Technology is quickly invading every facet of our lives. Its use is changing from normal to extreme dependability on technology to accomplish daily tasks. This is because of the ease of accomplishment of tasks using various technologies rather than traditional means. For instance, cars and phones are being fitted with GPS technology to act as digital maps. In 2000, approximately 8% of the US populace used GPS technology and this number has climbed to an overwhelming 89% in 2013 due to the ease of use and ease of availability of the technology. These two factors are the prime reason for the heightened use and abuse of technology in different facets of our lives such as business, economy, environment, culture, socializing, and education (Thomas, 2002). This invasion of technology into these different facets has had both positive and negative results on its users and modus operandi of each facet.
In this analysis, focus will be placed on the invasion of technology into the education system and the positive and negative aspects that it has generated. Further, this will be dissected into different subsets representing the education system such as the teaching methodologies, teachers, students, assignment completion, allocation, and execution, and access to education material. However, in the contemporary world, these have become normal attributes for our children and students in the education system. Therefore, the pertinent question is what is the difference between the current system invaded by technology and the traditional system that was void of any technology? How does online education compare to traditional forms of education within the classroom? These two research questions will be the pivotal point for the analysis of this research and the generation of pertinent and articulate information on the research topic.
Scope of Online Learning
In the contemporary world, there is various application of technology into the education system. In the past decade, this has become even more pronounced as educational institutions also try to embrace technology into their normal systems and structures. One of the prime areas that the use of technology has become highly relevant is the use of the digital technology to pass and access information, as well as perform educational tasks using technology. The proliferation of computers into every facet of our lives can be blamed for these changes. The rise of the internet has also been an integral part in the promotion of this ideology (Thomas, 2002).
Aside from mere use of computers to perform various tasks, one of the prime areas becoming relevant in the education is the use of online learning. This is performed using ease of access to information for sharing between peers, students, and teachers. For instance, libraries are expensive to build and maintain the quality of books. Consequently, focus has shifted to making digital copies of books, newspapers, magazines, and other print media. These digital copies are uploaded to servers that hold large data banks and databases where users can access the books using their computers and mobile phones. According to research, access to digital educational material has increased significantly with approximately 65% of students in the US having used a digital copy of a book, newspaper, or other print media related to their educational content.
Another avenue where online education has become ingrained into the educational system is the use of discussion forums where ideas, educational materials, and other relevant materials are shared in open and interactive forums. One such portal being used for the achievement of this purpose is the use of social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, among others. These websites proffer users a chance to create groups where members can join freely and engage fellow scholars in meaningful and educational discussions geared towards understanding certain concepts. The portals allow users to not only engage each other in real time, but also to look back on older discussions, which occurred during their absence. All these discussions are performed online.
In a bid for teachers to remain technologically affront, they have also joined in this fray where they engage their students in discussions regarding their course contents, as well as post assignments online. The teacher can also post course material such as eBooks onto their portals where a wide large number of students can instantly access the information and download it. There have also been changes in the portals used by students to hand in their assignments (Starr and Ricki, 2005). Aside for the traditional method of physically handing in one’s assignment, teachers have alleviated the impediment of this physical interaction by allowing students to post their assignments online through such portals as Drop Box. This is unique since it provides students with easier access to information, as well as its dissemination.
The online learning has also become ingrained in the marking criteria for assignments. Previously, teachers had little or no way to know if a student had cheated in their assignments. This resulted in some students receiving good grades for assignments, which they had copied from fellow students, or downloaded from the internet and the printed it. However, online learning is giving the teachers a platform to assess each student’s assignment thoroughly to ensure that students come up with original content that maintains ethics in research. For instance, to uncover cases of unoriginal content being handed in, teachers use such online software as Turnitin to scan documents for plagiarism and to penalize students found guilty (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, 2009).
Online learning has also become integral in the write up of quality and articulate articles and reports that meet the educational and scholarly standards required (Starr and Ricki, 2005). There are myriads of software that are used in this endeavor. For instance, in the correction of grammar, spelling and syntax errors, students can use such software as Grammarly and Ginger where their documents are scanned online and mistakes autocorrected or suggested to the student for correction. Secondly, while writing up their reports, the students can also access online software that can help them in the search for credible sources from the internet, and provide the proper citations for these sources (Allen & Seaman, 2012). This is useful in the alleviation of plagiarism and poor research integrity for reports, while improving the quality and credibility of a certain report.
Another avenue through which online education is being applied to the contemporary education system is using online learning through massive open online courses (MOOCs). Since 2005, these massive open online courses have increased in their application to the education system. They work by applying a collection of some or all of the methodologies listed above to provide education closer to the online student community. Majorly, it is used by colleges and universities where lecturers upload educational content such as assignments, student lessons, eBooks, course outlines, and other pertinent educational material relevant to the completion of a certain course.
