Tuesday, October 03, 2006

5 Features of e-Learner

Hey guys it's high time to scribble something, right? :)

Okay, today's post will be devoted to this new creature of which you and me are specimen :) This is an e-learner, a person like you (as you read this blog)and me (as I am actually writing it), a creature who divides their existence between real world and World Wide Web. Internet is a place of great potential in informational, communicational, and other various service-related areas, and we surely understand and appreciate it. Well, today's ramblings will focus on those unique features that distinguish e-learners from *normal* people :)

The following are the fetures attributed to e-learners:

1. More informed: this is the first thing that comes to mind. Surely, e-learner posseses more various, extensive and complete sources of knowledge than people who use exclusively off-line information. These (former, i.e. online) sources of information are incredibly accessible in terms of cost, time, and volume.

2. Lazier: it's not a surprise that e-learner puts almost no physical effort to receive the information. Very often, e-learners do not even have to think over solutions to some problems as they may find them ready and solved on the Web. If not, they can easily and absolutely free of charge ask experts or other students on forums. Laziness also appears in purely physical aspect: e-learner does not have to go anywhere to solve different problems, I mean libraries, tutors, courses, all is solved on a single spot, righ in their room. So no need to move and perform any physical tasks! :)

3. Smarter: oh yes :) e-learner has to analyze the knowledge he accesses as he has to deal with the information of different kind, origin, and quality. Sometimes the facts he finds are very controversial. Therefore most e-larners have adapted to such tricky conditions by working out a habit of not trusting all the information they find on the Web (as we did in the school while reading the textbook that was the only authority source on the subject for years) and questioning the facts presented. To come to certain conclusion, they thus have to *process* the information, to analyze it and to produce their own opinion. Therefore, e-learners possess better analytic skills.

4. More relaxed: people who are used to learning on the Web perceive the process of obtaining information, and expecially education, in a more relaxed manner. Surely, success in offline education is still apprehended as important factor of one's career, but great and diverse educational opportunities offered by online courses, high schools, colleges and universities, devalue the importance attached to offline educational institutions. e-learner is aware that he has many possibilities to learn and succeed even if he does not complete traditional - offline - school or college. This is not the end of the world in any case :)

5. More dynamic and adaptable: in contrast to the previous generation that still uses knowledge obtained in their unis some 20 years ago, the present generation of learners are aware that the information gets quickly outdated, therefore e-learers are used to update thier knowledge and adapt to informational changes in the environment. Thus you see they are more flexible and dynamic.

Finally, the picture is here: progressive, smart, and relaxed type of student provided with all necessary information in every situation. The only problem seems body and health issues, we gotta think how to fix that :) To my mind, the general picture is positive though we always have to be aware of the dark sides of the moon and seek to minimize them.


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Saturday, September 30, 2006

How the Internet Will Change How We Learn

OK, here we go! I found this article some time ago and can't help sharing it with the world :) This is a brilliant article describing the potential of the Internet in changing the paradigm of learning and education. Read it carefully, this is an outstanding resourse.

How the Internet Will Change How We Learn

William A. Draves
draves@lern.org

In the 21st century, online learning will constitute 50% of all learning and education. The rapid rise of learning on the Internet will occur not because it is more convenient, cheaper, or faster, but because cognitive learning on the Internet is better than learning in-person. Of the growing number of experts seeing this development, Gerald Celente, author of the popular book Trends 2000, summarizes it most succinctly: “Interactive, on-line learning will revolutionize education. The education revolution will have as profound and as far-reaching an effect upon the world as the invention of printing. Not only will it affect where we learn; it also will influence how we learn and what we learn" (Celente, 1997, p. 249). Recent research reported in the Washington Post cites studies showing that online learning is equally as effective as learning in-person. And note that we state "cognitive learning," not all learning.

