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Online Learning

Page history last edited by vreyes@... 15 years, 5 months ago


Online Learning is defined by the Glossary of Library and Internet as "Any learning experience or environment that relies upon the Internet/WWW as the primary delivery mode of communication and presentation[1]. The online learning system includes trends as:



Online Education Systems [2]






E learning is defined as education in a online environment that allows the student to receive instantaneous feedback to the student due to its online availability. Relation among learners in the same class might or might not exist, but the focus of the discipline is the availability of content. It is possible to find definitions that include tools like audio and videotape, satellite broadcast and online television among examples of E-Learning. [2]


In the book, "E-learning in the 21st Century", written by Terry Anderson and D.R Garrison refers to the rapid pace of growth that E-learning experienced.  Anderson attributes the elevated growth rate to the advantages that E-learning presents: speed at tasks that use to happen in a slower pace, like the capability to send and receive information. The availability of material in the internet gives E-learning a huge edge over classroom style classes [3].


John Chambers, from Cisco systems, considers that E-learning is the tool of the future, because it is a great mixer for two of the main trends of actual life: Internet and education. He considers this mix the perfect edge in the world in where new information appears every second [4]. In the article, "Can eLearning promote Higher-order learning Without Tutor Overload?" conducted by S. Fox and K. MacKeogh, they compared the outcome in learning against the time spent by each tutor teaching the lesson. The reported outcome in learning was high, and the time used by the professor to teach the leason was considered "not excessive" [5]. The claims made in this article support the use of E-learning as a  tool for high performance education.


E-learning is also being seen for some experts as the tool that is going to replace the traditional school system based in classroom interaction. Lewis Perelman, an expert in the topic of education considered that E-learning can increase actual learning in thirty percent using forty percent less time, and can also reduce costs in about thirty percent. Perelman considers that regular school setting is obsolete, and that authorities are being slow in recognizing this fact. He added that once citizens start recognizing the advantages offered by E-learning, parents will encourage kids and teenagers to enroll in "alterative institutions", as Perelman refers to E-learning institutions [10]. Howard D. Mehlinger, an expert in the field of education, considers that Perelman ideals are out of range [10].


Online Education Systems


There are two different theories about systems to guide Online Education: The Jigsaw model for online education systems, and the Hub Model. These systems attempt to explain how systems can support Online Education in order to be able to move from small-scall systems to larger ones. These systems are needed to support important tasks concerning E-learning like: providing a curriculum and lessons for every educational level, and tools to support recording processes, report writting and individual files [2].


Jigsaw Model


The system gets his name, because it was created with the intention of having a system that can fit all  the taks in the online education system and give them the same level of importance. The four main categories that this system attempts to fit are: Content Creation Tools, Learning Management System, Student Management System and Accounting System. Issues relating to the Jigsaw Model come from the fact that they give the same importance to all the parts of the system, without paying a greater attention to students [2].


Hub Model


The Hub Model considers that the Student Management System is the central point of the model. This model considers that taking Student Management as the most important part of the system is the most affordable way to control a larger-scale institution. The system is based on the assumption that students are always seeking for more sophisticated educational tools. Besides the Student Management System, the system is built by the following subjects: Content Creation Tools, Learning Management System, Accounting System, Prospective System, Logistics System, CRM System, and other less important systems [2].



Issues concerning Online Learning


For some experts in the topic of education, E-Learning can't be compared to the regular class-room based school system. Caroline Haythornthwaite, in her paper "Social Network Methods and Measures for Examining E-Learning", addresses that one of the main points of education is the creation of among students and with teachers, and as she calls it "a shared experience as colleagues explore a new area together," This assumption discards all the possible advantages that E-learning might have [2].


 Langdon Winner, in the article "The handwritting on the Wall: Resisting Technoglobalism´s Assault On Education", evaluates positively some aspects of Online Learning like it openess to adopt newer styles of teaching and to update itself at the same pace of the economy. and its price compared to regular classroom based education. Winner considers also, the importance that Online Learning is going to have to decision makers in the field of business. Online Learning allow businessmen to get involved in the field of education, which moves around the market the astronomic number of six hundred million dollar every year. With the old system of classroom based education, the market of education was controlled only by the government, but the creation of Online education allows regular investors to get involved in this huge market. Through the same article, Winner also consider the possible issues concerning the topic of Online Learning. Budgets for schools and colleges is being cut down, mainly because of the believe that Online Learning brought about education that doesn´t need any physical materials to supplement learning. This reduction in budget and stuff members also lead to a lack of interest among schools to preserve high quality supplemental courses like physical education, arts and music. Another issue addresed by Winner is the dissapearence of jobs that took place at college or university builidings. People that clean buildings, check machinery or simply helps around in the facility are not needed anymore. Indirectly, Online learning could be leading to unemployment at the level of blue collar workers. The overall opinion of Winner about learning is that both advantages and disadvantages can be found, but as every new technology created, skeptism exists [6].


