Saturday, October 3, 2015

Web Based learning

What is web-based learning?

Web-based learning has got much attention as being an incredible opportunity to study nowadays. Despite of its popularity the notion still remains unclear and confusing.
What is web-based learning? First of all it has many names. You have probably heard the following terms: online learning, e-learning, computer-based training, technology-based instruction etc. Generally the meaning and the basic concept of them are the same. Web-based learning is one way to learn, using web-based technologies or tools in a learning process. In other words, learner uses mainly computers to interact with the teacher, other students and learning material.Web-based learning consists of technology that supports traditional classroom training and online learning environments. "Pure" web-based courses are wholly based on computer and online possibilities. In this case all the communication and learning activities are done online. On the other hand, web-based courses may have some face-to-face sessions besides the distant learning tasks. In this case they are called blended courses as they blend web-based activities with face-to-face activities.
Web-based learning can be also formal or informal. Formal web-based learning is purposed and learning activities are organised by teachers. Informal learning takes place while you are searching material from the Internet. It is self-paced, depending on your goals and ambition to learn.
What is different in web-based learning?
Think about what traditional learning is and what web-based learning is. In your opinion, what are the differences and similarities between them?
Generally, web-based learning and traditional learning are similar in terms of desired goals: to acquire new knowledge and skills. In both ways the teacher is mentoring and students are doing various learning activities. Differences between them are seen when we take a closer look at learning activities and tools, teaching approaches, communication issues, etc.
Web-based learning - Why and What?
Rapid development of technology affords innovations also in education. Web-based learning provides many additional opportunities aside traditional way of learning. In this section we are going to talk about learning in general and learning on the web. As you might already know web-based learning is a little bit different than learning in a classroom. Studying the following sections you will learn what it is meant by web-based learning and how it differs from traditional, classroom learning. Furthermore, every innovation has some drawbacks as well as advantages. In this section we are going to discuss some common and widespread issues you should take into account while studying on the web.
The term "learning" has many definitions. Commonly, learning is understood as a continuous process through lifetime. People experience and perceive everyday something new in different situations. In other words, they learn. Definition of learning stresses the importance of behavioural changes and changes in attitudes as a result of experience. Learning is a cognitive process of acquiring knowledge or skills through study, experience or teaching. Learning can take place as organized and purposed activities, such as learning in a classroom with a teacher and ready-made learning material or unconsciously, without you being aware of the process of learning. For example, if you touch a hot pan and get burned, next time you will know that you should not do this again. You have learned from your experiences to stay away from hot things.

