As educators strive to provide learners with a more engaging and interactive experience, a new trend in distance learning has emerged, known as online education or E-learning. Online learning is being used in both formal and informal contexts, from geographically dispersed schools to correctional facilities. In the workplace, it has been employed to train employees on basic job skills or industry-specific tactics. In all of these settings, communication between students/trainees and course facilitators represents one of the largest milestones in effective online learning.
There are many benefits associated with online education. Distance-learning courses allow for greater flexibility in scheduling since participants can complete lessons at their own pace within an allotted time frame. This makes it easier for to manage a demanding career while continuing one’s education. In addition, online learning usually represents a cheaper alternative to traditional face-to-face instruction. With the rising costs of fuel and childcare, many students find themselves strapped for cash and seeking educational opportunities that won’t cost a fortune.
However, despite these obvious advantages, online courses and e-learning often lack the one element necessary for effective educational experiences: communication. This problem may stem from distant learners’ over reliance on new technologies such as e-mail, chat rooms, or video conferencing tools rather than interpersonal interaction. Without direct contact between participants and facilitators , it is easy to feel lost in a sea of people with similar interests but divergent goals. Participants can quickly feel disconnected from their classmates if they never have the chance to interact with them face-to-face.
The roots of this obstacle to effective online learning can be traced back to the origins of distance education itself, which began as primarily an extension of traditional teaching methods. Many early educators viewed their courses as a continuation of their classroom experience, treating students much like they would have in the past. Even today, many universities that operate primarily or exclusively via electronic instruction lack systems for managing student communication. These institutions tend to retain many features common to brick-and-mortar colleges, such as written exams and strict adherence to schedules. However well these practices may serve traditional learners , they are not always optimal for those studying at a distance.
Fortunately , there are ways instructors can facilitate successful virtual learning experiences, and communication is key. Distance learners must be able to interact with course facilitators and their fellow classmates if they hope to achieve any level of success . Just as communication is essential for traditional educational practices, it is equally important in the online environment. Participants should always feel as if they can ask questions or voice concerns without fear of embarrassment or reprisal. In addition, online educators need to create a strong rapport by establishing trust with those they teach. This process requires some time and effort on behalf of the facilitator , but the benefits are well worth the trouble. When students feel comfortable approaching instructors with their questions, concerns, or comments about assignments, their learning experience becomes much richer . The instructor also gains valuable insight into how individuals learn best , enabling them to better assist their students in the future.
The historical and practical benefits of communication in online education speak for themselves. Whether students participate via video chat or simply correspond with facilitators by e-mail, instructors need to make this type of interaction a priority. As long as learning remains an individualized process, participants will rely on instructors for guidance and support . Without it , distance learners cannot hope to succeed.