Online education has become a common phenomenon in education since the advent of the internet and globalization. However, even though online education has a great potential to result in effective educational experiences, it will often be received with apprehension in order to ensure that the students receive it better. Unless there is a clear comprehension of online education from the perspective of the student, students will be more inclined to drop out of the learning platform as soon as they learn that they do not need to keep on with online education. This problem results in a general problem of not persisting with online education, which in turn leads to attrition (McMahon, 2013). This problem has been identified in most nations that have established online education, such as the United States.
The main component of online education is technology without which the idea would be nonexistent. Hence, understanding online education also means understanding how people interact with technology in an educational setting (Tirrel & Quick, 2012). The information society that has become the norm today requires that individuals go an extra mile to gain expertise on the technological front. In addition, the educational system has had to catch up with this recent trend by integrating services with technology. Since, as An and Reigeluth, (2011) suggest, traditional factory models of education are incompatible with the modified demands of the society and education.
One of the most unique qualities of technology is that it is an end in itself and it is also a means to an end. Hence, it is not just a change in the educational platform, but it also inspires changes in other sections of education. For instance, online learning has enabled distance learning which has in turn led to the enrollment of more adult learners. Because of socioeconomic qualities that are unique to this group, they face a unique set of challenges and therefore interact uniquely with technology in online learning.
Theoretical and Conceptual Framework
In this new age of information, there have been great changes in the way things work around the world. Technology has become synonymous with almost every aspect of life, including work, education, and social life. The way people relate to each other has changed, and so has the thought processes used by people in decision making. These aspects of human life in turn affect the academic outcome and execution of academics. This is because it is the same individuals who are affected by technology who are charged with the task of developing education policies (McCarthy, 2010). In essence, it affects how people learn things. Learning is not just affected by policies, but also by the culture around which the individual who is learning grows within. Older generations that grew up at a different time have a slightly different way of looking at the world, and so does the younger generation. This will in turn affect the possible strategies that can be used to inspire their participation in online education. Online education has led to the development of a new learning method whose success is contingent on the features of the learner. Constructivism calls for the development of learner centered teaching it these features are to be used to the student’s advantage (Taber, 2011). The theories developed to explain these changing perceptions are critical in helping people understand more about teaching methods and student perceptions.
The online learning platform has brought about a new concept of learning and information sharing. This is even more profound owing to the advancement and proliferation of the internet as a source of information. It is likely that those engaging in online education also have access to the internet (McCarthy, 2010). Even though the internet is a source of valuable information, its access should be managed effectively, as well. Rather than doing the managing for the students, the teacher should teach the students how to do the managing then let them do their own management. Constructivism calls for students to be taught how to deal with the problem, and others like it on their own (Tirrel & Quick, 2012). This section will explore constructivism, adult learning theories and the theory of diffusion, as they are applicable to online education. The theory of diffusion helps in understanding the adoption of technology in classrooms and in teaching.
Adult learning and online education 网课代修
Hanover research (2012) examined research related to the different trends in online education within institutions of higher learning as well as undergraduate programs for adults and the pedagogical strategies used in adult online education. Online education offers adult learners an opportunity to fast track their courses and this is important for them. Hannover research (2012) found that adult learners preferred accelerated and fast tracked courses that they could complete in a timely basis. Parker et al (2011) therefore concluded that blended or online courses therefore attract adult learners because they conveniently allow them to attend to family obligations and work while at the same time completing their education. According to Andragogy, this helps them fulfill their need for self-concept in that they can direct their own learning experiences (Chou, 2012). The need to feel self directed is a result of the adult being in a different place mentally owing to their experiences and their constructed reality. Therefore, as Chou (2012) concludes, they have a need to be in charge of their own experiences. This is in tandem with the assumption of andragogy that the adult is an individual who has accumulated numerous life experiences that offer a rich resource for learning (Chou, 2012). Through their experiences, adults built their own realities and mental processes that they use in their educational processes.
