Despite the misconceptions held by the general public regarding online learning, several comparative studies have determined that there is no significant difference in the outcomes of online classrooms when compared to traditional face-to-face classrooms. (Rice 2006). While this is encouraging, it is also clear that not every student is destined to be successful in an online learning environment:
“The undeniable fact is that some students succeed in the virtual educational environment and some fail just as they do in traditional classroom environments. The key lies in understanding the critical components in an educational context that promote and encourage student success, not the media that was used to deliver instruction.” (Rice 2006)
Some students will thrive in an online environment while others will be better served in a face-to-face classroom. The key is determining the attributes of a successful online student.
While research regarding best practices for online learning is difficult to obtain due to the relatively infancy of the industry, four key areas of focus critical to program success have been identified. This week I will be posting four keys to student success in online courses. These "best practices" were gleaned through research that I conducted through a wide variety of sources.
1. Social Interaction:One of the concerns expressed by both parents and students when confronted with the issue of online learning is the issue of social interaction. One of the common misconceptions is that students in online courses interact with their peers and instructors less because they are not physically present with one another.
Downs and Moller (1999 in Rice 2006) indicate that “students have a real need to make connections with their instructors and their peers and research consistently supports the concept that faculty-to-student and student-to-student interactions are important components in student satisfaction and student retention.”
Vrasidas & Zembylas (2003 in Rice 2006) identified high quality materials and frequent teacher-student interaction as key components to student success.
McLoughlin (2002 in Rice 2006) identified reflective thinking and feedback from peers and mentors as types of interactions which lead to student learning and success.
These three studies indicated that a critical component to any online program is the interaction between instructors and students and between students.
Rice, Kerry Lynn. "A Comprehensive Look at Distance Education in the K-12 context." Journal of Research on Technology in Education 38.4 (2006): 425-448. Web. 29 Apr 2011. .
Allen, I. Elaine, and Jeff Seaman. "Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009." Sloan Consortium. The Sloan Consortium, January 2010. Web. 29 Apr 2011.