Difference between web-based learning and traditional learning
The biggest difference between web-based learning and traditional learning is in communication issues. Web-based learning offers many opportunities for interaction with both fellow students and instructors. Communication can take place via various communication tools such as e-mail, telephone, chat etc. In a traditional way of learning communication and interaction take place mostly at the same time and place as face-to-face meetings. You can learnmore about communication on the web in the fourth part of this material.
Due to the distance between the teacher and students in a web-based learning new learning and teaching approaches are needed. Web-based learning enables learner-centred approach. Learning is seen as an active construction of meaning. The main idea behind teaching is to guide and facilitate learning. Group work and independent learning are at the same time the key words of web-based learning. In traditional learning teacher-centred approach is more common, teacher giving/providing knowledge and students passively receiving it.
Prerequisite for using new approaches is changes of roles of teachers and students. In web-based learning, the teacher is a motivator who encourages and supports students in independent and group work activities. Teacher should be an organiser who plans learning activities to support students in learning process. In addition, teacher has to be a mentor who guides and tutors students through learning material and learning tasks. Students are active in their learning process. Students should construct their own knowledge and organise their learning. Furthermore, they should be able to adopt new technology-based learning tools and approaches.
As a result from new teaching and learning approaches student assessment in web-based courses is also different. In a classroom setting it is usual to have an oral or written exam after the course. The most popular ways to assess students in web-based learning are:
  • discussion forums, where teacher can observe the student's active participation;
  • online multiple choice test, where you can do (self)test;
  • e-portfolio, where you have collected all your material and assignments electronically during the course;
  • report or essay, where you can analyse and express your comprehension based on the content of the course.
Assessments are carried out mainly by tutors or computer. In web-based learning also self- and peer assessment have become popular ways of evaluating students' progress.
Web-based learning assumes different learning tools compared to classroom learning. Modern technology (computers, CD, audio, video, PDA, mobile) is used to create suitable learning environments, disseminate information and carry out various learning activities.
Taking part in web-based courses requires certain skills to be successful. Motivated and independent learners will handle web-based learning better. Knowledge and skills related to the use of computers and their devices are also prerequisites for successful web-based learning. Nevertheless, fortunately all these skills are acquirable
Web-based learning - good or bad?
Web-based learning has both advantages and disadvantages. When comparing them, one can notice that the same factors can be advantages as well as disadvantages depending on the context. Below some factors are described.
Learning theories and approaches
New learning theories and approaches enable to learn and teach in a more effective way. Students can experience a sense of equality. Course work and challenging assignments are stimulating for knowledge building.
Teachers and learners have to adopt new learning theories and approaches. Role changes of teachers and learners may cause frustration and confusion. Without the common structures of a traditional class, students may feel lost or confused about course activities and deadlines.
Independent and learner centred learning
Students can work at their own pace, when they want. Web-based learning enables to study more deeply areas of interest. It encourages exploring material on your own and enables to skip over materials already mastered. Web-based learning supports personalised learning and is self-directed. It builds self-knowledge and self-confidence and encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Learners who are not self-motivated, self-directed and independent are not able to plan their own learning and may have problems. Material and assignment instructions might be too complicated to understand independently. Some of the students may lose motivation without certain deadlines. Independent learning requires certain skills: technological, communication skills, self-motivation and effective study habits.
Web-based learning enables to join discussions at any hour and encourages also those who don't like to speak. It facilitates learning through a variety of activities. Learners have access to courses, which enables to reduce travel time and costs.
Learners with low motivation or bad study habits may fall behind. They may have difficulties in organizing their learning.
Web-based learning provides interaction between students and instructors. Students can share their ideas with other students, which may help to understand the material better.
Prohibits those who are not active learners in a group. Human contact is missing as interaction is relied on electronic communication.
Access to material
Students can study anywhere and anytime if they have an access to computer and Internet. Web-based learning provides continual and also direct access to materials, resources in many different formats and of good quality.
Problems with technology might prevent the access: low speed connection, difficulties to download information, problems with communication tools. Some courses and materials might be out of date. There may be lack of quality control.
Contact with instructors
Working on the web offers an opportunity to communicate with students using e-mail, discussion boards etc. Teachers receive students' work quickly and they provide timely feedback to students' questions.
Teachers are overloaded with students and their contacts. Students may feel isolated from the instructor and classmates. Instructor may not always be available when students are studying or need help.
Use of technology
When you learn to use one browser and certain software, you will probably be able to use other browsers and software as well. Some of the software and web browsers are free of charge on the internet. Web-based learning develops knowledge of the Internet and computer skills that help learners throughout their lives and careers.
Managing computer files and online learning software can be complex for students with beginner-level computer skills. Poor usability may cause troubles with navigation, computers crash or have viruses, impossible to send mails. Software and access to the Internet and e-mail is not free all the time
The list is not complete. Likewise, the advantages and disadvantages mentioned above are disputable and in many cases solvable. Which of the aforementioned aspects you have already experienced as an advantage or disadvantage?

Study Methods on the Web
Studying on the Web requires somewhat different study methods and techniques from "normal" classroom studying or attending to lectures. This part of the material gives you an overlook on different ways to study on the web and on the skills especially relevant to web-based learning.
The differences between web-based learning and traditional learning were described in the "Web-based learning - what and why?" part of this material. It might be a good idea to take a look at that part before reading through this part.
Web-based learning may sound very attractive, as it is possible to study either at home, at work or some other place with a computer and connection to the web, any time that suits you. It is true that web-based learning saves you the time and energy needed to attend the lectures. However, this does not necessarily mean that studying is going to be any easier - the time you used to spend on lectures is needed for independent studies with learning material on the web, with various exercises, assignments and queries as well as for collaborative work with other students, for web-based discussions etc.
Web-based learning means, for a large part, working independently and alone, with a computer and books or some other written or visual material. However, it may - and probably will - also include communication and collaboration with the trainer, tutors and other students. Communication and collaboration on the web is somewhat different from face-to-face situations, so you will need to know some basic things about the acting on the web to make this kind of action successful. Every student has an influence on how well grouping and the feeling of being together with others are realised.Communication, as well as many of the exercises and assignments, requires writing skills and information literacy, so they are introduced as well.

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