According to developments in this online education industry, several Ivy League universities and colleges have joined and set up websites dedicated to allowing learners to learn online. Some of the websites include Coursera, Udacity and EdX, which are run by Harvard, Stanford, Yale, among other top universities (U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, 2009). These websites provide students from different demographical backgrounds to access high rate educational content from top universities, which are inaccessible to them due to factors such as poor SAT scores, geographical location, and busy working hours, among others. However, the caveat to this system is that in spite one accessing lessons and educational content from top universities, and certificates of completion issued, majority of employers do not recognize these courses as legitimate proof of course completion. Students access all these information from different geographical locations; hence do not require the physical presence in a university or college. However, the perquisite to this system is that the massive open online courses are still a virgin idea and polices, systems, and structures have not been adequately formulated to treat this strategy and systems as credible learning tools.
The debate on the viability of the use of online education in the classroom has come with a lot of proponents and critiques alike. Critiques insist that the traditional system is better and offers more advantage to the students, while the converse is the case for proponents for online education (Allen & Seaman, 2012). Therefore, the pertinent question is, is online education better than the traditional system? The answer to this can be achieved using a strategy that analyses the benefits and demerits of each system, and drawing conclusions from this. Foremost, critiques argue that the advancement of computers into the classroom environment has eroded the basic learning tools that are essential for survival in the real world.
This is because the use of tools such as Drop Box, Grammarly, and other report writing software erodes the basic learning tools. Dependence on software for correcting grammar and spelling mistakes automatically results in poor written vocabulary in the students and this could prove a challenge if required to perform physical written assignments. This linguistic challenge is further manifested by the fact that an analysis of the students using and depending on technology to perform their assignments had 47% failure rate for assignment issued similarly, but with the caveat not to use technology to complete them (Bourne and Janet, 2004). This shows that it is paramount that the use of online education be limited to allow students to learn the basic learning tools before they can graduate to the use of technology.
However, the qualities of the assignments handed in that have used technology for their completion have better quality and precision. These tools alleviate small errors and issues that could render the assignment as lacking in the necessary standards to pass scrutiny by an expert panel of scholars and professionals. The use of plagiarism software allows the student to seek out areas where his assignment is unoriginal and make the necessary changes. Additionally, the lack of grammar and spelling errors is essential in providing assignments and reports whose clarity cannot be questioned since the wording is precise. Using this analogy, it can be confirmed that despite of the issues surrounding the use of online education system, its value and results cannot be questioned hence making it a viable learning tool.
The use of online education has also become widespread especially in the access to educational material online (Starr and Ricki, 2005). Educational content such as eBooks, newspapers, journals, magazines, among others can be easily accessed online and freely. Further, due to advancement in software and search engines such as Google, Bing, and ProQuest, it is possible to search for article online with particular key terms that are in tandem with the research topic. Use of keywords for online research of articles proves useful since only the pertinent articles are retrieved. Students can then peruse the large pool of material drawn from different sources such as books, journals, and newspaper and derive useful data from them (McHaney, 2011). This provides students with a better and more efficient means to access educational content as compared to manually going to the library, pacing around looking for particular shelves and books, and perusing large volumes of books looking for particular information.
This shows that the use of online education system is useful to the student in promoting a culture of achievement of his objectives of accessing knowledge in an easy and qualitative manner. As evidenced above, the use of this system of accessing information can be useful in ensuring that the student saves time searching for educational content, and has a wide array and pool of resources to perform his research online. This system improves the quality of the educational system since it ensures that the student learns in a more precise and easy manner, and produces assignments and reports whose information is well researched and contains valid and useful resources thus increasing its credibility and accuracy (Ming-Tak & Wai-Shing, 2008).
The use of massive open online courses is another subset to the use of online education. When compared to the traditional system, this online education using MOOCs has both merits and demerits. The merits include the ease of access to quality and useful information and education drawn from top universities, ease of time management since one learns at their own time, and reduced costs of education since expenses such as transport and boarding are eliminated (Bourne and Janet, 2004). Additionally, since the courses are open, people with different educational qualifications can earn knowledge and accreditation in course outside their fields of study. For instance, an engineer can learn finance using these MOOCs. The demerits to this system lie in their accreditation and recognition not only by employers, but also by the universities offering their courses online. This means that upon completion of a course, in spite of a certificate being issued, one cannot use it as proof of completion of a course in whatever discipline.
The differences and comparisons between online education and traditional education are many and diverse. The merits and demerits to the use of either one system drawn from a multifaceted pool of arguments. However, the growth of technology in the contemporary world is fuelling a need for change towards adapting to this changes and embracing the use of technology in the classroom environment (Thomas, 2002). The merits derived from this strategy are many and it is vital that educational stakeholders assess the possibility of engaging their systems and structures in an overhaul to create room for technologically driven classrooms.
Allen, E. & Seaman, J. (2012). Conflicted Faculty and Online Education. New York: Neal-Schuman.
Bourne, J. R. and Janet, C. M. (2004). Elements of Quality Online Education: Into the Mainstream. Michigan, US: Olin College – Sloan-C.
McHaney, R. (2011). The New Digital Shoreline: How Web 2.0 and Millennials Are Revolutionizing Higher Education. Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Ming-Tak, H. & Wai-Shing, L. (2008). Classroom Management: Creating a Positive Learning Environment. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
Starr, R. H. and Ricki, G. (2005). Learning Together Online: Research on Asynchronous Learning Networks. New Jersey, US: Routledge.
Thomas, J. W. M. (2002). Learning within incoherent structures: the space of online discussion forums. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 18 (3): 351-366.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Washington, DC.