Online Courses by Traditional Universities

Abstract

Online learning is one of the fastest-growing subsectors of education. It refers to the use of information communication technology (ICT) tools in the provision of education services. Its use in higher learning has revolutionized how students access educational materials and created the need to rethink how traditional universities provide similar services. Albeit widely accepted around the world, online learning has had its fair share of challenges, which stem from concerns about its effectiveness, relative to traditional learning programs. This study investigated the merits of such concerns by examining the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities.

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The findings of the investigation showed that online courses are as effective, if not more than, those offered in mainstream learning programs. This view was developed through the integration of findings developed from an interdisciplinary research process that included a review of studies from technology and educational disciplines. These two areas of assessment were selected for review because they both constituted the two main tenets of online learning: student learning experiences and the deployment of ICT tools. Based on these insights, this study highlights the need to redesign online courses by improving user experiences.

Doing so would improve student motivation levels, thereby safeguarding the efficacy of online programs. Similarly, it is vital to include all stakeholders in the design review process because their buy-in is essential in improving the sustainability of online learning programs.

The Effectiveness of Online Courses Provided by Traditional Universities

Technology has been one of the most disruptive forces of the 21st century. It has redefined people’s expectations of education and impacted how such services are provided to students. Therefore, the concept of online learning has emerged from the technological innovation process and, as espoused by Cornelius, Gordon, and Schyma (2014), it has elevated the prominence of distance learning as a viable mode of knowledge dissemination.

Consequently, virtual learning has emerged as one of the fastest-growing subsectors of education (Cornelius et al., 2014). According to Rodriguez (2014), there has been a surge in the number of students seeking online education. In the United States (US) alone, it is estimated that about 32% of students who are currently pursuing educational programs in higher institutions of learning are doing so online (Rodriguez, 2014). Consequently, some researchers suggest that this type of education will continue to grow exponentially in the next decade (Cornelius et al., 2014).

In this regard, different education institutions around the world have been forced to rethink how they provide such services (Bowman, 2014). This decision has mainly been informed by the minimized need for students to attend physical classrooms because virtual services allow instructors to reach students across different geographical locations.

The growth of online learning has been supported by the development and expansion of the internet (Bowman, 2014). Many traditional universities have embraced this type of learning because of its potential to improve student learning outcomes (Cornelius et al., 2014). Such benefits have motivated education stakeholders to support online learning programs because most of them are grappling with the challenge of providing quality education with limited resources (Cornelius et al., 2014). Furthermore, there has been a significant increase in the demand for online education programs, which emanates from the expansion of educational opportunities for learning (Rodriguez, 2014).

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Online learning thrives on the availability and use of various information technology tools, such as video conferencing, emails, and online discussion forums (Cornelius et al., 2014). These services are offered through various partnerships programs developed between institutions of higher learning and information training vendors (Rodriguez, 2014). Their collaboration has helped to create virtual learning environments that offer different types of degrees or online courses to students. The information exchange process happens through the development of a consistent user interface that integrates student and teacher inputs (Bowman, 2014).

However, some institutions have chosen to adopt a hybrid method of learning where some educational services are offered online, while others are provided when students attend physical classroom sessions (Cornelius et al., 2014).

Although online learning has been touted as a revolutionary concept in education, there are still many concerns regarding its efficacy. For example, there is skepticism about its potential to dilute the quality of education offered in traditional classrooms (Rodriguez, 2014). Similarly, there are concerns about its “antisocial” nature, which are characteristic of traditional classroom settings (Bowman, 2014). Motivated by the importance of addressing these concerns, there is a need to examine the impact of online courses, relative to how traditional universities have historically provided education services. To this extent of analysis, this paper addresses the efficacy of online learning programs by examining one fundamental question listed below.

Research Question (RQ)

What is the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities?

The rationale for developing the above-mentioned research question is provided below.