Within the United States economy, training and education are critical to economic survival. There is a great variance in the results of the number of additional educational services to secure descent jobs (Parker et al, 2011). However, it is claimed that the present classroom programs cater only for between 3 to 5 % of the adult population in need (Seaman, 2011). Even though classroom capacity to handle these students has increased over the years, this does not meet the needs of adult learners as needed. Distance education is one of the ways that this need has been met. Online education has become popular among adult learner with more of them enrolling in this type of education. Based on the andragogy theory, the adult is motivated by internal rather than external factors (Chou, 2012)
The profile of today’s learners has revealed a trend that cannot be ignored by academic institutions. Half of the population in the world is aged below 20 years and about two billion teenagers live in developing nations (Parker et al, 2011). Most of the learners entering the higher education system are familiar with technology more so than previous generations. These learners will likely also demand that the pedagogies they are offered are e based and based on digital technologies (Seaman, 2011). These changes will in turn affect adult learners who have chosen to come back to the classroom and gain more skills and knowledge as demanded by the new technologically savvy era. Traditional learners in higher education institutions are now increasingly being joined by adult learners, especially on the online platform (Hanover Research, 2012). Hence, adult learners are pursuing adult learning as a transformative processes which is meant to make them better at what they do at work so that they can be a greater societal contribution. Transformative learning stipulates that adults have accumulated a number of experiences, perceptions and expectations that they therefore use in pursuing education.
Despite the potential that online education has, it also has its challenges and especially to adults. When the requirements for online learning are considered, including a computer connected to the internet, minimal competence in computer operation and knowledge on how to access information on the internet (Sitzmann et al, 2010). When the ratio of those who may use online education is weighed against those with the ability to meet the requirements, few adults can access online education. Some adult learners still use outdated computers that are yet to be connected to the internet (Sitzmann et al, 2010). These individuals may have refrained from updating their computers since they did not have a need to. Hence, adult learners are bound to incur additional costs of updating their computers.
According to Lee and Choi (2011), online courses are more attractive to adult students because they do not have additional restrictions, such as place and time. Chou (2012), concluded that self directed learning attracted more adult learners because it allows them to make their own rules. However, this is not always associated with success in online learning courses (Chou, 2012). With the rapid development of educational technology, online learning has grown significantly, and word of the possibilities of distance learning has become more appealing (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Adult learning has been adopted as part of online education, especially for individuals who may have opted for other choices rather than going to college immediately after high school. It should be noted that Lee and Choi (2011) found that high school students engaging in online education had the highest rates of online education. In order to reduce the rates at which adults drop out of online education, it is important to classify and codify the reasons why adult students drop out of online learning (Allen & Vince, 2011). Self directed learning gives the student a greater perception of control over their learning environment and their education which in turn appeals to their learning requirements (Chou, 2012).
However, this will not be enough to help in decreasing dropout rates, especially since attrition is a complex phenomenon that involves varying human behaviours (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). Attrition in adult learning has not yet been explored extensively, which leaves little evidence on which to base the practice of student retention (Hart, 2012). Online learning is especially beneficial to adult learners living in rural areas. Adult learners are a special group in online learning because they make up a majority of the students taking online courses. Keradima (2012) estimates that over 82 percent of students taking online courses are adults. In addition, they are mostly raking undergraduate courses. Other than that, about 33 percent of college students in the United States have taken at least one online course.
Theory of Diffusion
The theory of diffusion by Rodgers is applicable in this context, in that it explores the diffusion of innovation. The theory was employed as a framework for a study carried out by Jwaifell and Gasaymeh (2013) to explain the degree that English teachers adopt technology within modern schools in Jordan. Like with most other researchers, like Zhao (2011), Jwaifell and Gasaymeh (2013) also found that training workshops were necessary for the successful integration of technology into a teaching environment; hence, online education is only as successful as its implementation. According to Kervin, Varenikina, Wrona and Jones (2010), technology as an end in itself is not a remedy to an educational system, but it is perceived as useful relative to the needs it is meeting on academic. The success of the learning outcome is what will determine the success of technology in academia. Online education can, therefore, only be considered successful if it results in a successful outcome for students. Attrition and other negative perceptions of students indicate that there is a problem with the adoption of the new technology.
