Information and communication technology especially the computer and the Internet, has influenced many fields and aspects of the society including the field of education. The adoption of technology into education has resulted in distance learning which is defined as a ‘planned teaching/learning experience that uses a wide spectrum of technologies to reach learners at a distance and is designed to encourage learner interaction and certificate of learning’ (Greenberg, 1998, p,36 on Akkoyunlu & Soylu, 2006 p.44).
A popular type of distance learning is online learning which is ‘the use of internet to access learning materials; to interact with the content, instructor and other learners, and to obtain support during the learning process, in order to acquire knowledge; to construct personal meaning; and to grow from the learning experience’ (Khan, 1997 on Akkoyunlu & Soylu, 2006 p.44). Online learning has become popular especially for working students, for those who have family and children and for those who want to be enrolled in particular school but geographical distance restricts them. Online learning has become more prevalent for busy adults as it not only eliminates barriers of distance and time but also the authoritarian role of the instructor.
The primary advantage of online learning is that it offers an opportunity to learn without the limitations of time or location, providing flexibility to learn at any given time and place (Cincinnati, 2007). This means that online learning programs is accessible 24/7 for anyone enrolled in the program thus it is very accommodating even with busy persons; students can study whenever they have free time. This type of learning is very advantageous to executives and businessmen who needed further education for career advantage but have no enough time for traditional learning. Online learning also offers uninterrupted studying; that is studying is not affected when students wanted to move another place or to change a job, unlike in traditional learning where students have to transfer to the nearest school from home or work.
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Moreover, online learning eliminates unproductive time, materials and resources (Cicognani, 2000) that is common with traditional learning. Online learning eliminates travel time from work or home to school. Learning materials and resources are available online; the internet is utilized to deliver quality lectures that use video, audio and multimedia as learning tools (Harvard University, 2007). Such learning aids help make lectures easier to be understood.
Online learning is usually preferred by older students and professionals because it eliminates the authoritarian role of and pressures from the instructors. Students can create their own learning styles; they become more self-directed and responsible for their own learning (Cincinnati, 2007). Students do not have to deal personally with their instructors as well as with the rules and policy of the physical school thus becoming more comfortable with studying. Students can also communicate with their instructors and even with fellow students via email or forum provided by online learning programs.
Internet learning makes it more comfortable for older students to fit in the classroom as it is eliminates the authoritarian role of the instructor. Theories of adult education have continuously emphasized the use of appropriate strategies to meet the individual needs of learners. Some of the hallmarks of adult education, as highlighted by Lin, Cranton & Bridglall (2005) are independence, self-direction and ownership of own learning. Internet learning therefore allows adult learners the flexibility to determine their own process of learning without being imposed on by an instructor. While internet learning programs usually facilitate interaction between learners and teacher, the adult learners basically have full control over their own education, completing assignments and participating in online discussions on their own initiative. Internet learning shifts the focus from the instructor and places the learner at the center of learning experiences. In this way adult learners benefit considerably from internet learning.
However, online learning is not suitable for those who are not disciplined enough to finish projects and assignments without pressure from instructors (White, 2006). Online learning is also not for those who do not enjoy learning without the interactions with classmates. Nevertheless, online learning is very useful for those who want to learn seriously but need to control their own time.
- Akkoyunlu, Buket & Soylu, Meryem (2006) A Study on Student’s views on Blended Learning, Turkish Journal of Distance Education Volume 7 Number 3 pp.43-56
- Retrieved online on February 6, 2007 http://tojde.anadolu.edu.tr/tojde23/pdf/article_3.pdf
- Cicognani, Anna (2000) Concept Mapping as a Collaborative Tool to Enhance Online Learning, Educational Technology & Society 3(3) Retrieved online on February 6, 2007 http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/vol_3_2000/b01.html
- Cincinnati State retrieved online on February 6, 2007 http://www.cincinnatistate.edu/CurrentStudent/Academics/AcademicDivisions/About_DL.htm
- Harvard University retrieved online on February 6, 2007 <http://www.harvard.edu/siteguide/faqs/faq33.html>
- White, Mike (2006) The Advantages of Online Learning Retrieved online on February 6, 2007 http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/50695/the_advantages_of_online_learning.html
- Lin, L., Cranton, P. & Bridglall, B. (2005). Psychological type and asynchronous written dialogue in adult learning. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 1788-1813.
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