The World Wide Web has become a mature platform for the support of learning at universities. Several patterns have emerged, both in the nature of use, and in understanding the conditions associated with successful adoption and application of web-enhanced learning (WEL). This article summarizes, in the form of nine scenarios, the ways in which the Internet is being used to enhance learning in traditional universities. It also discusses the changes needed if universities are to benefit more widely from WEL.
The Web is used by universities to make courses available to students who are distant from campus (distance learning, DL) and to enhance learning by students who attend courses on-campus (web-enhanced learning, WEL). Universities may be classified on the basis of the modes of learning that they offer. Virtual universities offer access to courses by DL only. Traditional, or campus-based universities, offer courses that are based on formal lessons held in classrooms or laboratories (classroom-based learning, CBL), but may also offer courses by DL, or flexible learning (FL), a combination of DL and CBL.
WEL is the use of the Web to enhance CBL in traditional universities. WEL provides students studying in the classroom with access to electronic resources and learning activities that would not be available to them in traditional classroom-based study. The simplest forms of WEL provide access to the Web from within the classroom, using the Web as a platform for real-time demonstration or as a digital library. More sophisticated forms of WEL blend activities in the classroom with Web-enabled learning activities that promote collaborative learning among students, even when they are distant from the classroom.
Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between the modes of learning offered by universities. WEL is represented as that portion of CBL that uses the Web to enhance learning. When it is used to blend in-classroom and out-of-classroom activities, WEL shares the characteristics of DL and FL.
The relationship between Web-enhanced learning (WEL) and other modes
WEL differs from flexible learning in that the focus of the lesson remains the traditional classroom. With FL, classroom-based learning is mixed with learning at a distance. In the most common form of FL, distributed learning (also known as blended learning or mixed mode learning), students participate in formal lessons both in the classroom and at a distance, according to a schedule prepared by the instructor. Some flexible learning may be enhanced by use of the Web, for example, to provide discussion forums in which students studying at a distance and in the classroom may participate together, but use of the Web is not necessary for flexible learning.
This article is concerned with integration of online learning and classroom-based learning to achieve effective and manageable WEL for campus-based students. The focus is on change across a university system rather than in an individual classroom. We argue that WEL adds the most value when it is used to enable new forms of learning, and in particular, online collaborative learning by students working at a distance from the classroom as well as within it (Rudestam & Schoenholtz-Read, 2002). This value can only be obtained through attention at the institutional level to the organizational transformation required to implement, support, and sustain WEL (Bates, 2000).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Flexible Learning: Systems in which students may choose to complete some of their learning on-campus and some of their learning off-campus.
Distributed Learning: See mixed mode learning.
Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): Collaborative learning that occurs via the medium of computer-based communication networks such as the Internet.
Online Learning Activities: Learning activities in which students interact with resources, or other students, or both, using the capabilities of the Internet or other computer-based communication networks.
Blended Learning: See mixed mode learning.
Social Learning: Learning through social interaction with other people.
Web-Enhanced Learning (WEL): Use of the World Wide Web (Web) to provide students studying in the classroom with access to electronic resources and learning activities that would not be available to them in traditional classroom-based study. The simplest forms of WEL provide information about a course on the Web and access to the Web from within the classroom. More sophisticated forms of WEL blend activities in the classroom with Web-enabled online learning activities which promote collaborative learning among students even when they are distant from the classroom.
Collaborative Learning: Learning that occurs through the exchange of knowledge among learners. Collaborative learning is a form of social learning.
CSCL: See computer-supported collaborative learning.
Mixed Mode Learning: Study that combines traditional face-to-face learning with learning at a distance in a structured program. The Web may be used to enhance learning during study by one or both of these modes. Mixed Mode is also known as Blended Learning and Distributed Learning.