Jang and Tsai (2012) advocate that, effective technology is one that facilitates the teaching process, explicates complex concepts, increases operational interaction between teachers and students, and retains student’s attention. Technology will be successful if the technology’s diffusion is directed and efficacious. In this context, diffusion refers to the process that result in the communication of an innovation through particular channels and among individuals within a specific social system (Henson & Kamal, 2010). The adoption of these new innovations begins with a small group of individuals, then spreads. Online education is itself an innovation, and it is also a source of other innovations. Once new methods are developed in online education, it spreads to other practitioners of online education, as well. Adoption as a decision process requires that the potential adopter collect adequate information about the technology and consider whether it gives one the upper hand in education. As a result, people explore new technologies and experience their effectiveness before they decide on whether or not to accept it (Jwaifell & Gasaymeh, 2013). The acceptance of online education contains some aspects of social change, and the theory of diffusion offers valuable insights into the processes of social change. Qualities such as relative advantage, compatibility, ease of use and simplicity, triability and observable results determine the level of attrition toward a technology.
Constructivism in Online Education
The constructivist approach to understand the nature of learning has been a part of traditional educational perspectives for a long time. However, the modern form (Taber, 2011) is based on how students make sense of their learning experiences. As a result, it’s not about the subject of what they learn, but about their entire learning experiences, including the process of gaining, retaining, revising, and assessing knowledge. According to Taber (2011), this shift in the comprehension of constructivism may be attributed to the changes in the location and meaning of the learning environment. Online education changes both the meaning and experiences of the learning environment, which in turn prompts a different understanding of the constructivist perception of learning. Jean Piaget was a proponent of constructivist ideas and suggested that learning should be a search for meanings (ültan?r, 2012)
The learning process is constrained and channeled by the nature of one’s cognitive processes and apparatus that already has built in biases; hence, if an individual already has a negative attitude toward technology, their use of online education will show attrition toward the learning method. As an individual develops, so does his ability and capability to understand and comprehend particular information. Piaget argues that the mind understands different things at different stages of development (ültan?r, 2012). According to Weegar and Pacis (2012), Piaget proposes that learning results in cognitive development which is a product of the mind; it is achieved through experimentation and observation. The online learning context gives an individual more elements to experiment and observe virtually which helps them learn. The learning process depends on the cognitive resources that are available for one to use in interpreting the information (Henson & Kamal, 2010). The major point from this is that learning is rarely about helping learners get knowledge from scratch. Instead, it is about building up to the conceptual and cognitive resources available to the student. As Piaget suggests students create their own mental processes and knowledge by interacting with different things in their environment which in turn modify their cognitive processes (Weegar & Pacis, 2012).
Teaching, therefore, involves activating the relevant ideas that are already available to students, which in turn helps them generate new knowledge. These students, therefore, need to be guided, or they will build their knowledge on incorrect, irrelevant, or particle existing knowledge. Online education is filled with a wealth of knowledge, which makes it important for students to be guided. However, it should be noted that the teachers will play a limited role, as argued by Piaget, with the student playing a bigger one (ültan?r, 2012). On the same breath, Tirrell and Quick (2012) found that constructivist learning theories are effective in developing instructional practices for online student engagement; it promotes increased engagement of students in online education. In their study Tirrell and Quick (2012) found that, higher scores in classes undertaking online education were adhering to principles that are common in traditional classrooms. On the other hand, lower scores were associated with strategies affiliated with non-traditional and more innovative principles, such as encouraging students to work together and encouraging them to participate in active learning within an online education environment. These results indicate that instructors and faculty within higher learning, academic institutions remain largely uncomfortable and unfamiliar with constructivist principles of learning that are meant to encourage the engagement and participation of students (Barrera, 2013). If effective learning is to be ensured, teachers should be made aware of these new and more effective teaching methods. In addition, online education should also include different learning styles and assessment methods to address the needs of varying learners. Students cannot understand information unless it is customized to what they know. Piaget suggests that people cannot understand raw information but transform the knowledge using what they already know (ültan?r, 2012). A computer is only a computer if the student already knows something about computers.
Creating a learner-centered classroom
An and Reigeluth (2012) suggest that technology integration in learning can be sued as a tool for creating learner centered classrooms. Online education should focus on creating problem based learning environment, which in turn promote the use of technology within learner centered contexts. In their findings, An and Reigeluth (2012) imply there is a need to support teachers – by extension, academic institutions – as they endeavor to create learner centered classrooms. This support is not just through the provision of resources, but also be availing and providing additional training (Barrera, 2013). Currently, most institutions focus their attention on training in technological knowledge and skills while overlooking the important relationship between content, technology, and pedagogy. Consequently, teachers gain new interesting knowledge, but fail in the application of the knowledge to practical learning situations essay代写服务.
