Assuring quality in distance learning Thesis

Educational Best Practices: Technology

Current Practices Paper

Technology has become such a ubiquitous part of modern life that many teachers complain that they know less about technology than their young students! But the apparent comfort of students with technology is often confined to the technology they use for personal entertainment. Undergraduates and graduates can still benefit from a more systematized introduction to how to use technology to enhance their learning experience. The responsible use of technology should be a part of everyday classroom life to sustain student interest. Students must learn how to deploy the World Wide Web and the Internet for effective legitimate research purposes, including using Boolean searches and identifying what makes a website reliable. Teachers must incorporate technology into revised syllabuses and libraries and computer rooms can offer supplementary education sessions for students.

Making technology part of the classroom yet affordable is a challenge for many institutions, but one which will become more easily scalable in the future. New innovations are arising to make the educational use of the Web easier than ever before. The Educause Website notes that in the future cloud computing, a cost-saving method of deploying it infrastructure and services over a network rather than through hardware and software, will allow universities to purchase a wider range of educational resources on an as-needed basis without the costs of machinery that will grow antiquated quickly (7 things, 2009, Educause).

The issue of educating students through a purely online educational classroom is more controversial. The Institute for Higher Education advocates the use of technology as a method of improving education, not as a crutch or a replacement for a ‘real’ relationship with a teacher and student. There is no question that technology has made higher education more accessible to a wider array of students, but the concern remains that by replacing some elements of a traditional curriculum, students will only use this convenient, familiar, but potentially more alienating form of education to complete course requirements. Enforcing a balance is necessary by limiting the amount of purely online learning a student can embark upon over the course of his or her career. Enforcing rules about the method of access (for example, insisting that online courses have ‘real time’ meetings), setting guidelines about the types of technology used, and creating online courses that are only one part of a more comprehensive educational degree’s requirements is essential.

Completing some course requirements through online class work may be acceptable, provided it is of a demanding quality, and uses Blackboards and chat rooms to mimic the interactive environment of the classroom. But a purely online degree has questionable value, even when conferred by a legitimate institution. Certain types of subjects, such as the life sciences, require an intensive laboratory component to be truly effective. And learning ‘hands on’ has value in most of the disciplines even beyond the sciences.

The best use of technology is ideally in an interactive and hands-on environment, in a real-world classroom. When students from real-life classrooms use the Web to create web pages that showcase their research or students band together to create presentations through PowerPoint or formulate other research projects, the Internet can offer unprecedented multimedia access to information and scholarship all over the world. It engages other forms of learning, and other types of learners who excel in nonverbal types of communication. But technology must never be used for technology’s sake, and technology must be used to make education more comprehensive and rigorous in the skills that it reinforces, rather than more distant, easier, and socially fragmented.

Works Cited

7 things you should know about cloud computing (2009). Educause Website.

Retrieved August 21, 2009 at http://www.educause.edu/Resources/7ThingsYouShouldKnowAboutCloud/176856

Assuring quality in distance learning: A preliminary review. (2009). Institute for Higher

Education. Retrieved August 21, 2009 at http://www.ihep.org/

The WICHE Policy Analysis & Research. (2009). Official website. Retrieved August 21, 2009 at http://www.wiche.edu/policy/.


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