Online Learning Today

In an article titled Online Learning in Higher Education: a review of research on interactions among teachers and students Wallace provides context around Online learning and Higher education “Online learning has become a widespread method for providing education at the graduate and undergraduate level. “Although it is an extension of distance learning, the medium requires new modes of presentation and interaction”(WALLACE 2010: 241). I would argue that the observation made by Wallace’s is true and can be applied to the South African Higher Education landscape in that Wallace acknowledges the contribution made by the advances in information and communication technologies (ICT’s) as major contributing factors to the current Higher Education online learning landscape.

in order to make sense of the amalgamation of online learning and higher education, a number of questions have to be asked. How different is online learning to distance learning? How much impact and influence does online learning have on traditional Higher Education institutions largely associated with face-to-face learning environments. By face-to-face learning environment I mean spaces that offer a classroom platform for robust “discussion, feedback, encouragement, or explanation from or with a knowledgeable other”(WALLACE 2010: 241). The introduction of online learning has problematised such classroom environments by questioning the role of the teacher within the classroom, while on the other hand questioning the relevance and effect of activities that would be traditionally been facilitated by a teacher in a face-to-face teaching environment.

In my view it must also be recognised that the introduction and use of online learning and teaching methods in the current Higher Education landscape of South Africa is in some way done in an effort to try complement and enhance the traditional face-to-face teaching, at the same time trying to replace and some if not all costly redundant administrative manual processes.

For me the underlying issue is the advocacy used to promote successful implementation and integration of online learning with or without face-to-face learning, for me the TED Talk by Daphne Koller, one example where the advocacy for online learning is slightly out of context. I say this based on how Daphne used the unfortunate example of a death of a parent as an entry point to promote the idea that if online learning systems where in place this tragic incident could have and would be prevented in the age of online learning. The example Daphne used is still relevant in the context of the talk she was giving, but what the talk fails to acknowledge is the accessibility and affordability of such new ground baking educational technologies by institutions of higher learning as well as the would be users of such ICTs effectively and just in time service and use. it is this advocacy that I feel is still in its infancy stages on some parts of the Higher Education landscape while on other parts it is relatively still in its advanced stages. Ultimately the proliferation of online learning in the South African Higher Education landscape is adopted and adapted to enhance face-to-face.

August 24, 2015

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