As noted by McMahon (2013), open and effective communication is critical to the development of a learner centered approach of teaching, which is based on constructivism. There is a need for the tutor to get to know her students and be able to judge their technological competence (McMahon, 2013). The integration of technology into education requires that the individual be engaged in much more than getting technical skills. Teachers must be supported so that they have TPACK (technological, pedagogical and content knowledge) through providing them with technology integration ideas that are unique to specific subjects and content. In addition, they should be provided with the opportunities to explore the use of technology in authentic online teaching environments. In consequence, instructors should be capable of building technological skills within the context of developing and learner centered online learning activities.
Evidences have also indicated that teachers are mostly constructivist in philosophy rather than in practice (Jaggers, 2011). This underlines the need for further training in learner-centered instruction. There is incongruence between instructor’s beliefs and their actual practices. In essence, just because they are aware that they have an obligation to do something, it does not necessarily mean that they do; hence, the training programs that teachers got through need to be experiential. Rather than just telling teachers what they are supposed to do to develop and sustain a learner centered classroom, they should show how it happens (An & Reigeluth, 2012). Time for hands on practice should be allowed, and the training should be subject specific. In a traditional classroom, the needs of different subjects vary and this is similar in online education. Interaction, graphic user interfaces, software and hardware, may need to be customized for different subjects.
Enhancing a social environment
The creation and enhancement of an online social environment in online learning is a complex process that involves numerous mechanisms that can both be helpful to the student or harmful to them. Effort should be made to control some of the social-environmental features within the classroom (An & Reigeluth, 2012). On one hand, it is easier for people to make friends online because it takes away the added tension that comes with face to face communication. It is also impersonal in that the individual loses the connection just as first. In an online learning and teaching context, students will be able to communicate at their own pace without the pressure of being put on the spot; hence, even when asked questions by the instructor, they are likely to answer more truthfully. For instance, a learner in a face to face environment may be nervous about pointing out possible problem areas while an online environment may make students more comfortable.
Social sites have been used alongside online education to foster a social environment. Facebook is the most used site for this function because of its relatively higher popularity compared to other sites like MySpace, Flickr, and Friendster. In addition, the site has immense popularity, and it is likely that most of the students have already interacted with it and are familiar with how it works (Hart, 2012). It is likely that students will participate in online discussions if they are hosted by a website whose working they are already aware of. The millennial generation are the biggest users of ICT, while ICT is now synonymous with education and communicative abilities of teachers and students in the United States (McCarthy, 2010). The potential merits of online social networking in an academic framework have been noted in numerous studies, with the conclusion that the greatest levels of satisfaction with academic progress are witnessed amongst those with access to the widest range of academic and social context. Online education widens or broadens one academic context while social networking helps them meet students online with similar interests and problems.
Among the most rewarding consequences of online education is the interaction between local and international students. International students are especially keen about engaging with their colleagues to get their critiques, as opposed to being out on the spot in the classroom (An & Reigeluth, 2012). This is common with L2 learners as they are in an environment that they do not understand comprehensively. Language barriers and social awkwardness that are often the focus of attention when international students interact with others takes a back seat as they socialize in an online environment. Good communication is allowed between students and teachers and amongst students.
Promoting critical thinking
Teachers are not just expected to help students get the facts about particular issues in the curriculum, but also to inspire them to engage in critical thinking on their own. This is in line with constructivism, which calls for teaching students the skills they will need to find solutions in an ever changing world (McCarthy, 2010). Using the knowledge, they are expected to create their own reality, and from this reality, comes the solution. This is similar as the idea by Piaget that students construct knowledge from prior personal experiences thus creating their own realities (Weeger & Pacis, 2012). In addition, Hussein (2011) suggests that critical thinking is also an element of constructivism since teachers too are expected to use their cognitive skills to interpret the environment around them. Critical thinking refers to thought processes that are inclusive of reflective judgment or purposeful thinking (Vijayakumar, 2011). However, the definitions are too general to be effectively applicable in describing an academic context. The definition that has been adopted in education is that it is the type of thinking that seeks to explore issues about existing knowledge for problems that do not have clear cut answers or clear explanations.