Rationale

As highlighted in this paper, online learning has emerged as a viable mode of providing education services through the impact of technological changes on the education sector. Consequently, traditional academic programs are competing with this new model of education (Bowman, 2014; Rodriguez, 2014). Nonetheless, existing academic literature on this area of educational development has supported changes that have happened in the sector because they expand the opportunities for educational access to most groups of students (Cornelius et al., 2014). However, as mentioned in this paper, some scholars have expressed concerns about the effectiveness of online learning compared to the traditional model of education (Bowman, 2014; Rodriguez, 2014).

The current research is premised on this debate and it is intended to provide direction to policymakers on how to improve the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities. However, to answer this research question, there is a need to adopt an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the multifaceted nature of virtual learning.

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Importance of an Interdisciplinary Approach

Based on concerns about the effectiveness of online learning highlighted in this paper, there is a need to undertake an interdisciplinary approach to answering the research question because online education is a multifaceted concept. For example, it integrates information communication technology (ICT) tools to improve educational outcomes. This approach integrates different interdisciplinary perspectives and areas of analysis, including students’ attitudes, resource availability, and technical expertise (among others) (Bowman, 2014; Rodriguez, 2014).

An interdisciplinary approach to answering the research question would help in sharing ideas from different interrelated disciplines that underpin online learning (Repko & Szostak, 2016). The purpose of doing so is to apply the knowledge gained in one area of study to another. Consequently, the learning process is enriched.

The need to evaluate the efficacy of online learning experiences from a technological and educational perspective comes from studies that have shown how students enjoy improved learning experiences aided by technological advancements (Bowman, 2014; Rodriguez, 2014). However, the need for face-to-face communications between students and their lecturers is still viewed as central to the implementation of successful educational programs (Bowman, 2014; Rodriguez, 2014).

The importance of an interdisciplinary analysis of the research topic also stems from research investigations that have shown a heightened level of collaboration between some of the world’s top-ranked universities and leading technology companies in the provision of online learning programs (Morais & Paiva, 2014).

These new relationships have radically transformed how educational programs are provided in the traditional classroom setting and elicited a lot of concerns regarding the long-term viability of the traditional model of education (Bowman, 2014; Rodriguez, 2014). Symptomatic of the convergence of media in different fields of science, the need for an interdisciplinary understanding of the effectiveness of online courses is reminiscent of the impact that technology has had on different fields of society and culture. Consequently, there is a need to monitor and study its implications on the education sector.

Broadly, the interdisciplinary research approach was used to investigate the research topic because it is too complex for one discipline to address. Stated differently, gaining important insights into the research approach should involve more than one discipline because no single area of study can address the research problem comprehensively. The complexity of the research project could further be explained by the varied experiences students have with online learning. Based on the fluidity of the research topic identified above, the need to investigate the effectiveness of online courses from technological and educational points of view is vital to this study. Technology and education disciplines are integral to the research process because the virtualization of educational services is both as a result of technological advancements and educational reforms.

Importance of Research

For a long time, the common discourse about online learning in academia has been centered around the need to adopt technological solutions to address some of the global challenges impeding access to education, such as its high cost (Morais & Paiva, 2014). However, this type of thinking has mostly been informed by the economic challenges of providing quality education, thereby undermining the effectiveness of education systems. Stated differently, the current discourse on educational growth and development has failed to accurately focus on the posterity of the current educational reforms. However, as Morais and Paiva (2014) point out, the enthusiasm associated with the uptake of online education programs may have been undermined by a misguided belief that technological reforms would create synergies among all educational stakeholders.

Based on the above-mentioned views, understanding the effectiveness of online courses would inform decisions made by policymakers to improve its impact on students. This view stems from research studies done by Morais and Paiva (2014) who argue that the purpose of online education is not only to improve access to education but also enhance the quality of services offered in the sector. This goal is instrumental in guiding policymakers to make important decisions about improving this area of practice by adopting evidence-based approaches to promoting educational attainment.

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Literature Review

For purposes of this literature review, the concept of online learning will include both blended and hybrid educational programs (a mixture of online and traditional learning methods). Key tenets of this literature review highlight the findings from technology and educational studies that have explored the effectiveness of online courses. However, before delving into this area of analysis, it is important to understand the theoretical framework underpinning this research investigation.

