Universities began joining the online education business in the 1990s. Blackboard, a revolutionary learning management system, emerged in 1999 and, along with several other systems, was adopted in numerous institutions across the US. Since its inception, e-Learning has grown rapidly, feeding off the convenience of distance learning, the freedom of asynchronous viewing or retrieval of instructional components, the cost-effectiveness of non-brick-and-mortar digital classroom space, and the multisensory rush of interactive, grabbing hypermedia tools.
Instructional methods have changed through the years. The field of instructional design through the first half of the 20th century emphasized instructional media such as radio, charts, tables, slides, filmstrips, motion picture projection, and instructional television. It evolved to focus less on the media and include the process of learning, which considered messages exchanged and processed through a sender, receiver, and medium. Further developments were made in the field of cognitive science, especially highlighted by the work of Robert M. Gagne, author of The Conditions of Learning (Every teacher should get acquainted with Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, written in 1965.). Michael Scriven followed with coining the terms “formative assessment” and “summative assessment,” two terms still commonly used throughout the field of education.
“So what?” you ask?
We’ve learned a lot about learning: how to improve instructional resources, how to improve instructional blocks (of time), how to improve instructional objectives, how to improve instructional methods. So goodbye filmstrips and instructional TV. Computers have opened doors of learning opportunities never before imagined, and today, e-learning has presented teachers and students endless possibilities of teaching, assessment, and feedback.
Oxford City Schools (OCS), the school system in which I’m employed, understands the potential of e-learning. In compliance with Alabama law, OCS now offers numerous virtual classes as an alternative method of learning. I’ve been given the opportunity to teach one of these courses, and as an IDD grad student, I’m especially committed to the course’s and the program’s success.
The above infographic offers this statistic: In 2013, 77% of academic leaders expressed the belief that online education provides the same or superior learning outcomes as compared to face-to-face instructional methods. I’m a believer in this statistic: Quality online instruction can be better than traditional face-to-face instruction. But the key is quality. To get quality, learning institutions must embed professional development for its teachers throughout its organizational structure. And teachers must be patient and committed to their development, trusting in the full, yet unreached potential of online learning.
Mr. Somers (aka S’mores)
As this site grows, use the Search feature to locate articles tagged “e-learning,” and read about my day-to-day discoveries, reflections, research, and inquiries in the broad field of online education.