Before a teacher can promote critical thinking in their students, they need to understand the skills that are needed for a student to be considered a critical thinker. One of the skills is interpreting, in that the student should be able to understand what data signifies so as to clarify its meaning (Dang, 2011). In addition, the student should be able to analyze information, which entails breaking down the information and reconstructing it in different ways. This is a major component is applicability of online education and is instrumental in paraphrasing ideas to avoid plagiarism. Reasoning is also a component of critical thinking, and it entails creating defending legal arguments using logical thought processes or steps (McCarthy, 2010). The final skill is evaluation, in that the student should be able to defend the credibility and judge the worth of pieces of information.
Students who develop critical thinking skills have several advantages over their counterparts, such as being able to achieve higher scores, being less dependent on the teacher to provide content and teachers in general, as well as text books, being able to generate knowledge and be able to change, challenge and evaluate the structure within the society. Critical thinking should be promoted in the online environment in reading and writing (Tirrell & Quick, 2012). This is the only possible way that a teacher of an online classroom can ensure that they can work independently even when the teacher is unavailable. Critical thinking will also help students make sense of the vast amount of information that they will see on the internet (Vijayakumar, 2011). Like with other effective teaching and learning strategies, teachers play a key role in fostering the development of critical thinking amongst students making use of online education.
With the availability of online presentation and discussion tools, teachers have the added advantage of engaging their students in additional activities, which results in intellectual growth. Online communication offers students the opportunity to collaborate, which yields better results of critical thinking (Dang, 2011). Just like discussion and online curriculum is monitored, so too should online discussions in order to develop a ‘classroom’ culture that supports students in their processes of online thinking (Vijayakumar, 2011). When going online, the student must understand the goal of their online interaction and the social skills necessary to achieve them. The teacher should, therefore, coach the student on asking the right questions, listening, taking turns, sharing work, understanding different points of view, empathizing, building on ideas, and asking for help.
I Love Study-Aids.co.uk
I Love study-aids.co.uk
Technology Challenges in Online Education
With the internet becoming a major component in education, educational institutions in the United States are increasingly turning to technologies in online education to deliver the curriculum at varying levels. This established trend has forced higher education institutions to pay closer attention to the most effective and efficient strategies of delivering online education. However, this is not without its challenges (Vijayakumar, 2011). Depending on the technological format used, online education will often create challenges that impact the quality of the service within the entire system. Technological challenges do not only affect institutions but individuals, as well (Hart, 2012). The increasing number of online courses changes the learning experiences of students and instructors within the United States. These two groups must evolve as the support processes in institutions evolve, as well. The instructors and the student may have to learn how a new software works, which in turn generates new challenges for instructors and students to overcome (Vijayakumar, 2011). Other challenges emerge owing to accessibility, such as lacking the resources required for comprehensive school reform and functionality through online education. This part of the paper will review the literature discussing these technological challenges under the broad categories of computer literacy, challenges faced in institutions, and accessibility issues.
Various studies have found computer literacy to be a significant challenge in online education. Barrera (2013) found that education has taken a technological turn since the modern workforce relies on standardized literacy levels and significant computer literacy skills for students enrolled in online education. The differences in computer skills amongst adult business students are attributed to differences in interactions with computers and the intended use by the learner (Barrera, 2013). An individual’s interaction with computers is determined by computer literacy levels. Students from industrialized nations have better interaction with online education while those from less industrialized nations face greater challenges with computer literacy. This is because students from industrialized nations have access to the latest technological innovation, and according to Barrera (2013), this increases their exposure from technology, subsequently increasing their computer literacy.
In a similar breath, Zhao (2011) concluded that the online education platform is a completely new experience that brings a new learning model that does not only entail transferring knowledge, but also the know-how of transferring traditional forms of knowledge into databases that are then used as the new forms of storage. There is a significant lack of knowledge as regards to the division of learning content, as well as a re-alignment of research and learning methods. Computer literacy is, therefore, not only required for students, but also for teachers. According to the computer literacy survey of 2010, this has a special relevance because testing and assessment methods have evolved to include computer technology. Much as the internet and technology have been around for more than three decades, online education is still in its development stages, which implies that the application models have yet to be adopted in different platforms (Vijayakumar, 2011). This poses the additional challenge of synchronizing and standardizing expected levels of computer literacy, which Henson and Kamal (2010) vie to be a significant challenge to online education because of the globalization and the impact of information systems on curriculum. Different universities in the United States use different methods of online education; as such, there are differing forms of online education. Teachers who transfer will have to learn new instruction methods.
