning styles are required. Technology density environments cause a change of learning styles of the learners and bring up a concept that is "online learning style" to the agenda (DaÄŸ & Geçer, 2009).
In the literature, the explanation of the online learning has been used different terminologies. Because of this, makes it difficult to develop a generic definition. Terms that are commonly used include e-learning, Internet learning, distributed learning, networked learning, tele-learning, virtual learning, computer-assisted learning, Web- based learning, and distance teaching (Anderson & Elloumi, 2004). In the literature, there are many definitions which are reflect the diversity of practice and associated technologies of online learning. For example, while some researchers define online learning as educational material that is presented on a computer, the others defines online instruction as an innovative approach for delivering instruction to a remote audience, using the Web as the medium (Anderson & Elloumi, 2004).
Kanninen (2009) online learning is learning which takes place in a network; it could be the Internet or just a school's internal/closed net. Ally (2004) wrote that there are at least the 6 following synonyms used for online learning: e-learning, Internet learning, distributed learning, networked learning, tele-learning, virtual learning, computer-assisted learning, web-based learning, and distance learning. So it can be said that in online learning the learner is at a distance from the tutor or instructor and the learner uses some form of technology to access the learning materials. (Ally 2004) Online learning can be divided into three classes:
â€¢ Contact learning supported by the net
â€¢ Multiform learning in the net
â€¢ Self studying in the net
Online learning (sometimes referred to as e-learning or distance learning). In this study, online learning adopted the ASTD (American Society for Training & Development) definition, which describes it as education which is facilitated and supported via information and communications technology (ICT). ASTD states that e- learning is:
A broad set of applications and processes which include web-based learning, computer- based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital media. Much of this is delivered via the Internet, intranet, audio and videotape, satellite broadcast, interactive TV, and CD- ROM. The definition of e-learning varies depending on the organization and how it is used, but basically it involves electronic means of communication, education, and training (Franetovic, 2011).
McGill & Hobbs (2007) mentioned that a virtual learning environment (VLE) is an information system that facilitates e-learning. VLEs process, store and disseminate educational material and support communication associated with teaching and learning. Virtual learning environments (VLEs) are widespread in higher education today, typically used to deliver instructional materials and facilitate communication within a course.
Briefly, we can define online learning in this thesis as an approach to a TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning), in a self regulated method, which utilizes information and communication technology to maximize the acquisition and processing of the knowledge in a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) as a learner centered educational framework.
Our conception of education is that it should help students to develop their personalities and to cope with the tasks and challenges that arise from their environments. More formally, education should assist young people in developing meaningful goals and provide them with the knowledge and skills to achieve these. To the extent that they manage to monitor and control the activities to reach their goals, they are said to self-regulate these activities (Steffens, 2006).
The online environment calls for students to demonstrate self-regulated learning (Ally, 2004). Dabbagh (2007) characterized successful online learners as those who exhibited self-directed learning skills. Self-regulated learning has been framed in the online education context by Carson (2012) research as an active, constructive process whereby learners set goals for their learning and then attempt to monitor, regulate and control their cognition, motivation and behavior, guided and constrained by their goals and the contextual features in their environments (Bandura, 2001; Pintrich & De Groot, 1990; Schunk, 2005; Zimmerman, 2002). the processes of self- regulation as a reciprocal cycle consisting of forethought, performance and self-reflection (Figure 2-2). Each of the phases consists of sub processes that play a greater or lesser part in learning depending on the task, the learner, and the environment (Carson, 2012).
Figure (2-2): Phases and sub processes of self-regulation.
From Zimmerman, B., & Campillo, M. (2003). Motivating self-regulated problem solvers.
Manochehr (2006) has made a study where he compared "the effects on e-learning versus those on traditional instructor-based learning, on student learning, based on students learning styles". The result was that the learning style in traditional learning was irrelevant but in e-learning it was very important. The study showed that learners with an assimilating or converging learning style achieved better learning results in e-learning.
DaÄŸ & Geçer (2009) stated that recent developments of the online learning are also related to Adaptive educational Hypermedia Systems (AEHS). An AEHS aims to build a model of the goals, preferences and knowledge of each learner and use this model throughout the interaction with the leaner, in order to adapt learning content to the needs of that learner that is adapted specifically to the learner's (Brusilovsky, 1996). For example, in an AEHS, learning content knowledge of the subject is given to the learner. In addition, AEHS can support learners in their navigation by limiting browsing space, suggesting most relevant links to follow, or providing adaptive comments to visible links (Brusilovsky, 2003). AEHS researches are centered on learning style based personalization researches (Brown, 2006; Paredes & Rodriguez, 2004; Piombo, Batatia & Ayache, 2003; Graf, 2007).