It is still very early in the development of online learning. But the outlines of the potential of online learning are already emerging. The best guide to the next century lies in history, and the in examples of technological transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. The automobile and tractor were the driving forces for the Industrial Age. The tractor eventually was demonstrated to not only cover more acres than a horse drawn plow, but to plow deeper (read: better) and thus increase productivity .

Some sectors of society clung to the horse drawn vehicle, of course. The military still had a cavalry in 1939 to confront Hitler’s tanks before the obvious mismatch was addressed (Davis, 1993). The tractor changed education for the 20th century as well. Prior to the tractor and automobile, one room schoolhouses were placed every six miles so that a child would only have to walk at most three miles to school. The one room schoolhouse necessitated one teacher and multiple grade levels in one room. With the automobile, people moved into towns, and even rural residents could take buses to school, thus causing school consolidation and the eventual all-but-extinction of the one room schoolhouse. In the State of Washington, for example, between 1935 and 1939 almost 20% of rural one room schoolhouses were closed (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1945).

And when online learning is combined with a more interactive and facilitative in-person learning, it will easily out perform today’s outmoded one-size-fits-all traditional lecture delivery system. "Digital media and Internet communications will transform learning practices," notes Peter J. Denning of George Mason University in his How We Will Learn (1996, page 2).

Here are a few of the effects of online learning that will occur in just a few years:

* The average class size for an online course will be 1,000 participants;
* The average cost of an online course will plummet to below $100 a course;
* There will be hundreds of thousands of topics from which learners can choose.

But perhaps the most devastating and revolutionary change will be how the Internet will change how we learn. Because as we enter the Information Age, the era of lifelong learning, the era of online learning, distance has nothing to do with "distance education." By this I mean that even when the teacher is in close proximity to the learners, the quality of the cognitive learning and teaching will be higher when the cognitive part of the learning is conducted over the Internet. Keoko University in Japan, for example, is already establishing online learning for its on-campus students (Eisenstodt, 1997).

In this article I will outline what we already know and can forecast about how the Internet and online learning will change how we learn. We know, for example, that the economic force driving life in the 21st century will be the microchip and the Internet, just as the automobile was the economic force for change in the 20th century. And we know that business will need its workers to learn more, more quickly, and at a lower cost, to remain competitive. We will show that these market forces will create the need and desirability for online learning.

How We Learn Today

For most of history the standard educational setting has been an instructor (or teacher, leader, presenter, or speaker) standing in front of a group of people. This is the most common learning design in society, whether it be for college credit classes, noncredit courses, training in business and industry, high school instruction, or even a Sunday School class.

Basically, 90% of all education has been "information transfer," the process of transferring information and knowledge from the teacher’s head into the heads of the learners. To do that, teachers have had to talk most of the time. And right up until today that mode of delivery has been the most effective, most efficient, most desirable way to learn.

But as educators we know that the traditional lecture is not the only way to learn. We as learners learn in many different ways, at different times, and from a variety of sources (Knowles, 1973). We also know that learning is not purely a cognitive process, but that it also involves the emotions and even the spirit (Apps, 1991).

The Internet is destroying the traditional educational delivery system of an instructor speaking, lecturing or teaching in front of one or more learners.

The whole discipline of self-directed learning, variously called adult learning or adult education, has shown that the traditional delivery system is only one way to learn. The Internet represents the biggest technological aid helping people to learn in 500 years, according to many educators (Thieme, 1996).

What the Internet is doing is to explode the traditional method of teaching into two parts-- cognitive learning, which can be accomplished better with online learning; and affective learning, which can be accomplished better in a small group discussion setting.

Why cognitive learning can be done better on the Internet

Cognitive learning includes facts, data, knowledge, mental skills-- what you can test. And information transfer and cognitive learning can be achieved faster, cheaper and better online.

