Quality Online Learning in Higher Education

Quality Online Learning in Higher Education

Deborah G. Wooldridge (Bowling Green State University, USA), Sandra Poirier (Middle Tennessee State University, USA) and Julia M. Matuga (Bowling Green State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7365-4.ch052
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Traditional education systems alone, despite the essential role they have played and will continue to play in learning, are simply not capable of serving the world's growing and changing needs. The knowledge explosion, driven by the power of the network to connect people and spread ideas, has changed the very nature of learning. We must innovate and develop new modes of learning, both formal and informal, that meet the demands of the knowledge-driven economy in this information age. This chapter begins by identifying the technological changes that are affecting all societies and how these changes will specifically impact postsecondary education. The topic of course delivery within this chapter is viewed as a cultural issue that permeates processes from the design of an online course to the evaluation of an online course.
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Technology broadly defined has been transforming human life in one way or another for thousands of years (Jerald, 2009). However, beginning in the 1990’s, this technological change came at an exponentially faster rate due to factors such as increased competition in a global economy, automation, workplace change and policies increasing personal responsibility. As the world’s labor markets evolve in the digital economy, we cannot predict what specific jobs will exist in the future, however what is clear is the shift from print to digital is a profound transition in how human beings learn (Pearson Learning, 2014). Currently, there are 84 million students enrolled in higher education worldwide. According to Ryan Craig (2014), “Global demand for higher education is forecasted to reach 160 million by 2025 − if online learning captures even half of this growth, there would be 40 million students requiring online education.”

The advent of the personal computer, the Internet and the electronic delivery of information have transformed the world from a manufacturing, physically-based economy to an electronic, knowledge-based economy. Whereas the resources of the physically-based economy are coal, oil and steel, the resources of the new, knowledge-based economy are brainpower and the ability to acquire, deliver and process information effectively. Ryan Craig (2015) in his new book titled College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of College Education, has argued that “technology may bring more change to teaching and learning than college leaders anticipated.” Online learning will center the learning around students rather than the classroom, tailoring education to the needs and abilities of individual learners, and making life-long learning a practical reality for all (Balanko, 2002).

The global economic crisis and especially the unemployment of youth have prompted the urgency to develop educational systems that are aligned with the needs of the society it serves. Statistics from the United Nations indicate that one half of the global population is currently under the age of 25 years. The Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2012) has examined this young population from its 33 member nations and concluded that 39 million or one in four 16-29 year olds were neither employed nor enrolled in some type of education or training program.

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