Challenges Institutions face
There are numerous institutional challenges that in turn affect the technology, such as space allocations, infrastructure, student preparedness, faculty training, academic honesty, and faculty workload. Developing and sustaining the necessary infrastructure for use in online teaching requires commitment of resources that may pose a great challenge to institutions. This involves the necessary hardware and software for academics, as well as computer bandwidth necessary to keep online education consistent (Hart, 2012). These infrastructures will need to be operated by faculty, which in turn highlights the need for faculty support and the provision of multiple training opportunities. This task is neither simple nor inexpensive, making it a challenge for all those involved. Being that the resources are expensive, online education too is expensive for the students. Universities have to be able to get a significant amount of support from external donors, as well as the government, if they are to be able to afford the infrastructure for online education.
Zhao (2011) found that most instructors perceive online education as a positive contribution to education. However, they also acknowledge the fact that they are not equipped to deal with online education as it presents itself. The Millennial generation is mostly taught by generation x, most of whom have not been trained to deliver education on an online platform. For that reason, teachers need extra training if they are to successfully deliver this form of education. With the technological difficulties facing students and instructors, the reception of online education dwindles.
As explicated by Zhao (2010) and Henson and Kamal (2010), computer literacy is also affected by institutional challenges. Academic institutions have a challenge of meeting the needs of the online education. There is a general lack of software standards and course prototypes within a course development platform. Studies have also identified additional technical challenges in course management software. This is, in addition to the fact that, distance education creates an extra workload for the faculty. Several authors such as Henson and Kamal (2010), Zhao (2010), Cook-Wallace (2012), Hart (2012) and McMahon (2013) have concluded that web based courses need more effort and time on the part of the faculty compared to classroom courses of a similar credit, size, and content. Regardless of the mode of teaching, a larger classroom calls for the use of more resources. An increase in a classroom from 18 to 49 will increase the workload form 47 hours to 116 hours (Hart, 2012). Faculty employing online teaching will have a larger workload since it requires more one on one interaction.
Lack of preparedness has been reported as a great concern for teachers who found that certain groups of students, especially traditional undergraduates, were ill prepared to deal with the responsibility and autonomy of online education (Gidley et al, 2010). There is very little in education that as prepared for older Millennials to deal with the challenges of online education. Consequently, instructors have an additional responsibility of ensuring that their students are accessible. Another major problem that has faced online education since its inception is the difficulty of establishing academic honesty. The internet has a wealth of information, which students are ready to copy and paste. Universities have had to establish software that can be used to identify plagiarized work (Hart, 2012). The instructor, therefore, has an additional role of developing a syllabus to help students avoid academic dishonesty. This challenge is similar to that of using copyrighted material from the internet.
Accessibility (Internet access)
In a study carried out by Cook-Wallace (2012), the policies of online education were examined in terms of the challenges that arise from their not being implemented effectively in academic institutions. These issues include copyright, accessibility, technologies and quality assurance. Cook-Wallace (2012) found that technical support was one of the most essential components of online education and that about 20% of educators lack access to technical support. Studies have also found accessibility is affected by different parameters, including the ability or disability of the learner. Software used for online learning is not always configured for people with disability, which in turn excludes them from online education. The internet can be accessed by a greater percentage of students in the United States, but the user interface is yet to be customized effectively for special education students; consequently, there are problems with internet access for this group of students. Cited in Barrera (2013), Brock and Thompsen in their 1992 study suggested that access to a computer, which in turn gives one access to the internet, influences one’s familiarity computer technology, and by extension, their computer literacy skills.
Student role in online education
The introduction of extensive technologies for use in education has resulted in the phenomena of online education, this has in turn affected the perceptions of teachers and students as to what their roles in ‘classrooms’ are. Results from research such as that carried out by Hussein (2011) reports that different student cohorts have differing perceptions about their roles in an online classroom. Similarly, they also have different expectations of the roles that their fellow students and their teachers will have. These different perceptions and expectations are resultant of their interaction with instructors online as well as their mode of learning.
Advanced technology use in online education has made syllabi – that required students to gain knowledge of, understand and apply what they have learnt – an out of date learning method (Gidley et al, 2010). Consequently, students have additional roles to play in that they have to concentrate on learning higher levels of skills that involve more activity of the cognitive domain. Accordingly, students need to develop sets of sophisticated abilities in making judgments, collaboration with others, problem solving, critical thinking and analysis (Dang, 2011). It is important to note that these roles do not come automatically, but that they need coaching from their teachers to learn these new roles.
