When Jason enrolled for his first online fire science class at a local community college, he thought that a few hours at the keyboard and some fast and loose research would produce three college credits with minimal effort. He found the schedule inviting, but the work nearly overwhelming. "I admit...
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When Jason enrolled for his first online fire science class at a local community college, he thought that a few hours at the keyboard and some fast and loose research would produce three college credits with minimal effort. He found the schedule inviting, but the work nearly overwhelming. "I admit that I thought this would be an easy way to pick up some college credit for my degree…but when I logged in and saw how much work was there, I about quit."
Jason (who requested anonymity) is not alone. He says that if he had a better understanding of how to manage his time and knew some of the requisite skills before the class began, he would not have been so unprepared.
With more than 3 million U.S. learners turning to online opportunities to bolster their knowledge and careers, educational researchers are finding this burgeoning methodology a valid and useful tool for educators and students alike — especially adult learners to pursue higher education. But many adults are not accustomed to Internet-based learning. An uncounted number have little idea of how to best use this new modality to their advantage.
Learning via the Internet is significantly different from attending a course in a bricks-and-mortar classroom. Certain skills and attributes require retooling before plunking down several hundred dollars for an online class that is both fast-paced and rigorous. A 2006 Sloan survey found robust growth and widespread acceptance of e-learning. Online education, it found, is one of the best methodologies for adult learners, especially those in higher education. The survey of 2,200 U.S. colleges and universities show attendance in these courses jumping from 2.3 million students last year to 3.2 million during the fall 2005 term. Yet one troubling statistic has emerged — the dropout rate for online courses ran as high as 60%, compared with 11% for traditional classroom learning, according to a 2007 study by Lee and Nguyen, researchers at New Mexico State University.
Online learning, e-learning or computer-based learning are among several synonyms defining an educational setting where instructors and students usually are separated by time and space and use computers and networks to communicate. Online educators divide e-learning into three broad modalities. Asynchronous learning involves accessing course materials from a computer attached to the Internet, allowing students to access the virtual classroom at anytime or any place. A generalized schedule, controlling the course's weekly pace, is in place to keep students focused on such tasks as posting discussions or accessing content. Asynchronous courses are popular because of the freedom to schedule one's coursework around a busy life. Synchronous learning, as one might expect, adds specific times at which students access materials and discuss course content. These programs, because of their time constraint, are less popular in higher education. Blended courses combine the traditional classroom for tasks like lecture or group discussion with the Internet for dispersing course content such as case studies, Flash movies and streaming video.
The notion of distance learning is not new, having its roots in the correspondence schools of the early 20th century. Just as the automobile had roots in that same era, distance education also is vastly different today. New terminology and user techniques apply for each. One of the big differences facing adult e-learners today is learning how to learn in the computer age. As more fire departments seek recruits and promote to officers those with college degrees, chances are there will be an online course in your future. Making the transition to a proficient e-learner is not difficult. Like most endeavors, it requires some guidance to avoid pitfalls.Seven Characteristics Of Successful E-Learners