Internet Use for Distance Learning
The intent of this paper is to first provide a summary of the article Distant, Not Absent (McClure), followed by an assessment of its positive and negative aspects, supported by specific reasons and analysis.
The article summarizes how online learning institutions are battling against the tendency of online students to drop their courses after the first few weeks, or due to a lack of persistence, give up on their online learning programs and therefore their educational goals altogether. The article is well-researched with several experts in online education quoted, underscoring one of the most startling facts presented, which is that there are approximately 3.5 million students in 2007 that took at least one online course according to the 2007 Sloan Consortium Report. The article does not state that technological growth of the Internet purely as the basis of this online learning growth; rather students’ familiarity and comfort with technology and the learning institutions’ approaches to creating on online community where the students get a sense of belonging and identification. Stories of how online students want to attend their online schools’ athletic events, as is the case with Penn Sate, are examples of this. As with any technology-driven change to any organization, whether it is a business or a learning institution, adoption of change by those most affected by it is critical. This is called change management in many organizational behavior courses, and the article discusses how many learning institutions are working to alleviate fear of change on the part of students, from offering coaching services to online services to ease the transition to online courses. The University of Phoenix specifically has focused on creating learning groups and teams to build community first and foremost. The combining of students builds greater accountability and more of a sense of teamwork to complete the course online. Above all, there is the need for a responsive and supportive instructor who is genuinely interested in assisting the students get to their learning goals in the short-term and their broader objectives in the long-term. All of these strategies are discussed in the article to minimize the probability of students quitting the programs. The Rochester Institute of Technology’s staff specifically sees the first few weeks as critical in the development of a commitment to completing online learning courses.
Response and Reaction to Article
In the article analyzed (McClure), the insights provide a glimpse into how critical it is to have change management strategies in place for getting online students to become committed to online programs. Instead of relying purely on technology alone and celebrating it, the article provides a glimpse into how difficult it is for institutions to get students to take ownership and accountability of online courses. What is most refreshing is the fact that the author does not criticize the students, yet describes how a social ecosystem must first be created that can support the students’ needs for community, reinforcement of their learning strengths, and underscores how critical the role of the instructor is. Beyond being a mentor, the instructor in an online environment must work to reach out and not only teach the content, but also help students to overcome the barriers to their learning experience online. This includes providing online students with the flexibility of learning how they choose to. it’s critical for online learning institutions to take this approach as advocated in the article and work at change management first, over and above merely enabling technologies for distance learning.
McClure, Ann. “Distant, Not Absent.” University Business Nov 2007 1-3. 25 Mar 2008 http://www.universitybusiness.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=933.
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