Online Education Good or Bad; Here to Stay! – Daily Times

Posted: April 23, 2020 at 11:45 am


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Many educational institutions in the world are offering online courses, and the trend is that more educational institutions will start offering them. Theonline education started nearly30 years ago, mainly in the United States. Online courses and programs are offered as a regular part of an institutions programs. That is, institutions that were initially in class or face-to-face started offering online courses either due to competitive pressure from other institutions or for economic reasons and somedaymay replace the in-class or face-to-face educational system. Online education has become so common that the U.S. News & World Report ranks 345 U.S.online undergraduate programs and 335 MBA programs every year.

Online education is structured learning, in which the instructor and student are separated by time and space, uses the latest technology to bridge the gap between participants in education (Ham, 1995; McIsaac&Gunawardena, 1996).The World Wide Web made the existence of online education possible. In addition, the phenomenon has further accelerated due to the willingness of students to obtain a degree via the Internet anytime from anywhere. It is further made possible by the desire of the educators to teach anytime from anywhere and make some extra money or being a part of their teaching load.

Edu.gov defines An online course as one in which at least 80 percent of the course content is delivered online. Face-to-face instruction includes courses in which zero to 29 percent of the content is delivered online; this category includes both traditional and web-based courses. Accordingly, the definition of an online course has remained consistent for 30 years. While there is considerable diversity among course delivery methods used by individual instructors, the trend continues. The 2015 Survey of Online Learning, Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States, conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and others found that the number of higher education students was taking at least one online course in 2015; it is up by 3.9 percent from the previous year. Growth, however, was uneven; private nonprofit institutions grew by 11.3 percent while private for-profit institutions saw their online enrollments decline by 2.8 percent.

While there is considerable diversity among course delivery methods used by individual instructors, the following is presented to illustrate the prototypical course classifications by Ed.gov:

The proportion of Type of Course Typical Description

Content Delivered

0% Traditional Course where no online technology use-

content is delivered in writing or orally.

1 to 29% Web Facilitated Course that uses web-based technology to

facilitate what is essentially a face-to-face

course. May use a Course management system

(CMS) or web pages to post the syllabus and

assignments.

30 to 79% Blended/Hybrid Course that blends online and face-to-face

delivery. Substantial proportion of the content

is delivered online, typically uses online

discussions, and typically has a reduced

number of face-to-face meetings.

80+% Online A course where most or all of the content is delivered

online. Typically have no face-to-face meetings

Ed.gov stated that in the United States more than 2.8 million (14 percent) of all higher education students were taking all of their highereducation instruction online in the fall of 2014. Almost half (1,382,872,or 48%) of those students learning exclusively at a distance did so at a public institution. For-profit institutions accounted for slightly less than one-third (843,579,or 30%) of only online enrollments. Exclusivelyonline education students are a growing segment of the overall student population. 12.5% of all higher education students in fall 2013 were enrolled in online education.

Ed.gov reports that the number of institutions that have or are planning a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has remained relatively steady. That is, in 2012. 2.6 % offered MOOC and 9.4% with plans to offer. In 2013, it increased to 5.0% offering a MOOC and 9.3% with plans to offer. In 2014, it increased to 8.0% offering a MOOC and decreased to 5.6% with plans to offer. In 2015, 11.3% reported having a MOOC and 2.3% with plans to offer.

Despite muted support by faculty, growth has continued. The study reveals that only 29.1% of academic leaders say their faculty accepts the value and legitimacy of online education.60.1% of the faculty with the largest online enrollments and 11.6% of the faculty with no online enrollments accepts the online program. The academic leader considered online program critical to their long-term strategy fell from 70.8% last year to 63.3% in 2015. The 2015 survey found that the number of students increased by 3.9%. 28% percent of the students (5,828,826) were taking at least one online course, a total of 5.8 million students were taking some online courses (2.85 millionwere taking all their courses online, and 2.97 million were taking some not all). 72.7% of the entire undergraduate and 38.7% of all graduate students were taking online courses offered by public institutions.

As a result of the rapid growth of online education, the quality of learning has been questioned. The question commonly asked, Is online learning as effective as traditional face-to-face education. Research by Arbaugh (2000) andVerduin& Clark(1991) found no significant difference between conventional and online learning. Many studies (Russell 2002,Gagne & Shepherd, 2001)alsofound little difference in the quality of education received through online learning versus classroom learning. That is, students taking online courses performed as well as students taking courses via the traditional method.

However, no one should make a blanket statement that all online programs are as good as face-to-face. It is always hard to judge the quality of something wherethere is no universallyagreed-upon metric. Such is the case for education -where there is no singlemeasure of education quality -either for face-to-face or for onlineeducation. Therefore, the only way to measure the quality of education online vs. face-to-face is to ask the academic leader to rate the relative quality of the learning outcomes for online courses vs. face-to-face courses.Ed.gov evaluated the personal perception of the chief academic officer about the relative quality of online and face-to-face instruction. Their perceptions remain important as they makecriticaldecisions for their institutions.The proportion of academic leadersthat rated online education as good as or better thanface-to-face instruction was 57.2% in 2003 that went up to 77.0% in 2012. However, it went down to 71.4% in 2015.

However, academic leaders at institutions with online offerings have consistently held a more favorable opinion of the learning outcomes for online education than those at institutions with no offerings. Institutions with the largestonline enrollments (10,000 or more distance students in fall 2014)have 41.7% consider it superior to face-to-face instruction. Only27.7% of those with smaller online enrollments (5,000 to 9,999) consider it superior, and 14.1 consider it inferior. 23.2% of the institutions with smaller online enrollments (less than 5,000) consider it inferior, 15.8% as superior, and61.0% the same. 51.2% of the no online education enrollments consider it as inferior.

Whether online education is better, the same, or worse, is subject to whom one asks. As shown above, the opinion depends on who is offering online education. However, there is no real data that prove, which is better. Regardless of the question of quality, many top institutions in the United States and other countries are offering online courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. However, with the pandemic of COVID-19, it seems that not only many more institutions of higher learning will consider it, but also the K-12 (U.S.school system) may find it necessary to start developing online courses. Therefore, the future of online education looks brighter, and those who get on this bandwagon now will grow and make money.

The writer is Ph.D. (USA), Professor Emeritus (USA)

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Online Education Good or Bad; Here to Stay! - Daily Times

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