Making Online Education Attractive

All over the world, the numbers of people in school at the different levels takes pyramidal shape. There are huge numbers at the elementary, but as they progress, the numbers decrease, leaving just a few in higher education. In the United States, some 65 million students were expected to enroll from K to K12 in the fall of 2015. In the same period, it was expected that 20.2 million would be attending Colleges and Universities. It is estimated that 25% of fresh high school students in the U.S.A are not able to graduate. For fresh students who enter colleges or universities 1 out of 3 are likely not make it to second year. This dropout out rate hinders national development, because many people do not receive the full training they need to be functional in society. National development would be hugely fostered, if more adults receive education, in order that they become functional in society.

I am not saying that all adults who were not fully educated are not playing important roles in society. There are very prominent individuals in society who dropped out of school at some level. Bill Gate, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, for example, at some point dropped out of school. Though this list is not exhaustive, the number of people who dropped out of school or decided not to gain higher education and yet became successful are relatively few. For the majority who dropped out or discontinued education, and could not become successful in their careers, it was because they lacked the knowledge they needed to develop their potential. If you check the history of those who in spite of dropping out or discontinuing schooling have become successful, you would find that appeared to have found their life’s purpose and so pursued those goals and, more importantly, they received some kind of education later.

Education as we all know is a life-long activity. At any point in time, whether you dropped out of school or got honors at your graduation, you would need education. The school dropout who has found himself a vocation or gained employment needs education so he/she can be more productive, the dropout who has realized the need to school but has ‘grown past school going age’ and desires to school obviously needs education, managers as well as employees need further education in order to keep pace with today’s rapidly changing world and gain increased wages and status respectively. Somehow, the traditional education dependent society we have created for ourselves and considers the ‘best’, limits our quest for continuing education. For many people, formal education ended the day they dropped out or graduated from High School, College or University, even though, technology makes it possible for us to sit in our houses and still get quality education.

When technology – computers and internet connectivity – replaced physical classrooms and made it possible to study by distance in real time, it appeared the issue of continuous education for everyone, including the dropout and the working class have been solved. It appeared, and still does, that now the teacher need not leave his students, apply for study-leave or leave of absence to pursue further education. It appeared the fifty-year-old woman who dropped out of school several years ago could now school from home and it appeared the father could learn what his daughter is learning at College using the same device he uses to call her. That is what it appeared. Those who dropped out of school due to issues of finance and have not since had a breakthrough would not benefit, and those who have the money would not want to put their money into a certificate employers and academicians alike would frown upon. So little appear to have changed for these two groups of people, though online Colleges and Universities abound.

Two prime issues are to blame. First, online education is too expensive for the target group of learners and second, there is the perception that online Colleges and Universities do not provide holistic education like the traditional Colleges and Universities. As indicated by Ed Vosganian – founder and CEO of College Funding 123, the cost of on-campus University for undergraduate is estimated at 42,000 dollars while for the same group it cost around 21,000 dollars for online universities. By comparison we would say that it cost far less to study via online. But we need not lose sight of those who mostly enroll in online University. It is those in the middle and lower classes who opt for online universities. They include; the employee who has sacrificed pleasure for higher qualification in return for better wages, the unemployed who wants to gain employable skills, the dropout who wants to get back to school in the hope that there will be a brighter future, and the people living in the remote part of the world, especially in the developing world, who don’t even have the money to pay fees and so would have to learn and work simultaneously. To these 21,000 dollars is money so huge, it is very difficult to raise. There are people of the higher income class who enroll in online universities, but online learning is not popular among these due to low prestige and the myths associated with online education. The online institutions will tell you, they would not put anything on your certificate to show that you received a non-traditional education. This kind of advert speaks of how society values online education. Online education is considered a cheap way of getting ‘watered down’ education. Online Colleges and Universities were until recently considered diploma mills. This perception still exists, though empirical evidence tells us there is no disparity in quality of students from traditional Colleges and Universities on one hand and online Colleges and Universities on the other. The online Universities and Colleges are doing their best to make online learning prestigious and bring down study cost, but they cannot do it alone. With government intervention online learning can become prestigious and lower and middle class friendly.

Government should provide a national framework for online education, subsidize accreditation, and grant scholarships and student loans for students in online Colleges and Universities. A national framework to guide the operations of all online colleges and universities should be instituted by the state, through the Department of Education or the relevant government agency. This framework, which would be descriptive and not prescriptive in nature would describe, for example, the minimum courses to be taken at a given level, and the general mode of operation of online universities and colleges without prescribing specific courses or mode of operation. Accreditation is not just laborious for online Colleges and Universities; it is also expensive. This cost is passed to students, souring up program fees. If the government decides to absorb half the cost of accreditation, though there is no guarantee the program fees will be halved, the program fee would be reduced somehow. Lastly, most of the students who opt for online colleges and universities do not receive scholarships and student loans from the state. Those who receive something do not get huge scholarships and student loans like their counterparts in traditional Colleges and Universities. Government should make scholarships and students loans available to students of online Colleges and Universities just as it does for students in traditional Colleges and Universities.

The ramifications of these interventions would definitely be aweso

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Difference Between On-Campus Education and Online Education

On-campus education vs. online education! Is one better than the other? Can one completely replace the other? Indeed it seems that online education is the way of the future. Educational institutions, corporations and government organizations alike already offer various forms of electronic teaching. However, can a computer truly replace a teacher and a blackboard?

