Books, books, books. That’s the most vivid memories I can remember about both my primary and secondary school lives. Till today, I still remember the fear of forgetting to bring any of the required text/reference books because during my time (especially those primary days), not being able to bring along your text/reference books required for that day can earn you a serious punishment. When I reminiscence on those situations today, I realized that I have been fearing the wrong matter all along. What I (and students today) should be afraid of is whether we will be able to learn properly, not whether if we bring our books to school. The point is, so what if you have your books with you? What’s the point when the book becomes a decorative material instead of a learning material?
Putting aside those unpleasant memories, I also remember the best part of my late primary and secondary school lives is when I get the chance to go online. During my time, being able to go online is so precious that I was always looking forward for the clock to touch 9.00 p.m. so that I can surf for only 2 hours. That, was undeniably, one of the best things I love to do in the past. So, coming back today, I find it ironic when I see the Internet starting to bloom in such a ferocious state to the extent that both my fear towards forgotten books and favorite past activities have been fused into becoming an important part of life – online learning. Isn’t that marvelous? But wait, there are more to that. Because, no matter how, things will never be perfect and life will not be kind to you. True story.
Miller (2010) stated in his article that he foresees a time when the Internet becomes a major platform for online learning. And the “time” may not be that far away as we are expecting. Not long later, we will be dealing with video editing software instead of word processing software; and instead of having to submit assessments in hard copies, we will be submitting them on an online platform (eg: e-learning site, email) instead. This is the predicted future by Miller. It is also a possible future I can see for myself. The main advantage of this “possible” future occurrence is, of course, flexibility and convenience for both the students and the lectures. You can learn anytime and anywhere you want (as long as you can be connected to the Internet) and you can work in your own comfort zone. But there’s always two sides to a coin. With this type of learning environment, one must learn how to manage their own time. Because the Internet is not entirely made up of learning materials; there are various social networking sites, gaming sites, blogs, videos, and many other more who can’t wait to grab your attention and make you stay in their sites. These are what we call distractions.
Although so, it is undeniable that online learning is a good initiative to take learning to another level. Bennett (2001) concludes the Internet as being “interactive”, “switched”, and “networked”. Between these three important features stated by Bennett, I would like to touch on the “interactive” feature alone. Interactivity in education is always good. It allows (almost) immediate responses and feedback from both students and lecturers and this will definitely help in speeding up the learning process. But won’t this be an invasion to the private time one have? I mean, how willing are you to give up your personal social and private lives to stay alert and to be on standby for any incoming assessments/notices or student’s questions at all times? Are all of us willing to have this invisible chain tied on to us 24/7? When you know you are connected online, your consciousness towards any work-related notices will automatically be heightened up. With this type of flexibility, you have to be prepared to give up your leisure time in order to be a responsible student/lecturer. So, are you ready to make that sacrifice?
To be honest, no matter if we are prepared or not, we have to face the fact that we are already being tied in this “online learning” phenomenal. All of our learning materials are being uploaded online; we conduct online discussions as a group; we submit our assessments online (see what I’m doing now?); we email our lecturers to ask about studies and assessments. We are indeed, not far away from the future picture Miller had stated earlier. Furthermore, I myself love the Internet for its rich of learning materials. Imagine if you do not have the Internet and you would need to go to the library to access for more information for your assessments and studies. And remember, even the library has limited resources. This will definitely result in unnecessary stress and hassle. This is perhaps, the main reason why I love the Internet so much because, well, personally I love to work with my own time. Even Hellbrandt (1999) has proven that the Internet has provided us with “authentic learning materials”, and a lot of these materials are materials that we cannot easily obtain through the use of traditional learning methods. Plus, the materials on the Internet are usually more updated as compared to the various resources in the library. This makes our studies more relevant.
Although I have been emphasizing on the advantages of online learning, I have to reaffirm that online learning – in my opinion – is necessary but not for all circumstances. Online learning is especially useful for individualized learner, especially people who can manage their time well and people who have good self-discipline. Unfortunately, I – being a human – sometimes strays and wanders off into a different dimension when it comes to studies. I am not great in time management, but I am an individualized learner. Online learning is useful, but we are not merely looking at online learning alone. We are looking for “quality online learning”. Quality online learning, as defined by UWG (n.d.), consists of several important guidelines that may be similar to the traditional classroom learning method (just that they are shifted to the digital environment) such as a clear guideline on what to expect, how to get started, how to find learning materials, and many more. Judging on some of these important elements, I would say that UOW’s online learning effort is indeed a great one and we are, in fact, undergoing quality online learning method. Well, do you realize that?
Bennett, RE (2001), ‘How the Internet will help large-scale assessment reinvent itself’, Education Policy Analysis Archives, vol.9, no.5.
Fetterman, DM (1998), ‘Webs of meaning: computer and Internet resources for educational research and instruction’, Educational Researcher, vol.27, no.3, pp.22 – 30
Hellebrandt, J (1999), ‘Virtual collaborations in the Spanish class: from e-mail to Web design and CD-ROM development’, Journal of Educational Computing Research, vol.20, no.1, pp.59 – 70
Miller, RE (2010), ‘The Coming Apocalypse’, Pedagogy, vol.10, no.1, pp.143 – 151.
UWG. (n.d.). Online learning at UWG: Five star rubric for online instruction. Retrieved 24/04/2013 from http://www.westga. edu/~distance/webct1/Rubric