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#IOLchat Report: Best of Times in Online Learning


Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants include students, instructors, advisors, counselors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.

“I’ve been in the industry for 40 years and this is the best time to be in online learning.” This is what a senior academic leader said to me over a networking breakfast at the Sloan Consortium conference in October. While we may not be sure where it’s all headed, a lot of things are happening, and quickly.

What do you think? Here’s what our group had to say about the current state of the online learning industry:

How are these “the best times” in online learning?

  • “It’s exciting to see widespread adoption and acceptance of online learning.”
  • Online delivery extends the reach of instructors and materials to more students, especially as “user-end technology increases worldwide.”
  • It’s not just for college students/college courses: “Online learning is becoming more popular especially for business professionals who can’t always attend classes in person.” Reaching a global audience of employees and students is now possible.
  • The student experience can be personalized to each learner’s needs, “interests, learning preferences, and goals. Student-designed options” are also possible.
  • Fast-paced growth and developments mean the availability of resources is increasing, as well as the number of students.
  • Communication and collaboration technologies are evolving, allowing instructors and students to connect more easily online, especially for real-time conversations (i.e., Twitter chats, Skype, Adobe Connect).
  • The industry is paying attention not only to effectiveness of online learning environments, but also to the efficiency of these opportunities in terms of time and money.

Current Challenges to Consider

  • “In the box” and “canned” options may become more widely used to serve large audiences, but could be counterproductive to personalization and individualized learning.
  • Price transparency continues to be an issue. Different pricing structures make it difficult for prospective students to estimate costs and compare costs at multiple institutions. Take a look at a new system that aids cost comparison, including tuition and financial aid estimates. (Thanks, @CollegeAbacus!)
  • Teacher training should be a priority with faculty development programs that focus on student needs, as well as course design and automation of tasks.
  • Online learning isn’t right for every student. Younger students (undergrads) may benefit from the in-person interaction of a traditional classroom, along with some integration of technology through mobile use, blended approaches, etc., and assistance in developing skills required for success as online learners (i.e., self-regulation, self-direction, motivation, discipline) – all before enrolling in completely online courses.

What has had the most impact on your work in the past year?

  • Current events and national media coverage of online learning initiatives have brought attention to the industry and fostered new discussions. The University of Virginia’s firing of president Teresa Sullivan and partnerships between colleges and Coursera are just two examples.
  • “Using social media much more to connect with students and faculty, as well as build learning communities.”
  • Teaching and learning in both online and F2F environments “provides a contrast being part of both worlds” revealing how one way works for some, but not for all.

What’s next for the industry? Where are we headed?

  • “We would love for technology to continue development and for awesome teachers to speak out and help define the future.”
  • “It would be interesting to see more student-led efforts at solving online learning difficulties! There’s a lot of great work being done, but sometimes techies [course designers and technology specialists] forget to ask students what they need and how they think.”
  • “Accredited programs will grow exponentially as online prospects become more savvy and more widely accepted as a source for a ‘good degree’.”
  • Increased use of real-time technologies to connect students and teachers online. “Maybe Twitter chats?”

Thanks to @nikkiperala, @markvanbaale, @ODU_DL, @MsFarheen, @TamraExcell, and @CollegeAbacus for participating in the live event!

For more from the most recent live session, review the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page.

Follow us (@OC_org) and plan to attend our next chat. We meet on Wednesdays at 12pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.

This week’s read-aheads:

Online Educational Delivery Models: A Descriptive View from Phil Hill, EDUCAUSE Review Online

The Myths of Online Learning from John Ebersole, Forbes.com

50 Striking Statistics About Distance Learning in Higher Education from EdTech Magazine

Why States Should Require Online Learning from Tom Vander Ark, Huffington Post

This week’s chat feed:

Image credit: Gideon Burton, Flickr, CC:BY-SA

December 6th, 2012 written by (learn more about our authors)

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