On a campus, with a teacher standing by. In a whiteboard classroom, where students have their attention gripped by words.
Powerpoint Distance Learning. What Is Online Learning.
We live in an era of big data, mobile computing, adaptive education and social technology. These are just a few of the teaching trends we’re regularly hearing about. Learning became more relevant in recent years, and students are increasingly mobile, too. Let’s take a look at some reasons why:
Simply put, students learn better with their minds on the move.
We’re reading, learning, working and interacting with texts on our mobile devices in ways never before possible. This simple, fundamental fact is true of practically every aspect of learning; from science and math to design and communications.
With so much connectivity, students have shifted their learning expectations. They now expect free, interactive, knowledge-rich environments that come with engaging tools that are accessible anywhere and anytime. And these digital courses aren’t just aimed at middle school and high school students; they’re designed and taught for adult learners, too.
The impact is clear: Because students are comfortable with technology, they’re willing to take the time to learn. In turn, educators are more willing to invest in web-based lectures.
Once a space for “take notes” with traditional tools, online learning opens up new possibilities for course designers, too. Every minute spent on a lecture could allow learners to soak up the information before they move on to the next topic. No more looking over the students’ shoulders or making them check the whiteboard.
Today’s teachers can use video, on-demand learning, audio, slide apps and many other technologies to personalize instruction for students in all grade levels. For example, online classes allow educators to reduce their time and resources to just two semesters, cutting down on cost and time. The primary focus is on getting to know your students, then focusing on individualized learning, where students pick and choose from the curriculum.
But while online learning is a recent development, its potential really began decades ago. Presented with a case of an isolated child, university professors of the 1990s still wouldn’t think of using the web as a teaching tool. They simply assumed a student would consume content online. But researchers from the Cary Institute of Econometrics found that researchers at Texas A&M University had been teaching an introductory, introductory psychology course online for two years. What the researchers really wanted to know was whether students were getting into the course material.
Surprisingly, they found that the vast majority of students still read the course materials. Instead, they read notes written by their professors and directed to their phones. Note-taking—and the associated distraction—were found to be more effective than lecture notes for most students, as was pointing to the web and using interactive tools to move to the next topic. As for the real teacher and her passive audience? They were among the hardest students to engage.
Nowadays, no one thinks it’s unusual to know about courses online. Companies are taking advantage of it, too. There’s a growing trend for “distance learning,” a buzzword meant to inspire people to think of content rather than geography as the barrier to achievement. But we shouldn’t write off the old models just yet. Clunky and clunky are good things, and I don’t mean to imply that mobile learning isn’t powerful and innovative. I mean that in the era of big data, we need high-quality, excellent learning for all students.
Whether it’s a PowerPoint or chat room, students remain the ultimate advocates when it comes to learning. For me, that’s why we need to respect the student’s input and use technology to help them learn and, more importantly, avoid heavy reliance on PowerPoint or lecture notes. In the digital age, everything is mobile—including our future.
Charles M. McArthur is Dean of University Computing at Carthage College. He is the author of PG S@ and is a credentialed associate in clinical school psychology. In 2015, his course course “Success With Social Technology” received a bachelor’s of science in educational technology from Carthage College. He has received honorary doctorates from Carroll University, DePauw University, Buffalo State College, Bennett College, Mary Baldwin College, Middlebury College, South Suburban College, and University of the South.