Revamping Education: Where Are We Going With Online Learning?

Class Differences

How Online Innovators Are Disrupting Education” is the title of an interesting article published on the HBR blog that describes the rise of online learning in the U.S.

In fact, Education Department data from last year reported that “students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

Other report findings include:

  • According to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, approximately 5.6 million students took at least one web-based class during the fall 2009 semester, which marked a 21% growth from the previous year. That’s up from 45,000 in 2000 and experts predict that online education could reach 14 million in 2014.
  • Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long term strategy.
  • The 21%growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.
  • Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs.

View the full report

From eLearning to WeLearning

When you think about online education, what comes to mind? I often hear things like:

  • I don’t like online learning — I like to be in the classroom where I can interact with other students.
  • I’m too social for online learning — online learning is too isolating and lonely.
  • Online learning is boring.

How about you? Share your preconceptions about online learning by commenting on this post.

Online learning is also known as eLearning (electronic learning). But let’s consider a different proposition. What if we engage in WeLearning rather than eLearning, or even iLearning?

iLearning (“I” Learning) — I want or need to learn something. I get on my computer or smart phone. I “Google” or use some more scholarly search tool to look up the information I am seeking. I choose from the available sites and information that seem to meet my learning needs. I learn what I need to know, and I might even discover related topics I didn’t expect would pique my interest.

eLearning (one example) — My employer requires periodic training on topics sucs as sexual harassment, human subject research, or HIPPA. I receive an email message informing me that I must complete the training online by some specific date. I log in and work through the units — slides that cover the material, with an occasional multiple choice question to check my knowledge.

WeLearning — I elect to take a course online. The course is billed as collaborative. I log on the first time and am asked to post my introduction. I read and reply to a few introductions posted by others, and our conversation begins. Soon, we become a community of learners. We are expected to use forums to sustain ongoing dialogue. We are expected to post assignments and then give and receive feedback among our scholar colleagues and faculty. We may be required to complete group projects. We learn with and from one another.

There is a time and a reason for each of these models, and many more. Designing Clinical Research for Students and Residents ONLINE is WeLearning.