Online Education and Cultural Background

Online Education and Cultural Background

Elizabeth Koh (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch146
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Abstract

Online education is growing rapidly. Online education is a Web-based form of education where students gain access to online materials and communicate with instructors and other students. There are four distinguishing characteristics that separate it from e-learning and other modes of learning (Paulsen, 2003). First, there is a physical separation of teachers and learners in online education. This differentiates it from face-toface education. Second, online education is regulated or instituted by an educational organization, hence disqualifying it from the self-study mode of learning. Third, educational content is distributed over a computer network, unlike e-learning, which includes educational content distributed by CD-ROMS and DVD-ROMS. Fourth, students and instructors communicate with each other over a computer network. There is a twoway flow of information which is not always available in e-learning. Indeed, the communicative element is a unique feature of online education and is an extension of the individualized experience of earlier technologies (Piccoli, Ahmad, & Ives, 2001). Not solely an interaction between the student and the system, online education allows communication between peers and instructors and even collaborative learning communities. Online education also provides high levels of student control and supports participant contact and interaction continuously during the learning process. There are different levels of “onlineness” (Hosie & Schibeci, 2005). The most basic level is Web supplemented. It is optional for students to interact with the education content, and to communicate with instructors and other students. These online learning resources are a component in addition to their face-to-face learning. The intermediate level is Web dependent. Students need to participate online as part of the course requirement, besides some face-to-face component. Students should utilize the online education content, which includes course descriptions, study guides, examination details, assessment overview, reading lists, and online quizzes. Also, students are expected to interact with lecturers and peers by participating in the online discussion forum or other computer-mediated communications (CMC). This is the most popular form of online education today. The advanced level is fully online. This final level requires no face-to-face meetings with the students. Education content, learning activities, assessment, and support services can only be referred to vis-à-vis the computer network. Distance education could occur in this manner, but the term “distance education” also includes the use of other types of media which may not be electronic. Online education is supported by various systems. The core system in most educational institutes is the learning management system or the virtual learning environment. Learning management systems grant access to online learning resources for students and instructors; they register users, provide communication tools for users, manage courses, evaluate learners, and provide administrative reports (Paulsen, 2003). They can be commercial software like Blackboard or developed in-house. Online education can also require library and digital resources, learner support services, accounting, security, the Internet and e-commerce technology, which may be integrated with the core system Online educational technologies can be categorized into synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous applications require users to be available at the same time. They include networked group decision support systems (GDSS), e-meetings, e-conferences, and features like whiteboards, text-based chat, and video conferencing. Asynchronous technologies are time independent and comprise discussion boards or Web boards, document repositories, Web logging, podcast audio content, and Web cast lectures.
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Introduction

Online education is growing rapidly. Online education is a Web-based form of education where students gain access to online materials and communicate with instructors and other students. There are four distinguishing characteristics that separate it from e-learning and other modes of learning (Paulsen, 2003). First, there is a physical separation of teachers and learners in online education. This differentiates it from face-to-face education. Second, online education is regulated or instituted by an educational organization, hence disqualifying it from the self-study mode of learning. Third, educational content is distributed over a computer network, unlike e-learning, which includes educational content distributed by CD-ROMS and DVD-ROMS. Fourth, students and instructors communicate with each other over a computer network. There is a two-way flow of information which is not always available in e-learning.

Indeed, the communicative element is a unique feature of online education and is an extension of the individualized experience of earlier technologies (Piccoli, Ahmad, & Ives, 2001). Not solely an interaction between the student and the system, online education allows communication between peers and instructors and even collaborative learning communities. Online education also provides high levels of student control and supports participant contact and interaction continuously during the learning process.

There are different levels of “onlineness” (Hosie & Schibeci, 2005). The most basic level is Web supplemented. It is optional for students to interact with the education content, and to communicate with instructors and other students. These online learning resources are a component in addition to their face-to-face learning.

The intermediate level is Web dependent. Students need to participate online as part of the course requirement, besides some face-to-face component. Students should utilize the online education content, which includes course descriptions, study guides, examination details, assessment overview, reading lists, and online quizzes. Also, students are expected to interact with lecturers and peers by participating in the online discussion forum or other computer-mediated communications (CMC). This is the most popular form of online education today.

The advanced level is fully online. This final level requires no face-to-face meetings with the students. Education content, learning activities, assessment, and support services can only be referred to vis-à-vis the computer network. Distance education could occur in this manner, but the term “distance education” also includes the use of other types of media which may not be electronic.

Online education is supported by various systems. The core system in most educational institutes is the learning management system or the virtual learning environment. Learning management systems grant access to online learning resources for students and instructors; they register users, provide communication tools for users, manage courses, evaluate learners, and provide administrative reports (Paulsen, 2003). They can be commercial software like Blackboard or developed in-house. Online education can also require library and digital resources, learner support services, accounting, security, the Internet and e-commerce technology, which may be integrated with the core system

Online educational technologies can be categorized into synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous applications require users to be available at the same time. They include networked group decision support systems (GDSS), e-meetings, e-conferences, and features like whiteboards, text-based chat, and video conferencing. Asynchronous technologies are time independent and comprise discussion boards or Web boards, document repositories, Web logging, podcast audio content, and Web cast lectures.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distance Education: A mode of education where there is a lack of physical proximity between instructors and students; Web-based technology may or may not be employed for teaching and learning. An example is the UK Open University.

Web 2.0 Applications: Dynamic tools based on the Web services technological architecture that enable people to collaborate and share information with a desktop-like operational experience. Applications include wikis, online “malls” and sharing/tagging collectives such as Wikipedia, Facebook, iRows.

Online Education: Teaching and learning over the Internet characterized by the physical separation of teachers and learners, the influence of an educational organization, and the bidirectional flow of information between students and instructors. They are typically supported by learning management systems, such as Blackboard or Moodle.

E-Learning: A method of acquiring skills and knowledge via electronic devices. These devices include CD-ROMS, Web sites, e-mails, and mobile phones. It is a broader term than online learning.

Online Learning: The act of learning over a computer network. It is typically used to refer to Web-based resources. Examples of educational Web sites are HowStuffWorks.com and WikiHow.com.

Collaborative Learning: An approach to education that entails two or more students working together synchronously and interactively to devise joint solutions for problems. Through cooperation and discussion, learners contribute different understandings that lead to new and shared understandings.

Cultural Background: The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought that a person has grown up in and belongs to. It is associated with countries and regions, for example, American culture and Eastern cultural background.

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