Personal Barriers to Online Learning sample essay
Online learning or e-Learning refers to application of electronic technology for the delivery of instructional content or knowledge domains. Beamish et al. (2002), defines e-Learning as: “. . . a wide set of applications and processes allied to training and learning that includes computer-based learning, online learning, virtual classrooms and digital collaboration. These services can be delivered by a variety of electronic media, including the intranet, internet, interactive TV and satellite. ”
In spite of the great flexibility and varied range of tools that e-Learning can provide to imparting education, implementing any e-Learning system can be a complicated and complex endeavour and online learning can be a very frustrating experience for the student as well as the teacher. A number of personal barriers affect students and teachers alike in any online learning system. Personal Barriers of Students The technology available with students determines the nature of the course content to a large extent.
Students may simply not have the required bandwidth to access high-end multimedia content. The course designer has to tailor the contents to suit the technology availability of the students. This is especially true of e-Learning courses catering to international community scattered all over the world. In such cases severe constraints may have to be imposed on the utilization of technology resources available at the end of the imparting institution. The design would then have to optimized for dial-up users with at the most 800×600 pixel monitor screen resolutions.
In fact, many universities take special care to ensure prior to registration that their respective e-Learning course content is accessible to the students. “Technical infrastructure deficiencies on the student side can impede course activities, especially in an online distance-learning environment. ” (Arabasz, 2003, pp. 42) The proficiency level of the student in using ICT tools would enhance or undermine his e-Learning experience to a great extent. In the international context it would be unwise to expect uniform familiarity with ICT usage.
A student, previously not exposed to ICT, will therefore not only have to handle the course requirements, but will also have to acquire the requisite skills in ICT to pursue the course effectively. From the learner perspective, literacy and IT skills and aptitude for self-direction, being confident and motivated to participate in online learning have also been identified as potential barriers to effective online learning (Australian Institute for Social Research, 2006, pp. 15). The factor that students have to study in isolation in an e-Learning system has triggered off many debates.
Many perceive this isolation as a crippling obstacle to the development of e-Learning systems for higher education. Brouner and Flowers (1997) even suggested that the lack of human interactions in the incorporation of technology into higher education would have to be effectively made up by increased human contact. The e-Learning environment lacks the discipline and time regulations imposed on students in conventional education. This requires students to be more motivated, better time managers and more attentive during e-Learning sessions.
The lack of the proximity and personal touch of the instructor as in a traditional classroom can create a communication chasm that both the instructor and the student may find difficult to surmount. In a situation where eye contact and proximity are limited, students cannot be disciplined nor affirmed by eye contact and body language (McKnight, 2000). Time is another constraint that affects online learning negatively. Whilst education has now extended geographically it has limited students with time restrictions (Jones et. al. , 2004, pp. 14).
Trials and Tribulations for the Faculty Time is perhaps the biggest investment that the instructor has to make. The amount of time required to develop and maintain an e-Learning course is usually not anticipated by the people involved. The instructor has to spend a lot of time on restructuring and reengineering the course for e-Learning delivery. A complete over hauling is required. Instructors also need to give time for technical and pedagogical training as instructions in e-Learning differ radically from conventional approaches.
Last but not the least, the instructor has to spend considerable time corresponding or communicating with students. A very important aspect of e-Learning is the views or approach of the instructor. The instructor could be trying to make the e-Learning experience as good and fruitful as the conventional classroom’s. It is a case of trying to replicate the conventional classroom in e-Learning. The second approach could be the instructor’s effort to improve the instructions through the medium of e-Learning.
The instructor will have to decide on which approach to adopt, a decision that could profoundly influence the very character and quality of the e-Learning content. Technical issues can hamper an instructor’s efficiency or performance. The instructor is often not familiar with the technologies that are utilized. Development in multimedia would require knowledge of Flash, Shockwave and similar tools. It is difficult to find persons skilled in both the application technology and the field of education.
The problem of technology extends to the teacher who may not be proficient in the software. The dependency on technology also tends to undermine the faculty’s confidence at times. “Are things going to work when I’m in the classroom? Will the Internet be up? Do I need to bring back-up materials on a disk? Will the last instructor have left things in good shape? These [issues] may be more basic than you’d expect, but dependability is still a major issue. ” (Arabasz, 2003, pp. 41) Online Learning therefore requires very careful planning and implementation in order to achieve success.
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