Academic Argument on Faculty Perceptions of Student Disengagement in Online Learning
The emergence of technology has meant that today people are challenged every single day to accept something new in their lives on a regular basis. This is not to say that this is a bad thing, but the argument that can here is that are we really ready as a society to incorporate these new technological advancements in their day-to-day life? And it is exactly at this juncture that we face a critical issue.
While there is no doubt that the mark of technology has been felt on every segment of our lives, no matter how trivial it may seem, the fact of the matter remains that there is currently a majority of people who are not equipped to handle this new intrusion in their lives. The reason for this can vary from the lack of acceptability to the fact that some people are just not comfortable enough, but the most basic reason for such an attitude towards technology remains simply because people have not been trained how to go about using this technology in their lives.
For this paper however, the argument would take into account the impact of technology in the field of Education and more specifically, in the form of Online Education. Online Education is a rather new phenomenon which has already opened up its door to many of the students who till now had limited or no access whatsoever to quality education. By the year 1997 alone, there were more than 762 institutes in the United States that were providing Education via Internet (Liyan Song, 2004). This has proven to be essential beneficial to those who seek to have some sorts of specialized education but because of limited resources, in any form, have been prevented so far (Smarty, 2010). Although the beginning of both the Internet and Online Learning are tied together to more or less the same year, the availability of degrees for such courses but with time more and more universities are willing to offer online courses and relevant degrees (A History of Online Learning).
These sorts of practices have also been praised since any friction or complication that can arise due to any discriminatory behavior, such as language, race, color and culture (Mitchell, 2007).
But despite this it cannot be denied that there has been a reasonable amount of criticism and concerns with regards to this sort of Education. Student Disengagement from this practice has been the cornerstone for most of the concerns that seem to arise regarding this system. According to Chris Mitchell, “the reliance on text as the principal medium for exchange suppresses the sharing of emotional content, which in turn effects the motivation of participants” (Mitchell, 2007). This is indeed a serious concern in a system where the entire system is setup on the basis that the student can simply rely on his computer for its text. How are the teachers in this environment, supposed to be delivering quality Education or for that matter for any learning process to take place?
The main reason for these disengagements have been based on two main reasons, one being the lack of social interactions and second being the reliance on text alone for the deliverance of Education, as already mentioned above. It won’t be wrong to take a look at the setup of a traditional classroom at this moment, where social interaction is the main backbone for the entire system. Interaction between the teachers and the students, interactions between the students themselves are all an important part for the imparting of Education, which in a fact reaches new heights since there is constant engagement. The imparting of Education itself relies on this Education rather than a single medium, thus making the entire process much more engaging as compared to an Online Method where the Student is a solitary being gazing at a computer Education reading text upon text.
Problems are also present from the faculty side as well in this scenario, since the majority of the faculty members are still trying to come to terms with this new mode and majority of time it is there hesitation which is the main barrier in imparting of Online Education (Michael W. Ward, 2010).
The basic theme that can be seen behind all of these is to create an interactive environment in which the communication between the students and the teachers is such that learning can truly be Fun even.
One research even indicated that another reason for hesitation from the faculty indeed is that they lack the knowledge regarding how to go about the very notion of E-learning and what it would constitute. Educators are still struggling with this new form of intrusion in their lives and profession and “do not yet know what forms of interaction people need, want, or expect to support their learning” and until there is a full understanding regarding what “it is about face-to-face interactions that enhance learning” and until that it is difficult to tell “what features are required for an online system” (Wanstreet, 2006).
A lot of other issues have also been identified by the faculty in a survey, which has been discussed in great detail in the work of Michael W. Ward. The issues identified varied from the time requirement for preparation of these courses, internet connectivity issues, with many of the faculty even found themselves technologically handicapped, as one teacher even mentioned, “It takes time for the use of the console to become second-nature” (Michael W. Ward, 2010).
But the most major concern, however, from a faculty point-of-view remains in regards to the disengagement that is present in this setup with the students. Some of the main causes for these disengagements have been explained by the faculty members in their own words. These include,
“You can’t beat face-to-face-interaction between students and learners through lab experiences, group work, and field experiences”
“Teaching is such a social thing; taking courses online with little or no live interaction with other students would hamper a new teacher”
“There are interpersonal skills and interactions that are of value to students that cannot be replicated in online studies” (Huss, 2007).
This lack of face-to-face interactions can easily be considered the main cause of disengagement with the student and the above quotes are a testament to the faculty perceptions and indeed the problems that are faced by them in such courses.
It is with these concerns in mind that more and more Online Education systems are following classroom engagement techniques and seeking to provide a similar environment in their online forums. Dr. Salmon has provided the 5-stage framework (Kurubacak, 2002) which is extremely useful for this sort of development of Online Education, which lists the following as important steps that must be taken,
1. Access and Motivation
2. Online Socialization
3. Information Exchange
4. Knowledge Construction
There is no denying that slowly and gradually there has been a steady growth in the acceptance of Online learning among the faculty members. The figures show that while “in the fall of 2004, 26% of chief academic officers noted” a “lack of acceptance of online instruction by faculty,” however, by the fall of 2009, “only 31% of these university administrators agreed that faculty perceive online instruction as valuable and legitimate” (Michael W. Ward, 2010).
These statistics should be a sign enough that the times are changing and with these changing times an acceptance is growing among the various actors in this field. However, to ensure a smoother, effective and quicker transition, it is important that certain measures are taken that can ease up this new technological intervention in their profession with ease. This can be in the form of training sessions which can create an understanding about the technological aspects of online learning. Sessions and Training on creating more interactive classrooms online should also be a point of consideration.
However, what is most important is the teacher student interaction itself in this regard so that the understanding about this system can develop on both sides of the border. It is only this manner that both sides can understand what are the expectations and [problems from both fronts and then a solution can be reached easily.
There is no doubt that in the speed and the manner in which we are moving Online Learning is here to stay; the statistics all indicate towards this trend. However, we are not as thoroughly prepared to take on this new change in our lives. It therefore becomes important that firstly those tools are created which can tackle this situation and do their best in the virtual environment as well. It is only then that the true benefits of Online Learning can be experienced.
A History of Online Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved from Online Education: http://seacstudentweb.org/a-history-of-online-learning.php
Kurubacak, G. (2002). Book Review: E-tivities; The Key to Achieve Online Learning by Gilly Salmon. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education,, 4 (1).
Liyan Song, E.S. (2004). Improving Online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics. Internet and Higher Education, 7, 59-70.
Michael W. Ward, G.P. (2010). Student and Faculty Perceptions of the Quality of Online Learning Experiences. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 11 (3).
Mitchell, C. (2007). The Art of Learning Online: Engaging Students. Designs on eLearning.
Smarty, A. (2010, June 25th). History of Online Writing. (R. Schroeder, Editor, & University of Illinois) Retrieved February 1st, 2012, from Online Learning Update: http://people.uis.edu/rschr1/onlinelearning/?p=531
Wanstreet, C. (2006). Interaction in Online Learning Environments: A review of the Literature. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 7(4), 399-411.
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