Learners choose online learning based on a variety of factors. From discipline need to cost, a person’s motivation to fail is a serious consideration.
Why Do Learners Choose Online Learning: The Learners’ Voices Ilgaz Hgulbahar Y
Sometimes the perceived value of an activity can outweigh the actual work necessary to engage a person’s attention, says Ilgaz Hgulbahar Y, a social science graduate student at the University of Delaware. Along with psychologist, Kristen Walker, Y analyzed data on 504 adults from the Youth Weight Loss Study to examine reasons why “learners” used online education environments over traditional classroom learning.
The researchers’ detailed analysis suggests that online learning activities can be broken down into general strategies and specific objectives, motivating each learner. In terms of relevant content, learning can be divided into general activities (e.g., academic stuff) or specific objectives (e.g., learning a math skill), and as for kind of learner this can depend on race, age, gender, cognitive function, level of experience, and gender. Young learners mostly use general activities, while adults tend to engage in specific activities. Part of the reason is that younger people are generally more flexible in their learning experience.
Y, Walker, and their colleagues found that certain activities drive engagement, and online educational opportunities prioritize passive learners over active learners. In other words, as a learner, you learn by watching, not by participating.
These two types of learner use different kinds of tools to achieve their goals. For example, engaged learner use social media to research ideas and compose documents; read news articles and journals; watch videos of lectures; and use apps like Smart Filters and Strengths Finder to focus on skills. On the other hand, passive learners like learning with TV and video games.
For the interactive examination of learner interests, Y and Walker analyzed time and engagement in terms of activity, activation level (e.g., visual stimulation, verbal stimulation), and behavior.
Organizations or people provide most of the online education opportunities, while individual students will teach themselves. Y found that:
“Online education offers learners ways to learn in their individual time-frames in an interactive environment. The learner often has the opportunity to tailor the learning experience to meet their own needs and interests in a format that allows the learner to focus on very specific goals, such as gaining access to a specific skill or knowledge, or connecting with the online instructor in a secure, neutral environment. There is an average of 3.9 sessions, but the focus varies, with many learners engaging in 12 to 24 sessions.”
Learn and practice are core activities that reinforce each other when in another “linear” activity. One of the problems of online learning is the volume of activities the learner has to stay engaged in every hour, every day, even when an online learning experience is long or short.
Y learned that introverts, or learners who are emotionally or physically withdrawn, tend to engage more in general online learning activities than active learners. This is partially because introverts are inclined to read fast and keep moving. Engaging in all of these activities can be overwhelming. If you choose to participate in an online learning environment, avoid compulsively going back to past or similar activity, however novel, from a brief detour.
Active learners have two major skills which they are assessed on in professional or academic school-related evaluations. The first is how well the learner retains the content after the initial lesson—and how well the learner can learn from the prior learned skills. The second skill is the ability to transition between roles, routines, and procedures. These skills are often very strong in learners who engage in general activities, but can be challenged by active learners, Y found.
One of the key barriers to online learning, Y says, is the poor ability of traditional academic institutions to integrate online learning and its effectiveness into existing curriculum. Implementing online learning requires learning support systems and appropriate learning support experiences.
There is no one correct method or method for online learning, Y says. But many universities strive to do the very best with as few resources as possible.
“Students who are proactive, proactive learners are poised to turn online learning into a powerful tool. But this requires attention, skill, and engagement—and much better support,” Y says. “Not all online learners are active learners, and some will find a well-crafted online experience to be unappealing. We encourage colleges to give these students better options so that they can learn more efficiently.”