MOOCs and the South African Higher Education Landscape

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Introduction To Online Learning

Review of Common Terminology

Various authors have applied inconsistent connotations to online learning jargon. This can often lead to confusion amongst the reading community. Jargon sometimes makes something easy confusing and/or overwhelming. We often waste a lot of time debating about the jargon and yet when one uses it regularly you soon realise that it is actually not that complex.

In some texts you can find that the words e-learning, computer assisted learning, mobile learning and many others are being used instead of online learning. In an attempt to demystify the jargon, we distinguish the differences (if any) between the various terms as a guide for reading this book. Below is a list terms commonly used within discourse related to learning on the internet and learning using computing devices:

Educational Technology: Is the use of any technological resources and processes in teaching and learning that is aimed at enhancing and developing student learning.

Computer Assisted Learning (CAL): This is a process or method aimed at enhancing student learning through the use of computer software packages. CAL systems are developed in such a way that they do not rely on an internet connection, thus allowing them to perform complex functions without the drawbacks that arise from poor internet connections.

Distance Learning:  Is a learning process or system in which the learning facilitator is situated in a significantly distant geographical area than that of the learners. The geographical distance is enabled through the aid print and/or electronic learning processes and resources

E-learning: stands for electronic learning. In essence it is a type of learning in which electronic devices are used to deliver learning resources or content. There are current advocates for dropping the “e”, however this would lead to a lot of confusion (jargon-wise) and for this book we keep the current spelling “e-learning” for the purpose of readability. The can be dropped abstractly in order to ensure that “learning” remains the main focus.

Online Learning: Is the learning process that occurs within an internet or networked environment.

Online Course: Any course (full qualification or a short course) that can be started and completed in an internet environment. You can study whenever and wherever it suits you: it is flexible but needs to be completed in a prescribed time frame.

Mobile learning: Is an enhanced learning process that uses mobile electronic devices (usually handheld) which allow access to and delivery of learning resources whilst the learner travels through different geographical locations.

Learning Management System (LMS): Is a controlled network based platform that enables individuals or organizations to manage, design and monitor student teaching and learning activities.

It is vital that I highlight that the terms above have been defined in various ways by other authors, organisations and institutions.  Some of the definitions above are purposefully vague, so that the consumer can add more breadth to them depending on their target audience. In this book, you will some of the definitions will be expanded to suit the context under discussion. 


June 16, 2015

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