Theoretical Underpinning

It is important to recognize the theoretical underpinning of online learning because it helps to explain how the learning process occurs. Particularly, education theories explain how online courses are implemented in the classroom setting and provide a snapshot of their effectiveness in equipping students with relevant knowledge about their respective schools of study. Indeed, as explained by Rodriguez (2014), the principles of learning theory are often applicable in enabling instructors to provide relevant educational materials to students engaged in online learning. Based on this background, the cognitive learning theory was used as the main theoretical foundation for this study.

It suggests that the effectiveness of online courses depends on students’ learning experiences (Harasim, 2017). Stated differently, the theory suggests that most people understand knowledge through their learning experiences (Kolodziej, 2015). Therefore, reflecting on those experiences helps them to create their understanding of knowledge. For example, when students learn about a new piece of knowledge, they must reflect on how it relates to their previous life experiences. Often, when such knowledge fails to align with their perceptions of reality, they may reject the new knowledge or question the process of obtaining it.

However, when the same knowledge aligns with their experiences, their willingness to integrate it into their daily life is high (Harasim, 2017). Therefore, proponents of the cognitive learning theory encourage students to ask questions about their respective disciplines and personalize their learning experiences to make sense of new information (Kolodziej, 2015). In this regard, the cognitive learning theory suggests that most students who engage in interdisciplinary studies should develop their understanding of knowledge through their learning experiences.

The above-mentioned theoretical basis is relevant to this study because online learning creates a new experience for students to gain new knowledge. Therefore, their reception to this mode of learning could significantly impact how they assimilate new knowledge. This process is comparable to past experiences of learning, which are based on traditional learning programs. Therefore, by relying on the main tenets of the cognitive learning theory, it would be possible to understand the effectiveness of online learning, vis-à-vis past learning experiences provided by traditional universities (Harasim, 2017). Based on this theoretical framework, a review of educational studies is provided below.

Educational Studies

Most research studies that have investigated the effectiveness of online courses have done so from an educational point of view. For example, the scholarly works of Ellman and Schwartz (2016) and Morais and Paiva (2014) all point to this disciplinary perspective. Most educational studies have also affirmed the merits of online learning by showing that they have higher retention rates for students (Rodriguez, 2014; Morais & Paiva, 2014).

One of the reasons why online learning has garnered widespread attention in the education sector is its purported immense benefits that range from improving access to education to promoting the cost-effectiveness of learning programs. Relative to this assertion, Ellman and Schwartz (2016) say that this type of education has attracted a lot of attention because it allows almost anyone with a stable internet connection to receive a world-class education.

Online learning has gained prominence recently because of the high cost of education associated with traditional learning programs. Therefore, some researchers consider it a solution to the high cost of education (Rodriguez, 2014; Morais & Paiva, 2014). This is why online learning has received widespread attention in the higher education sector because many countries are struggling to manage high costs of education. For example, the United States (US) is grappling with the problem of high student debt, which is asymptomatic of the high cost of higher education in the North American nation (Ellman & Schwartz, 2016).

Relative to this assertion, a report by Rodriguez (2014) suggests that the total cost of student debt is over one trillion dollars. Therefore, online learning has been touted as one of the most practical solutions to solving this problem because the marginal cost of pursuing an online course is significantly lower than the cost of doing so in the traditional classroom setup. Intertwined with the above-mentioned benefit is the convenience associated with online learning. In other words, online learning allows students to gain world-class education, regardless of their location or time zone.

Some research studies that have explored the effectiveness of online courses suggest that students play a pivotal role in safeguarding the credibility of linked learning programs (Rodriguez, 2014; Morais & Paiva, 2014). For example, the study by Morais and Paiva (2014) suggests that a section of students view online learning with skepticism. In a similar study authored by Rodriguez (2014), it was established that some teachers and instructors were skeptical about the efficacy of online learning programs. Notably, these professionals have expressed concern about the integrity of online courses and their impact on education in general (Rodriguez, 2014; Morais & Paiva, 2014).

