WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/Online-learning course development models/Contemporary online-learning practices
Contemporary online-learning environments are characterized by a growing use of commercially produced learning management systems, which enable online access to subject matter content, asynchronous online discussions, collaborative learning activities, and online assessment. Organizations which seek to adopt online education are quickly realizing that it is not a cheap or easy option (see Simpson, 2005). Online education requires a great deal of resources and careful planning. Some of the strategies used as part of this level of planning include breaking large numbers of students into smaller groups, assigning them specific tasks, and providing them with direction and specific guidance, and setting timelines for discussion. Educators are becoming aware that open, unguided asynchronous online discussion forums can be very ineffective. Students will not give open-ended discussions their time and attention if they are not directed at specific learning or assessment activities.
Most online learning management systems support collaborative learning and small group work, which are widely recognized as desirable educational practices. They enable students to be easily grouped to work on a range of learning activities either online or offline. More importantly, LMSs enable small group work deliberations and activities to be accessible to teachers and tutors to see, critique and comment on. In conventional educational settings, these important aspects of learning would have been accessible only to the group members. Having access to these deliberations gives teachers added insights into group processes and the contributions of individual members to group work. This insight is critical in promoting fairer assessment practices of group work. Naturally, this kind of educational practice makes student work more visible and open to scrutiny just as the online learning and teaching environment breaks down the barriers to the lecture room walls and makes the teacher and the teaching more visible and open to critique.
Some of the operational and administrative issues that are central to developing and implementing a successful online-learning program include:
- Adopting cost-effective on-line learning management systems that are scalable, and hopefully customizable in order to cope with large numbers of students, and serve the needs of particular contexts and a wide variety of approaches to teaching and learning.
- Adopting learning and teaching designs that maximize the input of the teachers and tutors, and do not leave students floundering in an open and flexible learning space.
- Closely aligning learning and assessment activities in order to ensure that students are more actively engaged in their learning and taking responsibility for their own learning.
- Breaking down the distinctions between “teacher” and “taught” as computer-based conferencing enables students to take on a tutorial role as they learn how to learn from each other.