If students are to be successful in online learning, they have to take an active role in learning. This means that their roles should include being actively involved in discussions, working effectively with minimal guidelines and supervision and speaking out (Dang, 2011). Students in an online environment also need to be self-directed learners in order to understand the content of their subjects which in turn helps them develop a positive attitude to their studies (Gidley et al, 2010). By a great percentage, online students are their own motivators.
Students have an additional role of motivating their instructors. Instructors get numerous motivations from students to teach online courses. They respond to the need that students have to study online. This teaching also helps instructors get additional income and gives them pedagogical advantages stemming from experiential advantages (Kinuthia et al, 2010). This will in turn help in their personal and professional growth. Students dictate the agenda of online learning, as well as the agenda for the future of technology (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Based on the usability of technologies, service providers modify their technologies to meet the needs of students and instructors within an online environment.
The online environment is inclusive of a multifaceted set of roles, each of which needs to be fulfilled at different levels by the actors involved in different contexts. The student needs to have operational competence in that they should be able to efficiently use ICT tools for communicating, self-direction, learning, and collaborating (Allen & Vince, 2011). However, just because students have a higher proficiency in tools, it does not necessarily mean that they will have higher scores in online education courses (Yuan & Kim, 2014). Students also have an additional role of having cognitive competence, such that they are efficient in the application of curse content, application of knowledge, and asking for help if need be.
Online environments are facilitated by collaboration and cooperation, and the student needs to have collaborative competence, as well (Beck & Milligan, 2014). They should be efficient in their collaboration and communication with teachers and classmates within an online learning environment (Yuan & Kim, 2014). Rather than just concentrating on what they are doing within the online learning context, students are also in charge of their own learning, and as such, they need to have self-directing competence, which involves efficient self-monitoring and self-appraisal. Another role that should be present in both an online and traditional classroom is course specific competency that the students should possess, as it will help them assimilate appropriate use of content and terminologies that are instrumental in their coursework (Kinuthia et al, 2010).
Attrition trends for First Time Online Learners
McMahon (2013) studied the cause of attrition amongst a sample of adults who were taking a full time online training course. Research has shown that dyslexia occurs in about 10% of the adult population in the US (Jaggers, 2011). Being that it is a learning disability that is yet to be understood, most individuals with dyslexia often find themselves having to take additional classes and training in order to catch up with others in the work force. The United States has one of the most advanced educational systems in terms of acknowledging and developing curriculum for individuals with dyslexia. However, this is a recent trend and most adults with dyslexia have not benefited from these efforts. Results from different studies show that attrition levels vary, indicating that other factors, such as subject area, mode of delivery and age of students, may contribute to the rates of attrition witnessed. Hart (2012) found that no academic causes of attrition could be deterred by the presence of strong social connections and a strong support system. Cited in McMahon (2013), Frankola (2001) supported this view and expressed that lack of motivation is likely to cause attrition. The source of motivation includes both the instructor and the student’s support system. Frankola adds that attrition can also be caused by inexperienced and substandard instructor, poorly designed courses, problems with technology, lack of student support, and lack of time (McMahon, 2013).
First time learners are particularly vulnerable to experiencing attrition owing external issues, such as problems with resources and infrastructure, as well as internal issues, such as lack of social support. Instructors should, therefore, be aware of the fact that their students will include first time learners who are vulnerable and others who are not (Gidley et al, 2010). The method of instruction should consider both groups and work toward helping them sustain their studies. This may pose a challenge since it is an online classroom. If possible, teachers should install software logs that allow them to track the progress of the student throughout the lesson. This will tell them whether the individual was participating in the lesson or not, and possibly point out the problem areas (Hart, 2012).
Student attrition should not be perceived as a function of online courses, but as a paradigm of education (Tirrell & Quick, 2012). Online course, consequently, requires a different approach in design, learning, and instruction that will engage students actively. For that reason, there is a call for greater collaboration and communication, significantly more than is required in classroom delivered course. In an online environment, the instructor has to meet the challenge of sustaining the attention of the students all the time since they are not physically present.
