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A great deal of discussion around academic research (in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences) focuses on how scientists who conduct research have sophisticated access to all available resources on which they base their thinking. For example, physicists at JPL in Pasadena, California utilize a huge array of spectral imaging equipment to collect data on asteroids, on planetary fly-bys, and on solar eruptions. Researchers at Haverford College in Pennsylvania consistently use electronic specimens created by scientist Charles Osborne to create compendiums of knowledge on a wide variety of topics in the natural sciences. Furthermore, faculty at Stanford University in California have described their research as “looking as hard as you can where no one else can look.”
It seems that while research on the Internet is important, professors must recognize that in order to develop effective teaching and learning strategies they need to understand how students learn online. Given the popularity of online learning and the sheer amount of resources available to students, it is in fact critical for academic faculty to access them in order to truly understand how students learn.
In addition to academic research, authors from across disciplines have been utilizing online learning for student learning and research purposes, examining students’ learning behaviors and how to use those learning outcomes to create better teaching and learning. According to Dartmouth Professor Joan T. K. Aaronson, e-learning is important for every academic discipline, offering “an authentic way for students to undertake scholarly research through virtual conferences and workshopping among community of researchers.” Aaronson has discovered that online learning makes a great deal of difference because students take their classes much more seriously when they have chosen to conduct their work outside of their regular schedules.
In Roper’s article entitled, “How Students Develop Online Learning Skills,” she notes that educators need to view online learning as an element of a student’s skill-based learning. However, she explains that “Students have built a skill base that will help them later in their own studies, and that ‘product’ cannot be designed around this base. To quote UC Berkeley psychologist Robert A. Tessler, ‘students are a long way from written materials on a website’.” In order to guide instructors to understand the role of online learning, Roper notes the following:
» Teachers need to understand the role that the Internet plays in teaching and learning. If an instructor is not aware of the ways the Internet impacts how students learn, they could be potentially blind to when the site becomes an essential part of student learning.
» Schools need to support student learning, because students view the Internet as critical to their own, and increasingly their institution’s, learning. Students are no longer just students. They are smart, self-aware, self-aware, goal-directed learners whose use of the Internet is crucial to their academic success.
» Students need more thoughtful consideration for their Internet-based learning resources. Web sites are vital to undergraduate and graduate student learning because they give students access to a wide array of educational resources at a very low cost. Students who buy multiple, often expensive online textbooks for their classes develop (or lose) valuable knowledge about how and why to use different sources, books, tools, blogs, and other materials and resources.
Roper provides statistics (information derived from surveys and others samples) that show students who use the Internet for their online learning feel more prepared for future academic endeavors. Roper also suggests that teachers and administrators who support and serve students increasingly must explore and master the scientific methods of teaching that are associated with the use of the Internet, e-learning, and other online learning resources.
In addition to incorporating more creativity, inventiveness, agility, adaptability, and intelligence, administrators and teachers must consider the role that technology plays in student development and learning. For example, educators may want to explore new ways to incorporate visual and audio-visual strategies to make teaching and learning “an online experience.” Or a campus administrator might evaluate their university’s use of technology to search for even more innovative and engaging ways to teach and learn, e-learning, and other technologies.
This is an excerpt from Jillian Roper’s article entitled, “HOW STUDENTS DEVELOP ONLINE LEARNING SKILLS.”
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