Jim O´Neil, a professor for the University of Pennsylvania, names computer based correction for essays as the main auxiliar tool that helped him built a strong relationship with his students. O´Neil recalls, "This (technology) changed my relationship with students", because as he explains, it involved the student in the conversation and in the process of correcting essays. O´Neil´s use of technology helped him to set free time in the actual classroom for discussion and analysis, two of the main skills schools should develop in the students.O´Neill is also known for supplying his students with online tools such as videos, written examples, pictures and Online forums that prepare students for the next class in advance [7]. O´Neill considers that the advantages  provide to the students are the freedom to participate in a discussion whenever the student have free time, the possibility of shy students to present point of views in a situation that is not peer to peer discussion, and it also allows students with slowers way of thinking to be able to express about materials. A good mixture among Online Learning and the regular classroom style proves to be the best way torts the achievement of a better, more complete education [8].


In the Article "Building a Bridge to Neil Postman", the author Arnold Kling analyses some of Postman's views. On the topic of Online Education, Kling admits that Postman made a good point about Online Education just supplying tools that don't improve the overall education outcome, and just make education more complex. Kling explains that no Online Education tool improves thinking and problem-solving capacities. However, Kling is still skeptic about "Distance Learning". He considers that watching at school related material in your living room using a computer is not helpful. Kling explains his point by saying that VCR could have done the same thinking, but nobody ever considered this technology as a tool to improve education. Kling concludes his article saying that "What Internet has done to education is that it has taken away from teachers, and adults in general, the respect and knowledge that comes from superior knowledge". Kling's point of view re-affirms some of the fears that teachers and workers for the school system have about the existance of Online Education [8].




Most media writters conclude that Online Learning is a helpful tool to regular classroom education, which can help students prepare for class in advance and develop their thinking skills by creating less stressfull debate environments for the students to participate in [8]. However, the general conclusion about Online Learning is that it can not replace by any means the existing school based education system. Teachers agree about the necessity of students to have a place in where relationships peer-to-peer ocurr, and also about the importance of developing human relationships in a real face to face environment, which are points impossible to overcome by Online Learning [2[.


The concensus about the usefulness of Online Learning is that if used right, it can be a tool that can enhance the value of the time because it allows students to participate in class whenever they have time, and offers a less stressful environment for shy students, but when it comes to the important points that education should achieve, the existing school system presents the best option, mainly because it can help develop the most important qualities in a person: Thinking, problem-solving skills, and the ability to create succesful relationships in a real face to face environment [10].




[1] Glossary of library and Internet Terms. 09 January, 2001. I.D Weeks Library, The University of South Dakota. 8 November 2008. http://www.usd.edu/library/instruction/glossary.html 

[2]  Carolie Haithornthwaite. Social Network Measures for Examining E-learning. 10 April 2005. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. 17 November 2008. http://www.wun.ac.uk/elearning/seminars/seminars/seminar_two/papers/haythornwaite.pdf

[3] D.R Garrison and Terry Anderson. E-Learning in the 21st Century. New York: RoutledgeFalmer. 2003. http://books.google.es/books?id=m4fnf-onzomc&printsec=frontcover&dq=E-learning+in+the+21st+Century

[4] H. Rosemary H. Wild, Kenneth A. Griggs, Tanya Downing. A framework for e-learning as a tool for knowledge management. 2002. Emerald Groups. 20 November 2008. 


[5] S. Fox, K. MacKeough. Can e-Learning Promote Higher-order Learning Without Tutor Overload? 2008. Ingenta. 24 Nov. 2008.


[6] Langdon Winner. The Handwriting on the Wall: Resisting Technoglobalism´s Assault on Education.1997. Fernwood Pub.  4 December 2008.


[7] Jim O'Neil. Electonic Pedagogy. 17 August 2007. Al Filreis. 5 December 2008


[8] Jim O'Neil. A Teaching Revolution.11 August 2001, 19:16:51 EDT. Inquirer Sunday Magazine. 5 December 2008.


[9] Arnold Kling. Building a Bridge to Neil Postman. 17 October 1999. Arnold Kling. 5 December 2008.


[10] Howard D. Mehlinger. Achieving School Refor through Technology. 1995. Technos. 1 December 2008.



Comments (3)

Jeff Martinek said

at 6:41 pm on Dec 3, 2008

Many relevant articles can be found here:


vreyes@... said

at 10:23 am on Dec 4, 2008

Thanks Mr. Martinek, I will take a look at that website.

Jeff Martinek said

at 12:15 pm on Dec 4, 2008

One of MY teachers from my college days, Al Filreis at U of Pennsylvania, has a lot of material online about his use of e-learning technology:



NeoLuddite Langdon Winner has a long article critiquing e-learning and other forms of technology-centered learning here:


Neil Postman's book "The End of Education" has a critique of "distance learning" as well.

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