E-Learning Master's Degree Program in dissertation

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This engagement is reported to be highly valuable to most students as they connect with one another on relevant classroom topics as applied to life contexts. E-learning in the graduate teaching setting has changed the paradigm of student teaching as well. During group discussion instructors have found student to become personally quite open during these dialogues and, more often than not, exceed word count requirements as well as the number of required posting each week due to interest level and a draw to connect with others. When collaborative projects groups are assigned the flexibility offered through an online program proves to be of great benefit as many traditional constraints are lifted. For an online student scheduling is as simple as agreeing upon a time to meet ( and turning on the camera and plugging in the headset), regardless of the physical location or cost of fossil fuels. Traditional instructors who have be using contact online technology to deliver class material admit missing the face-to-face with students. However, powerful exchanges occur among members of an online community that may be difficult to imagine by those who have only taught in a traditional classroom setting. Technology lowers interpersonal inhibitions enough to create a lively interpersonal from the first day of class, and the depth of connections and level of participation that ensues only sometimes occurs in a traditional setting. One instructional designer recently predicted that 80 to 90% of post secondary education will be online with the next decade (Maslennikova, 2008). Regardless of the actual rate of growth in the online education arena, teaching style and methods will inevitably face a need to shift to accommodate demands for these programs. Those interested in teaching integration will need to consider ways to creatively maintain activities that promote depth of processing, while at the same time remaining relevant to a new genration of learners. To whatever extent these changes in educational delivery systems can be informed by empirical research it will be helpful to all involved. Maslennikova asserts that much of what happens in a traditional classroom setting can be replicated in an online environment. The extent to which these possibilities are being realized is a matter of future research. Specifically, it would be helpful to know the differential processes and outcomes of online traditional education from the perspective of students, faculty and other key stakeholders. Bain's (2004) notion of lively engagement is based on his research regarding what the best college teachers do. In a traditional setting, the students receive credit for attendance and answering questions but course credit is their primary reward for a forgettable classroom experince. This is not to say that lecturing is an ineffective style or that one should not teach the integration model of decades gone by; indeed, Bain (2004) found many lecturers among his best college teachers. Rather, the point is that whatever is taught and however it is taught needs to engage the student if it is to be effective.Even the most vocal critics of online education probably agree that the online teaching methods as described in this compiled litterature review research is vastly superior and much more effective in terms of delivery and solliciting class participation.In online environments, students must interact with ideas and peers in order to receive credit, a level of engagement that might never be reached by students in the traditional setting.

Unfortunately, not all members of the educational commmunity are sold on the well reviewed benefits of e-leaning as it pertains to graduate studies.Allen and Seaman (2003) in conducting a survey on online education delivered by higher education institutions in the United States defined an online course as one that had at least 80% of the course content delivered online. Regardless of the definition, an early indication of then widespread popularity of online education courses can be found in a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, which revealed that more than 54,000 online education courses were being offered in 1998, with over 1.6 million student's enrolled (Lewis, et al., 1999). Allen and Seaman (2003) reported that: (a)over 1.6 million students took at least one online course during the Fall of 2002, (b) over one-third of these students (578,000) took all of their courses online, (c) among all U.S. higher education students in Fall 2002,11% took at least one online course, and (d) among those students at institutions where online courses were offered, 13% took at least one online course .Controversies as to the quality of online education have not diminished over the past decades. Many people are suspicious of online education because courses are often offered by divisions of extended studies or continuing education and are taught by adjunct faculty or instructors who have not earned doctoral degrees. Therefore, many individuals have concluded that online education programs are left outside of formal faculty structures that have traditionally had oversight for instructional course quality. Both proponents and opponents have been concerned about online education quality. Opponents view online education as inferior, see it as a substitute for the traditional "brick and mortar" university, and conclude it is rather a profit making venue. This type of delivery is often viewed by administrators as a "cash cow"-a means of delivering instruction to a large number of paying customers without the expense of providing things such as temperature controlled classrooms and parking spaces (Brown & Green, 2003, p. 148-149). Opponents have also suggested that online courses lower the quality of academic standards (Buck, 2001). Some opponents even question the quality of online courses when students do not actually attend a college, and have face-to-face interaction with instructors. Moreover, Weiger (1998) asserted that the quality of instructors who teach online courses cannot be guaranteed since anyone can put a course online. Concerns regarding the quality of online education are also raised by both students and faculty. Arguments are made that as consumers of online education, students are unlikely to be able to find out information about the quality of the courses that are provided (Twigg, 2001). Schools or universities that offer online education courses typically do not provide comparative information for students e.g., how would a student know which online course meets his/her needs? Moreover, prerequisites that are essential for taking a particular online course are usually not clearly stated on websites for students, and "when students are encountering technical problems, whom they can ask for assistance is not available to them" (Twigg, 2001, p. 15).

From the faculty's perspective, if they haven't received the training for teaching online courses, using the technologies, evaluating and assessing online courses, how then can the quality of their online teaching be assured? Moreover, when teaching online, if a majority of the faculty member's time is spent corresponding with students, how then can faculty balance their traditional teaching, research, and service activities? When faculty is reluctant to teach online classes, how can school administrators motivate them to do so? Proponents are in support of online education. They suggest that the lack of face-to-face interaction can be substituted by online discussions in bulletin board systems, online video conferences or on listservs (Blake, 2000).Online education can also promote students' critical thinking skills, deep learning, collaborative learning, and problem-solving skills (Ascough, 2002; Rosie, 2000). Donlevy (2003) asserted that online education may help schools expand curricula offerings with less cost and can help graduates gain important technology skills to improve their marketability. Proponents also argue that online education can encourage non-discriminatory teaching and learning practices since the teachers and students, as well as students and their classmates typically do not meet faceto-face. Palloff and Pratt (1999) reported that because students cannot tell the race, gender, physical characteristics of each other and their teachers, online education presents a bias-free teaching and learning environment for instructors and students. The quality of online education has prompted the attention of higher education accreditation associations.

The report of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (1998, as cited in Weiger, 1998) recommended that accreditators should "establish reliable and valid performance measurements, require evidence of contact between faculty and students, mandate evidence of effective instructional techniques, promote systematic efforts to select and train faculty, and assure that students, faculty, staff and administrators receive adequate training to use electronic resources" (p. 11). Therefore, the need of standards for ensuring quality of online education instruction is paramount. Paulsen (2002) in defining online education indicated that it separates teachers and learners (which distinguishes it from face-to-face education), influences an educational organization (which distinguishes it from self-study and private tutoring), uses computer network to present or distribute some educational content, and provides two-way communication via a computer network so that students may benefit from communication with each other, teachers, and staff (p.1.). This definition clarifies the difference between online education and traditional education. Consequently, quality indicators should be different as it relates to online education and traditional education.The higher education community has developed several quality indicators for traditional education that are well accepted by…[continue]

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