By Saachi Sharma:
Education in the contemporary world has moved on beyond the ambit of the traditional brick and mortar structure to virtual forms like online education, tutorial videos, e-courses etc. A fast rising phenomenon, online education focuses on credit-granting to students via the internet within the comfort of their houses. Though this spurt in e — learning was centric to western societies initially, developing countries like India and Brazil have jumped onto the bandwagon, thereby widening the scope of e — education indefinitely. Interesting questions pertaining to regulation, redressal forums, quality of education and practicality of such a degree/diploma/course have been raised in recent times, clearly indicative of the existent ambiguity.
Online education programs have gained popularity, with many institutions having some sort of an online program even for their regular students. Colleges and universities have tapped into the online market in an attempt to increase revenues, expand educational reach, and recover a portion of the investments made in technology. Instructional strategies like learning contracts, discussions, lectures, self-directed learning, mentorships, small group work, projects, collaborative learning, case studies and forums are imbibed within teaching methods, thus providing students with innovative ways to learn. Because learners have different learning styles or a combination of styles, multiple instructional strategies provide a significant experience for each class participant.
E — learning has allowed education to reach a large number of individuals regardless of age, gender, geographic location, and other demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, thereby making monetary or logistical constraints obsolete. In addition, there are no fixed timings regarding academics, thus making it easier for those wishing to work as well as enhance their educational qualifications side by side.
Most concerns with regard to e — learning arise due to the natural limitations of instructional technology such as the lack of social interaction and immediate feedback, inability to address the learning needs of a diverse group of students and lack of transparent academic activities by for-profit online schools . This form of education makes internet access and computer knowledge mandatory, which poses a problem to many. Also, there is a perceived lack of strong credentials of faculty involved in the delivery of online instruction and the subsequent degree/diploma/qualification obtained is questioned as well.
Clearly, online education is here to stay, even though it needs to evolve. Educational institutions must provide incentives (monetary incentives and recognition) to faculty teaching online courses who should then assume ownership of their own courses. Competent faculty should be involved in planning, designing, and implementing online instructions. Apart from that, expansive research on how to improve online education must be undertaken by the state as well as educational institutions. Finally, well-designed tools, strategies and interaction ways are of paramount importance if this ‘education revolution’ has to enhance the quality of education and reduce educational inequalities.
Image courtesy: http://www.anzsoc2009.org/category/uncategorized/page/4