Particularly, the researchers drew attention to doubts that exist among young students towards its efficacy, relative to traditional learning programs. They also pointed out that online learning programs focused on increasing educational features by integrating new tools in learning were not as effective as those that strived to improve student learning experiences (Rodriguez, 2014; Morais & Paiva, 2014).

Most educational studies that have evaluated the efficacy of online learning programs have used the content analysis method to scrutinize pieces of knowledge provided on virtual and physical platforms of learning. For example, the study by Rodriguez (2014) adopted this approach by investigating the use of content analysis methods as a basis for evaluating the effectiveness of online learning programs. Consequently, the researcher emphasized the need to undertake proper training to improve the reliability of the content analysis technique (Rodriguez, 2014). Nonetheless, it was also established that the processes of content analysis helped to significantly improve the effectiveness of online learning programs (Rodriguez, 2014). Overall, a broad assessment of the above-mentioned educational studies shows that they support online learning as a viable mode of education.

Technology Studies

Research investigations that have examined the effectiveness of online courses from a technological perspective suggest that they are more effective than traditional learning because of the short time associated with studying online (Boisselle, 2014; Cornelius et al., 2014; Bowman, 2014). Then minimal time investments are linked with the elimination of time and travel constraints in modern education, as information is disseminated instantaneously (Boisselle, 2014; Cornelius et al., 2014; Bowman, 2014).

Indeed, the traditional model of learning is affected by heavy costs associated with setting up physical infrastructures. However, the infusion of technological tools in the learning process eliminates this need by making it possible for learners to study from wherever they are. Investments in technology are also cost-effective, in the sense that little investments are needed to have the maximum impact on student learning outcomes. This area of assessment is vital to the growth of learning in higher education because the rising cost of education in many countries has emerged as a prohibitive factor for knowledge acquisition.

Some technology-based studies have evaluated the use of information communication technology tools in improving the quality of online learning programs and suggested that the effectiveness of online courses depends on the ecological and evolutionary adaptation of teaching and learning programs to ICT tools (Cornelius et al., 2014; Bowman, 2014). Although information communication tools have been used to improve access to education by integrating learners to an online learning community, the same ICT tools have also helped them to pursue their individualistic needs through an adaptation to the “internet culture” (Cornelius et al., 2014; Bowman, 2014).

This type of culture appeals to the need to individualize education services in the virtual network to suit students’ personal preferences. The ability to adapt educational services to meet individualized student learning needs helps to harness the power of technology to provide a student-centered learning program and a user-friendly approach to education. Therefore, studies that have criticized the effectiveness of online learning based on its perceived one-size-fits-all model fail to recognize that such criticisms do not represent the innate ability of technology to provide effective learning programs but rather provide an indicator of the incompetence of traditional learning institutions to implement online learning programs effectively.

Online learning has traditionally depended on the effective implementation of computer-aided instruction programs. Coupled with the implementation of instructional technology, the implementation of this mode of learning locates it within discussions that evaluate how students learn. As espoused by Boisselle (2014) and Cornelius et al. (2014), this context of analysis means that online learning is a form of distance education and may be regarded as a new type of educational technology. Its online character is deemed the most facilitative aspect of the education program and has a significant implication in how students and observers perceive its efficacy.

A deeper understanding of the impact of online learning tools on the effectiveness of virtual education programs stems from the need to understand what it means to be “online” and “learn” at the same time. Furthermore, it is important to recognize how the two concepts merge in the implementation of online learning programs. This discussion is supported by the view that online learning depends on the effective implementation of learning tools, which change frequently, thereby making it difficult to predict the future direction of virtual education programs.

Based on the above insights regarding online learning, some researchers have voiced concerns regarding the efficacy of online learning based on their concerns about the environmental designs of online learning (Cornelius et al., 2014). To address this concern, Boisselle (2014) mentions that the effectiveness of online learning and its assessments depends on the willingness of educational institutions to identify and assess three key areas of evaluation: learning, knowledge acquisition, and community engagement. Research has shown that the implementation of these assessment methods depends on the social, political and economic dynamics of a society (Boisselle, 2014; Cornelius et al., 2014). For example, learning in developing countries that have scarce resources is deemed to be assessment-based despite a quest to make it learner-centered (Boisselle, 2014).

