The aim of this article is to provide an overview of university students’ experiences of online learning, based both on some previous empirical studies and literature during the last decade. Online education has become widespread in many countries during recent years, and the paradigmatic shift from traditional to online education (e.g., Harasim, 2000; Karuppan, 2001) has occurred as part of planned educational policy, with both international and national experiences supporting its growth. Similarly, students now have increasingly higher expectations regarding the quality of learning, and they expect a more individual, flexible, and humanistic approach in education. Students are increasingly demanding online access and universities are working to meet these demands (e.g., Song, Singleton, Hill, & Hwa Koh, 2004). In addition, technology is expected to improve access to education, reduce costs, improve the cost-effectiveness of education, and maintain the competitive advantage in student recruitment in higher education (Katz & Yablon, 2003; Newton, 2003). It is also important to note that no consistent paradigm for online education exists; rather there are multiple ways of making use of the Web in education, and these will vary for many reasons, for example, the needs of the learner and the subject being taught.
Main Focus: The Students’ Perspective Of Online Learning
In general, the students in question found the online learning experience a largely positive one; motivation to participate in online courses was high, and almost all students and teachers were willing to use new technology (e.g., Lammintakanen & Rissanen, 2003; Morss, 1999; Newton, 2003). Online learning is considered a flexible way of learning in terms of availability (anywhere and anytime), and this has been appreciated by students (see e.g., Lammintakanen & Rissanen, 2003; Lu et al., 2003; Stewart, Waight, Norwood, & Ezell, 2004; Townsend & Wheeler, 2004; Tricker, Rangecroft, & Long, 2001). From the point of view of adult learners, online learning has, at least partly, solved problems related to combining the academic calendar, full-time employment, and family responsibilities (Dixon, Pelliccione, & Dixon, 2005; Young & Norgard, 2006). However, Dringus (2000) points out that convenience should not be the only reason for participating in an online course.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Learning Style: refers to the way in which individuals acquire and use information, strategies to process information in learning and problem-solving situations (Karuppan 2001)
Tutoring: is a support system for learning. The tutor acts as a facilitator for learning and group processes. Tutor is a role that can be shifted between different actors (e.g., teachers, students).y
Online Education: differs from traditional classroom teaching in two essential elements, 1) physical distance, and 2) time, allowing the learner more flexibility. The most basic form is to deliver syllabi, lecture notes, reading materials, and assignments via the Internet. The more advanced level includes computer conference facilities, a help desk, linkage of conferencing and Web page assignment, testing and course management tools, and evaluation (Karuppan 2001).
Online Platform: is a specially developed platform using Internet technology for the design and development of teaching and learning purposes.
Learning Tools: are included in online learning environments for managing the course, and are geared to facilitating student learning in the environment.
Assessment of Learning: can be diagnostic, formative, or summative. Diagnostic assessment takes place prior to teaching. Formative assessment means following students’ progress during the teaching and learning process, while summative assessment is used to describe the teaching and learning outcomes. (Born, 2003).
Continuous Education: refers to education after professional education, and is a tool to support professional development in changing working life. It is based on the principle of lifelong learning.