Education from 1728 TO Online Learning in 2015

Posted by Wilma De Villiers

The landscape of higher education has changed tremendously over the past years. In 1728 the first distance course was offered via e-mail, 1922 the radio came, 1968 TV, 1976 computers and look where we are today: Online learning, a competitive market, is part of these changes. Universities had to take into consideration what the masses need e.g. easier access to education. The effect of globalisation brought along rapid changes in technology which contributed to the development of online learning, a structure that contributed to accommodating more people.
The emphasis is changing from distance education to online learning. A more suitable option is however blended learning which includes online components. More and more universities and colleges are investing in online learning and/ or blended learning. In the video reference is made to the 43 courses that are being offered for free. This course that we are doing is offered for free BUT will it be acknowledged by the workplace?
On a website, Skills Universe, people commented on online learning. One participant commented that they developed interactive online university modules. They have spent a lot of money to ensure a good quality course but they are still struggling to get accreditation in South Africa. The SETA’s did not want to accept the technology and they were informed that “SAQA had not accredited the SETA for e-learning, so they were not in a position to accredit a provider for e-learning.” This shows us that there are still fields in South Africa that is not ready for the challenges and implementation of online learning.
The references on the MOOCS’ website for this course focusses mainly on e-learning. A challenge is that teachers are not equipped to implement e-learning in schools. E-learning courseware is designed for specific audiences but I am not so sure that this is always the case. A bigger challenge for me is that teachers are often overloaded with marking and extra-mural activities and will have to find the time to get trained. Many students and lecturers who are used to the traditional classroom based learning often measure the quality of learning by the information transmitted by a subject expert. I thought that the bigger challenge would be to improve computer and information skills but a bigger challenge is to get students to take responsibility for their own learning.
It was challenging to find statistics on on-line learning and how it increased over the years. South Africa is still in the beginning phase of online learning.

Posted by Wilma De Villiers


Computers & Education Volume 45, Issue 2, September 2005, Pages 217–229
TED TALK by Daphne Koller (video)

July 6, 2015

8 responses on "Education from 1728 TO Online Learning in 2015"

  1. Wilma, thank you for highlighting the SAQA challenge. I know accreditation is important, but I often feel accreditation overshadows the real goal which is Learning. For example, our Matric is accredited, but it still fails to produce any real quality students. Don’t you think companies should do ther own competency tests before they hire, instead of depending on accredited qualifications which are often not a true reflection of competency?

  2. David, thanks for the response. I totally agree with you that companies need to implement their own competency tests. I also think that an ‘informal’ course like this one that we are doing is of great value. We are learning in an informal way and it is worth more than some of the ‘recognised’ courses that I have done. The challenge is that in the ‘real world’ we need recognised qualifications.

  3. I had not thought of the SAQA, issues. Thanks for highlighting it. Furthermore, the overloaded teachers and their level of skills is a huge barrier to online learning, whether blended or pure. And it is true that the biggest challenge would be to encourage students to take responsibility of their own learning. This often involves a whole lot of stakeholders e.g. community, political leadership, parents, teachers etc… With all these huge and real challenges you mention, where do you suggest we start?

  4. What a pleasant read. Spot on. An interesting perspective on the SAQA issue. I had not thought of that.

  5. Frederick, asked how one can motivate the online learner. I copied and pasted the following from an article, “How to motivate students in the online learning environment”:
    • Provide timely feedback on assignments. At the beginning of phase two, the student should ideally receive feedback on at least one individual assignment. This provides the instructor with the opportunity to make a connection with the student, thus motivate a student just at the point when the student is moving towards becoming an independent learner. This reinforces the student’s increasing level of self-direction.
    • Respond to student questions within 24 hours. Doing so encourages focus and commitment..
    • Include constructive and personalized feedback on assignments. Even if a grade is poor, constructive and supportive feedback from the instructor is appreciated.
    • Craft a weekly message in the form of a text or video message to post to the course home page. Doing so demonstrates to students that the instructor is indeed involved and engaged in the course.
    • Comment strategically within discussion boards – making note of insightful or notable comments made by students.

    My personal opinion is that everything that is said in this article is true but I belief that motivation comes from within – do you really want to do it. What works well in this platform is the comments and even more important, the questions that peers and the facilitator ask.…/how-to-motivate-students

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