Overall, studies that have underscored the technological aspects of online learning have demonstrated that technological tools have helped to improve the efficacy of online courses by reducing the cost of access to education, unlimited access to educational materials (such as video recordings), development of training simulators to address varied learning challenges, creation of opportunities for testing intermediate programs, distribution of workload, and the ability to time learning programs. All these features are unique tools that have aided universities around the world to safeguard the integrity of their learning programs.

Methodology

The research methodology applied in this research process was informed by the views of Repko and Szostak (2016) on interdisciplinary research. They say that such a methodology should focus on searching, as opposed to finding information (Repko & Szostak, 2016). Inspired by this recommendation, the process of looking for information in this research process was nonlinear. Stated differently, it was iterative and reflective to understand potential areas of bias that could influence the merits of the research findings.

Based on the nature of the research question, two main disciplines were relevant to the study: education and technological development. Education was vital to the investigation because this study primarily focused on assessing the efficacy of online learning programs, relative to those provided in traditional universities. Comparatively, the technology discipline was relevant to the investigation because online courses are provided using linked tools. Making connections between these two disciplines (education and technology) was critical to the study process because the research question was multifaceted. For example, the subjectivity of students’ learning experiences had to be accounted for because they are rooted in their interests in seeking purpose and meaning in their educational experiences.

The interdisciplinary approach to learning explains why the cognitive learning theory emerged as the main theoretical basis for this study because it contextualized student learning experiences as a mode of knowledge acquisition. The investigation also merged the two disciplines identified in this study (education and technology) because doing so defines students’ learning experiences. This approach to learning also enabled the researcher to investigate the topic in greater detail because an amalgamation of different interdisciplinary perspectives on the research topic allowed for an in-depth investigation of the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities. The process also allowed for the development of critical thinking skills because the investigation covered different interdisciplinary perspectives on the research topic.

Based on the recommendations of Repko and Szostak (2016) on interdisciplinary research, the following ten steps were followed in coming up with the research findings.

Step Description
1 Defining the problem
2 Justifying the problem using an interdisciplinary approach
3 Identifying relevant disciplines and choosing one that is relevant to the
problem
4 Conducting a literature search
5 Developing adequacy in each discipline identified
6 Analyzing the problem and identifying areas of specific insight
7 Identifying conflicts among the insights identified
8 Creating a common ground
9 Integrating insights
10 Developing an interdisciplinary understanding of the problem

The results of the integration phase are identified below.

Integration of Findings

As highlighted in this report, the effectiveness of online learning was analyzed from an interdisciplinary perspective that includes the need to review different insights from educational and information technology points of view. The importance of using the interdisciplinary approach was rooted in the need to get in-depth information regarding the research topic. Furthermore, the purpose of doing so was to apply the knowledge gained in one area of study to another.

Stemming from this interdisciplinary approach, the rationale for using the technological perspective in answering the research question was rooted in the integration of different information communication tools in online learning. Therefore, the technological approach to analyzing the research question stemmed from the need to evaluate the effectiveness of online courses by reviewing their technical components. Conversely, the education approach was focused on addressing the research question from a non-technical perspective. This disciplinary approach helped to understand the impact of subjective factors, such as student and teacher attitudes when analyzing the research question.

Areas of Conflict

Comparatively, one of the major areas of conflict between the insights gathered in this study was the lack of synergy between the different disciplines highlighted in this study. Furthermore, most of the studies sampled in this document did not have a historical or comparative context of the views espoused. Also, they failed to recognize institutional impediments that impact the effectiveness of online courses. The same studies contained conflicting definitions of interdisciplinary investigations, which made it difficult to correctly predict the contribution of each discipline to the development of the research findings.

Another area of assessment that emerged from the interdisciplinary investigation was the assessment of online learning programs as a basis for measuring program effectiveness. The assessment process was critical to this analysis because it ensured that each student participating in online learning acquired the necessary skills for completing a specific educational program. The tools used to undertake this process have a significant impact on the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities. Alternatively, the benefits of online learning identified in the literature review section of this report have a positive effect on the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities.

