The Internet was initially set up in the 1960s and 1970s for supporting research in the military. It was then developed in 1981 in the academic community to connect university computers to enhance communications between academic researchers so that they could efficiently exchange ideas about the ongoing research (Coyle, 1997). Files transfer protocol was frequently used for transferring of files and computer-mediated communication (CMC) was also popular in the education context. Formats of CMC include e-mail, bulletin board, and list servers. With the decreasing hardware and data communication costs and increasing bandwidth, the Internet has altered our options for living, studying, working, and entertainment. It appears to be the most powerful information technology tool for education in the 21st century. There are many reasons for its popularity, and the main reasons can be attributed to accessing information easily, freely, and speedily. It provides powerful search functions, enables synchronized communication such as video, audio conference, and chat, and enables multiple presentation formats such as animation and video streaming without any add-on software or hardware. In fact, the Internet is more than technology, it is a Web of social relations imaginatively constructed by symbolic processes initiated and sustained by individuals and groups.
Learning platforms are widely used as learning portals to allow students to learn at any time and any place as long as there is an available Internet connection and a standard Web browser (Boggs & Shore, 2004; Freeman, 1997; Palloff & Pratt, 2001). They can use the online platform to participate easily in discussion forums and access teaching materials and related Web sites online. Many research studies suggest studying partially online enhances learning. The benefits include improving the quality of learning (Alexander, 2001), learners’ levels of involvement, and incentive to learn can be increased significantly with a wider and more complete understanding of the subject knowledge (Eleuterio & Bortolozzi, 2004); to be able to discuss in greater depth; the enhancement of critical thinking skills (Tan, Turgeon, & Jonassen, 2001); and to foster active and independent learning (Rosenberg, 2001). However, Alavi and Lediner (2001) did not find any conclusive evidence after reviewing pertinent literature and suggested that better understanding of the role of technology is needed.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Synchronization: Synchronization means coordinating more than one medium so that they can be delivered interactively at the same time.
Learning Objects (LOs): Defined as any entity, digital, or nondigital, which can be used, reused, or referenced during technology supported learning (http://ltsc.ieee.org/wg12/).
Learning Management System (LMS): A software package that enables the management and delivery of learning resources to students at any time and at any place when accessed from a browser. LMS enables students to study in a flexible and self-paced mode. Most LMS are commercially developed but there are some free LMS which cater for less privileged users.
Multimedia: Multimedia is a medium that uses multiple forms such as animation, text, audio, graphics, and video to deliver information.
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): Any form of technology supported communication between two or more individuals. CMC mainly focus on social effects of different computer-supported communication technologies. With the availability of the Internet, many recent CMC methods involve Internet-based communication.