The use of online teaching in education is expanding at a rapid rate. Some may be tempted to view technology as an educational panacea (Herrington & Herrington, 1998). However, the existence of any technology does not guarantee that good educational material will be provided or that effective learning will happen (Boddy, 1997). Online teaching has the “potential to be just as inflexible and inappropriate as any other form of poor instruction” (Bennett, Priest & Macpherson, 1999, p. 208). Problems associated with online learning are often overlooked or not fully investigated (Hara & Kling, 1999). It is important not to be blinded by technology. We need to recognize and study these problems to obtain a broader picture of the impact of technology in teaching. This author is an early and enthusiastic adopter of technology in teaching. However, he has learned through experience and research that it is important to identify problems, both real and perceived, in order to develop strategies to overcome them. For example, innovators are prepared to be relatively understanding of technical problems, but the bulk of users are not likely to be as forgiving (Freeman, 1997).
As the field of online teaching is relatively new, it is recognized that best practice will only develop over time (Morris, Mitchell & Bell, 1999). Even with such a short history, there is already considerable experience to draw upon. There have been many successful, and not so successful, applications of online teaching in widely disparate contexts. Unsuccessful strategies or problems encountered should not be ignored. When teachers come to tailor these skills for their own situation, they need to be able to anticipate possible problems and devise strategies to deal with them (Marx, Blumenfield, Krajcik & Soloway, 1998). For all of the problems identified in this chapter, there are means to minimize or eliminate them. However, the focus in this case is to identify some of the common problems associated with e-learning and m-learning.
General problems with online learning may include:
Technology may not provide any educational benefit and, in some cases, may actually interfere with learning.
Opens up institutions to global competition.
Students with limited or no Internet access are disadvantaged.
Increased costs to students (Internet access, printing, etc.).
Slow Internet access times and technical unreliability.
Lack of quality control on most WWW resources.
Poor pedagogical practice (e.g., simply putting lecture notes on the Web).
Less personal interaction and loss of visual cues.
Increased isolation and health problems linked with long hours spent at a computer screen.
Different forms of online teaching generate or emphasize particular problems, and it is useful to examine these in greater detail.Top
Asynchronous computer-mediated communication techniques allow participants to contribute from different locations and, more importantly, at different times. The tools available include e-mail, list-servers and discussion groups.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Synchronous Computer-Mediated Communication: The tools available include chat, desktop videoconferencing (DVC) and GroupWare. Synchronous computer-mediated communication techniques allow participants to contribute from different locations at the same time, although GroupWare tools are typically used in a single location.
Surface Learning: A concentration on lower-order cognitive skills, such as recall of facts; rather than higher-order skills, such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation (associated with deep learning).
M-Learning: The use of mobile technology to provide “anyone—anytime—anywhere” learning.
Pedagogical Re-engineering: Teachers reflecting on the ways they currently teach and perhaps adopting improved techniques. Online teaching is often an impetus for pedagogical re-engineering.
Educational Panacea: The view that technology might be the cure-all or “holy grail” of education. However, online teaching has the “potential to be just as inflexible and inappropriate as any other form of poor instruction” (Bennett et al., 1999, p. 208).
Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication: Asynchronous computer-mediated communication techniques allow participants to contribute from different locations and, more importantly, at different times. The tools available include e-mail, list-servers and discussion groups.
Reflective Teacher: A teacher “who is ready and committed to discussing educational issues and strategies, willing to participate in active improvement approaches such as peer observation, is interested in assessing and improving their teaching, and is interested in developing their own teaching philosophy, teaching statement and teaching portfolio materials.” (College of Business University of Illinois, 2003)