There are several ways that online learning can be better than classroom learning, such as:

* A learner can learn during her or his peak learning time. My peak learning time is from 10 am to noon. My step-son’s peak learning time is between midnight and 3 am. He recently signed up for an Internet course and is looking for a couple more, because as he put it, "I have a lot of free time between midnight and 3 am." With traditional in-person classes, only some learners will be involved during their peak learning time. The rest will not fully benefit.
* A learner can learn at her or his own speed. With traditional classes, a learner has one chance to hear a concept, technique or piece of knowledge. With online learning, a learner can replay a portion of audio, reread a unit, review a video, and retest him or herself.
* A learner can focus on specific content areas. With traditional classes, each content area is covered and given the relative amount of emphasis and time that the teacher deems appropriate. But in a ten unit course, a given learner will not need to focus on each unit equally. For each of us, there will be some units we know already and some where we have little knowledge. With online learning, we as learners can focus more time, attention and energy on those units, modules or sections of the course where we need the most help and learning.
* A learner can test himself daily. With online learning, a learner can take quizzes and tests easily, instantly receiving the results and finding out how well she or he is doing in a course.
* A learner can interact more with the teacher. Contrary to common opinion today, online learning is more personal and more interactive than traditional classroom courses. In an online course, the instructor only has to create the information transfer part of the course-- lectures, graphics, text, video-- once. Once the course units or modules have been developed, there is need only for revisions later on. The instructor is then free to interact with participants in the course.

Learners will acquire the data and facts faster using the Internet. Officials at University Online Publishing, which has been involved in online learning more than most organizations, say that a typical 16-week college course, for example, can be cut to 8 weeks because students learn more quickly online.

Finally, technology has consistently proven to drive down costs. Recent reports indicate that education costs are growing at over 5% for 1998, well above the 3% average for all other sectors of the economy. With education costs in the traditional system soaring, technological innovations promise the ability to deliver an education more cheaply.

Downward pressure is already being exerted on prices by online courses. Officials at Regents College in Albany, NY, which collects data on 8,000 distance learning courses, say that prices are dropping already. One community college in Arizona, for example, offers online courses at just $32/credit hour for in-state residents, and $67/credit hour for out-of-state learners.



More Interaction Occurs with Online Learning

The heart and soul of an online course will not be the lecture, the delivery, the audio or video. Rather, it will be the interaction between the participants and the teacher, as well as the interaction among the participants themselves. This daily interaction among participants, for example, will form what John Hagel, author of Net Gain (1997), calls a "Virtual Community."

The next time you are in a class, count the number of questions asked of the teacher during a one-hour time period. Because of the instructor’s need to convey information, the time able to be devoted to questions is very short. In an online course, everyone can ask questions, as many questions as each learner wants or needs.

There is more discussion. In an online course, there is more discussion. If there is a group discussion with thirty people and six to eight people make comments, that is a successful discussion that will take up almost a whole hour. And almost everyone in the group will agree it was a lively. Now if you go into an asynchronous discussion forum on the Internet, and thirty people are there, and six to eight are making comments, you will conclude that the discussion is lagging.

The same number of comments on the Internet do not appear to be as lively a discussion as when delivered in person because the capability and capacity of the Internet is that every person can make comments—at the same time. A transcript of a typical online discussion would take hours to give verbally. Online, we can participate in discussions easily, absorbing more information in a much shorter time and engaging in more interaction, not less.

How the Internet Will Change In-person Learning

Because the Internet can deliver information more quickly, at a lower cost, whenever a learner wants, as often as a learner wants, and with more interaction and dialogue, the Internet will replace the traditional in-person classroom delivery system as the dominant mode of delivery for education and delivery. But the Internet will not replace in-person learning.

While we will spend 50% of our time learning online, we will spend the other 50% of our time learning in person. But in-person learning will also be radically different from what is most common today.

There will be almost no need for the traditional lecture. However, there will be a tremendous need for teachers to become facilitators of learning, understanding how we learn, and able to work with learners as individuals. "The sage on the stage will become the guide on the side" has already been coined.