Intimately connected to the need to assess the review criteria for online learning programs is the need to assess the credit award criteria for online learning compared to traditional earning methods. Stated differently, traditionally, colleges have awarded degrees based on credits that students garner while studying in traditional classrooms. There is contention regarding the equivalency of test scores on the online learning platform because some stakeholders deem it contentious to award the same type of credits on the virtual learning platform (Cornelius et al., 2014).

Relative to this assertion, Kolodziej (2015) advocates for the creation of a credit equivalency platform for online learning that would make it easier to compare the credits a student gets on online and offline. Relative to this discussion, there are concerns regarding the dilution of degrees when students are transferring credits offline to online. However, it is estimated that the process should be flexible to the extent that it promotes a seamless transfer of credits (Cornelius et al., 2014).

Another area of analysis that emerged from the interdisciplinary investigation is the major constraints limiting the usefulness of online learning programs. These issues refer to the limitations learners experience when completing their online courses. This area of analysis was critical to the investigation because it showed how traditional universities ignored significant student concerns regarding their learning experiences and instead went ahead to provide educational services with little regard for improvements. This practice seemed to have a limiting effect on the effectiveness of online courses.

The scholarly research works sampled in this paper also focused on the major benefits associated with online learning programs. They showed that online learning was as effective, if not more, than the traditional model of education. This analysis was highlighted by Larionova, Brown, Bystrova, and Sinitsyn (2018) through an investigation of the effectiveness of online learning in Russia. The findings showed that virtual education with tutor support had high levels of effectiveness compared to traditional educational courses.

Both sets of interdisciplinary studies sampled in this report also allude to the same outcome by demonstrating that the provision of online learning materials to traditional learning programs greatly improved the efficacy of linked educational programs. Therefore, online learning was not only effective based on its merit but also its ability to improve the traditional model of education.

Another area of assessment was the impact of major delivery methods on online learning programs. This analytical area was notably relevant to the technological disciplinary approach or assessment of the research process. However, the impact of the delivery method on online learning programs is unknown because the process is dependent on the type of delivery methods used. The techniques used to carry out the investigation also had a significant impact on the effectiveness of online courses because they outline a systematic way of identifying what the audience needs. Consequently, the learning process was designed to suit learners’ needs.

Common Ground

Broadly, both sets of studies identified in this report showed that online learning was as effective as traditional learning programs. The findings of the above-mentioned disciplines are integrated into this section of the paper by considering the coalescence of online learning tools, student attitudes, and the school environment. The same findings highlight the increased democratization of higher education services around the world. As highlighted in this report, one of the steps involved in completing this interdisciplinary research process was the creation of common ground between conflicting insights. It was necessary to recognize this common ground to realize synergy between different interdisciplinary concepts.

Therefore, the analysis of interdisciplinary views helped to create a common ground for a collaborative analysis between the technological and educational aspects of this research investigation. Particularly, a common ground that emerged between the insights obtained from this investigation is the admission of best practices in the provision of online courses by traditional universities. In other words, the recognition of best practices in the implementation of online courses provided a platform for which conflicting insights could be reconciled and subsequently integrated.

The cognitive learning theory explains why online learning is as effective as traditional education programs because it draws attention to the mental processes that occur in both learning environments (Harasim, 2017). This is a basic tenet of the theory because it espouses the need to evaluate student learning experiences from a cognitive perspective. Therefore, its main tenets suggest that the effectiveness of online courses depends on how well they improve the mental processes involved in creating a conducive learning environment (Harasim, 2017). The main tenets of this theory are closely linked with some of the literature review findings highlighted in this document because some researchers identified negative attitudes among students and teachers towards online learning as an impediment to realizing its effectiveness (Wright, 2014).

The cognitive learning theory explains how such experiences could be improved by focusing on students’ mental processes (Kolodziej, 2015). Relative to this discussion, effective cognitive systems are easier to implement, thereby yielding high levels of efficacy in implementation. Therefore, the contribution of the cognitive learning theory to this discussion is premised on the need to create a conducive learning environment for online programs.