First time users of online learning face additional distractions, which may result in attrition. One of the major causes of attrition is when an interruption occurs in the learner’s external environment, as it takes their attention away from what they need to be doing within an online environment (Sitzman & Ely, 2010). This impedes their progress with their primary tasks. In addition, technical difficulties have been cited as among the most popular difficulties facing online learners. Technical difficulties are a source of attrition for online learners (Allen & Vince, 2011). This can occur repeatedly because technology evolves almost every day. A learner could have used online learning before and opted to use it later, only to find that it has changed or has been modified.
Allen and Vince (2011) concluded that the pre – training motivation is a predictor of attrition as it relates to other causes of difficulty, such as technical issues and access (Allen & Vince, 2011). As such, students will not likely drop out if they encounter technical difficulties, only if they also have higher motivation rates (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). When the motivation to learn the course content is present, it will likely deter other causes of attrition form taking route (Ellis, 2013).
Factors related to drop out in first time online learners
According to Milheim (2012), research continues to support the idea that students taking online courses experience consistent dissatisfaction for a number of reasons. Research on distance education continues to be among the major sources of guidance on how instructors operate with their students within this context (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). The more knowledge people get that pertains to distance learning, the better equipped instructors will be (DeWitt et al, 2014). This is because research yields information on the most effective assessment methods, student preferences and instructional strategies, which are essential in improving the online experience for students (Allen & Vince, 2011). Despite all these efforts that have been made to improve the effectiveness and growth of online education, there is still skepticism about the effectiveness of the learning method.
One of the major issues that has been associated with drop outs of learners in online learning is that educators have, thus far, failed to reproduce the numerous elements of live classrooms within the online environment (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Human nature dictates that people will be more open to technologies and strategies that they have been familiar with before. Being that people are used to live classrooms, they transfer these expectations to online classrooms, and these expectations are often not met (Kinuthia et al, 2010). There is little understanding about how live classroom qualities can be replicated in online environments.
Another major concern that has been cited in literature is that there is reduced interaction among students and instructors within an online environment, or the interaction is unlike what students re regularly used to (Milheim, 2012). Other than this, instructors are sometimes left with the burden of ensuring that their students retain interest despite the inappropriateness of content for delivery in an online environment (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). The content is not just faulted over delivery, but also because students do not have additional tools that are essential in helping them understand course content (DeWitt et al, 2014). The online environment has a high level absence of strong, supportive and collaborative learning environment (Yuan & Kim, 2014). The courses have been developed in such a way that the transmission of information is by the dumping or distribution, which is an additional reason for dissatisfaction.
In addition, there is low students’ familiarity with technology or the course they are taking, which adds to their uncertainty about taking the online course. All these result in lower motivation for the student. Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to investigate student satisfaction and motivation, Milheim (2012) found that if the needs are not fulfilled, then the student would experience dissatisfaction. In order for students to get to level 5 of Maslow’s model, which is self-actualization, the previous levels must be reached first. For that reason, without access to basic materials, such as access to the computer, the students will be ill equipped to continue with the course.
Yet another cause of students dropping out of their courses is that they do not get appropriate preliminary training sessions on course format and content, as well as failing to clarify the nature of expectations and assignments to them (Kinuthia et al, 2010). Students also need to be supported by the instructors in establishing collaborative forums (Hachey et al., 2012). In an environment where face to face interaction is absent, there is a need for the instructor to help students collaborate in establishing learning communities (Hall, 2010). Instructors within this context also have an additional motivational role to play of anticipating students’ needs and having appropriate and timely responses for them. This will boost their confidence (Kinuthia et al, 2010). When this lacks, students lose faith in themselves and deteriorate in the efforts toward education.
Without feeling valued and respected, students will also fail to stay committed to online learning, especially if it is their first time (Kinuthia et al, 2010). Within a traditional classroom setting, students tend to feel greater appreciation because they can interact with their instructors and colleagues face to face (Lindquist & Long, 2011). Teachers can give reassuring comments and students can clap, which in turn helps the student in feeling appreciated (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). This is a greater challenge within an online environment since the instructor and the students do not meet. In addition, the student does not meet his colleagues (Hachey et al., 2012). It is important to note that students in classes are different and so are their needs (Seiver & Troja, 2014). Seiver and Troja (2014) demonstrate that students with the highest need for affiliation are likely to drop out as first time online learners.