Though part of learning is centered around content, we as educators know that more of learning is dependent on the learner as an individual, a person. Learning is not just cognitive; it also involves the emotions and the spirit. It involves "unlearning." It involves what educator Jerold Apps calls "grieving the loss of old ideas."

The likely format for this kind of learning will be chairs in a circle, with a facilitator leading discussions, dialogues, role plays and more. And it is this kind of teaching and learning that we actually know very little about, because we as instructors have had so little time to engage in it.

The Internet certainly did not create facilitative learning. This kind of learning has been around for a long time and its value well established. But it’s use will grow exponentially because the Internet allows the cognitive information to be delivered faster, cheaper, better, thus allowing more time and resources to be devoted to facilitative in-person learning.

For now, the elementary school teacher comes closest to being the model for this new kind of in-person teaching. As a parent, I have experienced my son’s teachers being able to sit down and talk with me for thirty minutes or more about my son as a learner. Not about the class, not about content, but about my son’s learning. This is where the focus of in-person learning will be very shortly.

As online courses grow and change how we learn, some courses will involve almost all in-person learning and teaching. And some courses will involve almost all online learning. And probably the majority of courses will involve both online learning and in-person learning.

What an Online Course Will Look Like

A typical online course, or the online portion of course, will look like this.

* There will be hundreds of thousands of topics from which to choose. You will be able to take a course on "Mango trees," or "Adlai Stevenson (Democratic candidate for US President in 1952 and 1956)."
* Your online teacher will probably be the foremost authority and expert in the subject in the world.
* Because the foremost authority in the world is teaching the subject online, and because courses will be offered twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, there will be learners from all around the world.
* There will be an average of 1,000 learners in a course. This will occur for a number of reasons:
1. There are one thousand people in the world who want to learn any given topic at any given time, even mango trees or Adlai Stevenson.
2. Because people will want to learn from the foremost authority, there will be only 2-3 online courses for each topic.
3. The cost of an online course will be extremely low, probably under $100, even for credit classes. This will occur because educational institutions can make more money on high volume and low prices than they can on low volume and high prices. It will occur also because the only way an educational institution can lose its market-share for a given course is because the course is priced higher than an alternative course.

The Forces Driving Online Learning

There are several forces that will turn this scenario for online learning into reality, and turn it into reality very quickly. They include:

Business. Business will be the biggest force. Business now understands that in order to remain competitive and profitable, it will need employees who are learning constantly. The only cost effective way for this to happen is with online learning.

So business will require its people to learn online, and it will look to recruit college graduates who can learn online. Colleges and universities will quickly adopt online learning because business will demand that capability from their graduates.

Youth. My children have never taken a computer course. And they never will. Because they are not just computer literate, they grew up in a digital culture. Young people want to learn online. They understand the future, because it is the world in which they must work and compete. Young students will choose online learning.

Competition. Just one college offering online courses at a low cost and recruiting high volume will force other educational institutions to do the same. In fact, many colleges are involved in online learning, and the cost of courses is declining steadily, according to an official at Regents College, which keeps a database of over 8,000 distance learning courses.

Conclusion

Online learning is rapidly becoming recognized as a valid learning delivery system. The number of part time students in higher education, to name just one educational system, now outnumbers full time students. The number of colleges offering online courses last year soared to over 1,000, and the number is growing. Online graduate programs and certificate programs have doubled over one year ago. Online learning has grown exponentially in the business sector, according to Elliot Masie of Saratoga Springs, NY, one of the foremost experts on online training in the workforce. Surveys by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) see online training replacing much of on-site training in the near future.

Online learning will do for society what the tractor did for food. A century ago food was expensive, in limited supply, and with very little variety. Today food is relatively cheap, in great supply in our society, and with tremendous variety. The Internet will do the same for education. More people will be able to learn more, for much less cost, and with a tremendous variety in choice of topics and subjects. It is something that societies of the past could only dream about. And it will come true for us in a very short time.