How people learn

Each individual has a form of learning that suits them best. Some individuals achieve fantastic results in courses taught online, however most people drop out of 100% computer-led courses. Educational institutions, as well as companies in carrying out staff training, must recognize that there is no ideal way to carry out the teaching of a large group of individuals, and so must design programs that best suits the needs of the group as a whole.

People learn using multiple senses. This involves learning through both theoretical components of a course, as well as social interaction with both instructors and other students. Students learn from each other’s mistakes and successes, not just from what they are told by instructors.

Each individual student has an ideal learning pace. Instructors are therefore faced with the challenge of designing courses that move forward such that those students with a slower learning pace do not get left behind, while not moving so slowly that students with faster learning paces get bored.

Online education

In the age of high-speed information transfer, online education is becoming a popular and cheap means for delivering teaching to individuals outside the classroom, and in some cases all over the world. Teaching can be via CD, websites, or through real-time online facilities such as webcasts, webinars and virtual classrooms. However, different methods of online education each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Online education is still a relatively new concept, and in many respects still in the teething stages. As such, various problems arrive across different online education environments. For example:

1. Lack of immediate feedback in asynchronous learning environments: While some online education environments such as webcasts, webinars and virtual classrooms operate live with the addition of an instructor, most do not. Teaching that is delivered through a CD or website, although having the advantage of being self-paced, provides no immediate feedback from a live instructor.

2. More preparation required on the part of the instructor: In an online education environment, an instructor can not simply stand in front of a whiteboard and deliver a class. Lessons in online education environments must be prepared ahead of time, along with any notes and instructions that may accompany the teaching.

In many cases it would also be necessary that the instructor not only understands the concepts being taught, but the technology used to deliver that teaching. This therefore increases the skill-levels needed of online education instructors, placing greater demand on educational institutions.

Staffing levels may also be higher for courses run in an online education environment, requiring for example:

The Instructor – able to teach both course content and be skilled in the use of technologies involved

The Facilitator – to assist the instructor in delivering content, but may do so remotely

Help Desk – to offer assistance to instructors, facilitators and students in the use of both software and hardware used to deliver the course.

3. Not all people are comfortable with online education: Education is no longer only sought by the world’s youth. With an increased trend towards adult and continuing education, there is a need to design courses suitable for students over a larger age-range, as well as students from different and varied backgrounds. It is difficult, however, to design online education environments suitable for everyone.

4. Increased potential for frustration, anxiety and confusion: In an online education environment, there are a greater number of parts making up the system that can fail. Server failures may prevent online courses from operating. Software based teaching applications may require other specific components to operate. Computer viruses may infect software necessary to run online education environments. If these systems are complex, students may choose the ease of On-campus education rather than taking the additional time and effort necessary to master the use of online education systems.

5. The Digital Divide: Many people who live in remote areas and developing countries do not have access to computers, making any form of online education virtually impossible. For this reason, online education is only able to be targeted at the people lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the technology involved. Similarly, offering live teaching across the world means that different time zones and nationalities increase the demand for multi-skilled instructors.

In addition to these, there are also several legal issues associated with maintaining an online education environment. For example, intellectual property laws, particularly those relating to copyright, may or may not fully cover electronically created intellectual property. For example, information on a website is not necessarily considered to be public domain, despite being available to everyone. However, the Australian Copyright Act was amended in 2001 to ensure that copyright owners of electronic materials, including online education environments, could continue to provide their works commercially.

On-Campus Education

Still the most common form of instruction is traditional classroom-style learning. These instructor-led environments are more personal than online education environments, and also have the advantage of allowing for immediate feedback both to and from student and teachers alike. However, the classroom allows for less flexibility than courses run in online education environments.

Instructors in modern classroom environments are still able to take advantage of several forms of electronic teaching tools while still maintaining the atmosphere associated with the traditional classroom environment. For example, PowerPoint slides can be utilized instead of a whiteboard or blackboard. Handouts can be distributed via course websites prior to the event. However, on the day, students are still able to actively participate in the lesson.

Like online education environments, On-campus education comes with certain drawbacks, the most common of which is the classroom itself. This requires a group of people which, in a university for example, could reach a few hundred people in size, to gather in the same place at the same time. This requires enormous time and financial commitment on behalf of both the students and the educational institution.

However, it is this sort of environment that is most familiar to students across the world. People of all ages can access a classroom environment feeling comfortable with the way that a classroom-run course is carried out. Older students who may not be comfortable with the use of information technology are not required to navigate their way through possibly complex online education environments, making On-campus education the most accessible form of teaching.

On-campus education has one advantage that 100% electronically delivered courses can not offer – social interaction. Learning comes from observing, not only what is written on a page or presented in a slideshow, but what is observed in others. Most students are naturally curious, and so will want to ask questions of their instructors. The classroom environment allows students to clarify what is being taught not only with their instructors, but with other students.

So, Which is Better?

There is no style of instruction that will best suit every student. Studies have shown (Can online education replace On-campus education) that courses where online education is used to complement On-campus education have proved more effective than courses delivered entirely using only one method. These courses take advantage of both online education materials and a live instructor, and have produced results higher than those of students in either 100% online education or classroom environment courses. Students have the advantage of the immediate feedback and social interaction that comes with the classroom environment, as well as the convenience of self-paced online education modules that can be undertaken when it best suits the student.

It would seem that online education environments will never completely replace On-campus education. There is no “one size fits all” method of teaching. Teaching styles will continue to adapt to find the method that best fits the learning group. Using a mix of online education environments and classroom sessions, educational institutions, corporations and government organizations can ensure that training is delivered that is convenient and effective for both instructors and students alike.

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