Perspectives on the Realities of Virtual Learning: Examining Practice, Commitment, and Conduct

Perspectives on the Realities of Virtual Learning: Examining Practice, Commitment, and Conduct

Kristina K. Carrier (University of Idaho, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-828-4.ch003
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Thought-provoking awareness and reflection often initiate meaningful discourse and positive models for change. Globally diverse practitioners teaching online courses may benefit from examining how online practice, commitment, conduct, and standards can affect teaching, learning, and the adult student experience.
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Learned societies are borne through access to education, reference libraries, and diversely insightful dialogue. The Internet has revolutionized learning for citizens with access to the World Wide Web. Numerous estimates indicate that over 20 million people use the Internet daily for research activities, entertainment, education, and communicating with others.

Emerging educational trends support worldwide expansion of online degree and professional development programs. According to Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner (2007), “more dollars are spent on adult learning and continuing education programs than elementary, high school, and post secondary education combined” (p. ix).

Adult learners often participate in education and training courses to increase employment opportunities, “deal with changes in the stages of adulthood” (Dominice, 2000, p. 49), boost personal esteem or to realize a childhood dream. Online courses greatly benefit students who desire flexible scheduling, self-paced learning, and are especially invaluable to students who cannot be present for on-campus courses.

Although Dewey theorized that “all genuine education comes about through experience” (Dewey, 1938; Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 162), reporting objective evidence is often preferred over relying on subjective experience. Existing research and discussion suggests that most faculty members, researchers, instructors, and interrelated online education experts have never taken a graded online course as an adult student learner. Never having a personal online learning experience may disadvantage instructors of adults. As part of teacher training and professional development programs, adult educators may benefit from taking graded courses in actual or simulated online learning environments.

Adult learning theory demonstrates that teaching adults is facilitated through integrating course content with real life experience. Reciprocal acts of equality, honesty, and respectful communication are valued in learning communities. Inclusion, positive feedback, and sincere praise build confidence and encourage reticent students to participate.

To gauge student learning, course effectiveness often warrants institutional e-Learning performance assessments. Courses transferred into learning management systems (LMS) that don’t convert well into online formats may provide students with an unintentional but inferior scholarly experience.

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