References

1. Celente, Gerald (1997). Trends 2000. New York: Warner Books, page 249. 2. Goldberg, Debbie (1998, April 5). Teaching Online. The Washington Post, page R04. 3. Davis, Kenneth S. (1993). FDR: Into the Storm 1937-1940. New York: Random House, page 372. 4. Denning, Peter (1996). How We Will Learn. Fairfax, VA: George Mason University, page 2. 5. Eisenstodt, Gale (1997, February:March). Japan Shuts Down Its Education Assembly Line. Fast Company, pp. 40-42. 6. Knowles, Malcolm (1973). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company, page 42. 7. Apps, Jerold W. (1991). Mastering the Teaching of Adults. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company, page 1. 8. Thieme, Richard (1996), in a presentation at the Metcom conference, Chicago, IL. 9. Hagel, John III, and Armstrong, Arthur G. (1997). Net.Gain. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Further Reading

1. Celente, Gerald (1997). Trends 2000. New York: Warner Books. 2. Draves, William (1998). Marketing Online Courses, Seminars and Conferences. Manhattan, KS: Learning Resources Network. 3. Draves, William (1997). How to Teach Adults. Manhattan, KS: Learning Resources Network. 4. Hagel, John III, and Armstrong, Arthur G. (1997). Net.Gain. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 5. Martin, James (1996). Cybercorp. New York: Amacom.

About the Author

The author is President of the Learning Resources Network (LERN), the largest lifelong learning association in the world, with more than 4,000 members in 8 countries. He does consulting, writing, and speaking on online learning and marketing online programs. His comments were printed in the New York Times (September 9, 1997) . Other articles include “Cyberlearning: Fast Forward to the Future” in Executive Update magazine. He also writes a monthly column for “Marketing Programs Online.” He has offices in River Falls, Wisconsin, and more information on Mr. Draves is available on LERN’s web site at www.lern.org (under LERN Offices).

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Online Learning: a Trend of Our Generation

Communication technologies have revolutionized many spheres of our lives, and education is one of the most affected domains. Just think how many changes there has been since 1994, a year when Internet became publicly available! Now, sitting at my computer and writing the first post to this blog, I cannot even imagine that some 10 years ago the main sources of information were school/uni libraries and classrooms. IMHO, the major changes imposed by web technologies concern two important domains of our lives: communication and learning. Here, I undestand the term learning in its widest sence. Just think where you go first to learn about tomorrow's weather, actors starring in brand-new movie or recipe of, say, buritos you are about to cook for today's Spanish party? Google? Or perhaps you preffer another search engine, Yahoo or MSN? :)I bet you use the same kind of information, the digital one, to get more "academic" knowledge, say, article in Harvard Business Review or a book on law available in Questia library.
Just think what possibilities Internet offers to us: we can learn the latest news instantly and free of charge, we can access resources and read the books that have never crossed the borders of our country, we can find a thouthand and one recipee of our favorite dishes, we can practice our foreign languages online in conversation on most different topics, we can download lessons on playing violin or guitar right away and start practicing a new instrument instantly. And all that happens in our own room, in real time, without months on delivery and hundred dollars of commission! We have access to global knowledge, without any filters or censorship.
Sure this is not all, my friend! Sitting in one country, we can take courses in the university located in another part of the world, submit assignments, pass exams and receive most valuable and prestigious diplomas!
Wow, I have written a lot here but I haven't described a 10% of all learning possibilities offered by the web. In a word, if you have a computer connected to the Internet, you have the possibility and fair potential to be the best informed person in the world :)) There is so much information concerning the topic that I believe this blog, aimed at revealing and discussing it, won't stand idle :)))
I am 22-year-old living in Ukraine who works and learns online. This topic is very interesting to me because online education is the heart of my business (my husband and I run a site offering research and writing assistance)and is my passion. Therefore I like to believe this blog will be interesting to everyone concerned with the topic. Of course, my ramblings will not be the only content of this blog, I will share with you other resources, articles and thoughts I find very interesting. Therefore, welcome!

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