Overall, the findings of this study suggest that technology does not necessarily change the effectiveness of traditional learning programs. Instead, it only changes the platform through which education services are provided and allows universities to tweak programs to suit individual or group needs. The infusion of this flexibility in learning programs highlights the role played by technology in availing useful tools for speedy information exchange. Arguably, these tools have helped instructors to customize educational programs to suit individual learning needs, thereby improving the efficacy of online courses. This assertion explains why some studies found that online programs were more effective than offline programs. The use of educational learning tools on the virtual platform explains this difference.

Summary and Recommendations

The literature analyzed in this study suggests that the effectiveness of online courses is at par if not better than those provided in traditional classroom settings. The need for further research on analyzing the effectiveness of online learning programs would only be relevant to those who want to substantiate their learning programs through asynchronous discussions. Relative to these discussions, the findings of this study highlight the need to make ICT services more user-friendly and prolific to students to gain more acceptability.

The importance of improving educational standards, as a prelude to improving the effectiveness of online learning programs, should also be considered an important step in the future reorganization of virtual education programs. Albeit widely accepted by most traditional universities, the development of online learning has come with several implementation challenges, which are addressed by the recommendations outlined below to make it more effective and responsive to student needs.

Recommendations

The purpose of this study was to understand the effectiveness of online courses provided by traditional universities. They showed that online courses are as effective if not more as those provided by traditional universities. However, there is a need to redesign online courses to make sure they capture students’ aspirations during learning. In line with this proposal, there is a need to account for student capabilities when designing online courses to make sure they reflect the goals of the linked educational programs. This recommendation stems from research investigations that have highlighted the need to have motivated students as a prerequisite for the successful implementation of online programs.

The views of researchers (mentioned in the literature review chapter) who have highlighted poor student attitudes as an impediment to the successful implementation of online programs (Wright, 2014) inform this view. Furthermore, as highlighted by Larionova et al. (2018), low levels of student motivation would lead to the development of ineffective online courses. It would be difficult to create a supportive educational environment for online learning without addressing some of these issues.

Lastly, there is a need to engage all educational stakeholders in the process of designing online learning programs because their input is critical in addressing many potential barriers to its implementation. This strategy will make sure that such programs are effective by improving the attitudes of stakeholders towards its implementation. Furthermore, some of them will be able to give valuable feedback that would be vital in the improvement of existing educational programs. Alternatively, those who are mandated to implement such recommendations will do so enthusiastically.

References

Boisselle, L. N. (2014). Online-learning and its utility to higher education in the Anglophone Caribbean. SAGE Open, 4(4), 1-10.

Bowman, J. (2014). Online learning in music: Foundations, frameworks, and practices. London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Cornelius, S., Gordon, C., & Schyma, J. (2014). Live online learning: strategies for the web conferencing classroom. London, UK: Macmillan International Higher Education.

Ellman, M. S., & Schwartz, M. L. (2016). Article commentary: online learning tools as supplements for basic and clinical science education. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 12(3), 1-10.

Harasim, L. (2017). Learning theory and online technologies (2nd ed.). London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Kolodziej, L. (2015). Model-directed learning. Albert Bandura’s social cognitive learning theory and its social-psychological significance for school and instruction. New York, NY: GRIN Verlag.

Larionova, V., Brown, K., Bystrova, T., & Sinitsyn, E. (2018). Russian perspectives of online learning technologies in higher education: An empirical study of a MOOC. Research in Comparative and International Education, 13(1), 70-91.

Morais, E., & Paiva, C, M. (2014). Myths and realities of e-learning: Exploratory survey of higher education students. E-learning and Digital Media, 11(3), 300-313.

Repko, A. F., & Szostak, R. (2016). Interdisciplinary research: Process and theory (3rd ed.). London, UK: SAGE Publications.

Rodriguez, M. A. (2014). Content analysis as a method to assess online discussions for learning. SAGE Open, 4(4), 1-10.

Wright, R. D. (2014). Student-teacher interaction in online learning environments. New York, NY: IGI Global.

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