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What is a LMS?
LMS stands for Learning Management System and it's a
global term for a computer system specifically developed for managing online
courses, distributing course materials and allowing collaboration between
students and teachers. A LMS will allow you to manage every aspect of a course,
from the registration of students to the storing of test results, as well as
allowing you to accept assignments digitally and keep in touch with your
LMSs are built on various platforms, commonly PHP,
.Net or Java and they will hook up to a database such as PostgreSQL, MySQL or
SQL Server. There are many LMSs out there, both commercial and open source.
In a corporate environment such a system can be used
to monitor staff, and keep records of appraisals and training. Whether your
course is run for a few learners over a long period of time, or for many over a
shorter period, a Learning Management System makes your life easier and helps
your course run smoothly. A good LMS will also have a reporting system so you
can access information that would be tricky to gather yourself.
LMSs do vary in the features they offer, but most
systems are likely to have some or all of the following features:
GUI stands for Graphical User Interface. Most LMSs
offer customization options for the interface to allow the user to give a
unique flavor to his learning platform. Although the GUI is there to make the
environment more aesthetically pleasing, it’s also meant to be functional.
Aside from the GUI an LMS will oftentimes offer
several different options for customization to tailor the system to your needs.
Language options, notification settings and other important features can be
changed to suit the way you want your LMS to work for you. This is great
because one LMS can be used by many different types of users, each with unique
The system may allow students to enroll online and
keep track of their details, course progress and test results for you. It may
also allow students to pay their course fees online via credit card, debit card
Your LMS may integrate with whiteboard systems for
virtual classroom sessions and help you to schedule sessions too. It may offer
you the ability to send out invites or reminders for classroom sessions and
integrate with an online calendar system or with Outlook.
An LMS may be able to integrate with social media so
you can share your content or news items via Twitter or Facebook etc. at the
click of a button.
Your LMS system should also have built in
functionality for communicating with your students, such as sending out a bulk
email to everyone on a particular course, to individual students or to students
studying a particular pathway. You should also be able to schedule automatic
emails which can be very useful for notifying students of an upcoming test or
virtual classroom session. A LMS may provide you with a chat room or a forum
that you and your students can use
With your LMS you should also be able to specify the
details of a course with a flexible work flow to set students on certain
Any good LMS will have a reporting system you can tap
into, generating reports that you can export into Excel, and also offering you
graphical representation of your data for ease of understanding.
Help with content creation
Being user-friendly is more than just a phrase. It’s
an action. When entering into your LMS for the first time it’s good to have at
least a sample of a course to get you going. An example of how to upload,
manage, and distribute content within the system can go a long way with a new
user. Templates are also good at getting new users going.
Tests are an important part of many online courses and
most LMSs will have plenty of functionality related to this. You'll want a
robust test environment with various types of tests available to you and some
built-in templates to use as a starting point. It's likely that you'll have the
ability to randomize test questions and set a time limit for tests. With the
test environment being within your LMS, you should also be able to rely on the
security of your system. Test results will be stored and available to you
within the reporting area of your LMS. You should also be able to set up a
multiple choice test to be self-grading and choose to have the results delivered
just to you, or perhaps also displayed instantly on-screen for your students.
If you want to learn more on what a Learning
Management System is, you can check our thorough guide that explains everything
What are the types of learning management systems?
There are many types of LMSs available depending on
your needs and budget. There are even free learning management systems such as
open source software that by definition are 'open' i.e. the source code is
freely available for you to use and to adapt to your own needs. Many users of
open source software will make improvements or use add-ons for their own needs,
and then put it back out into the community for others to use. Open source LMSs
can grow rapidly if they get enough interest and input. While you may not get
any official support for an open source LMS, there will usually be a strong
community base online with forums or email lists where you can ask for and
Of course there is also also the commercial type of
learning management systems. If you're paying for an LMS then you'll get a more
robust product, you're also likely to get good documentation and you'll
probably have a good level of support as well. A commercial product may be more
stable and bug-free than a free version, but of course there are always
exceptions to that rule so it's a good idea to read reviews of various LMSs
before you make your choice. Check out the features to ensure that everything
you need is included.
You'll also need to consider whether to use a deployed
solution or a hosted system. A deployed solution system will generally be set
up on computers within your premises and behind your firewall. A deployed
solution (or Internal System) may incur extra costs as the setting up of the
system is likely to be done in-house rather than remotely. An installed system
may also require more maintenance and support than you're able to provide
unless you have a dedicated IT team ready to support it. It is vital your
system stays up and running so before you choose this option make sure you have
people with the relevant skills available who will be willing to fix problems
as soon as they occur.
With a hosted or SaaS (Software as a Service) LMS a
lot of the work is taken off your hands, the system runs on someone else's
server so you don't have to worry about server load or maintenance. The system
will be set up by your provider and they should also take care of backups, or
at least offer you a simple interface to schedule your own backups. A hosted
service is normally up and running as soon as it’s ordered since the service
provider will be used to the procedure. In some cases it can even done
automatically by the system upon electronic request. They'll also be able to
implement any updates and fixes remotely for you.
A deployed solution will have a greater initial cost
as you'll have the software and installation to pay for, but it may be more
cost effective in the long run. With a hosted system you'll have less to pay
initially, no software purchase costs, no installation fees and limited
technical problems but over the years you may end up paying out more than if
you'd opted for an installed LMS.
What are content authoring tools and how can we use
An e-learning content authoring tool is a software
package which developers use to create and package e-learning content
deliverable to end users.
A content authoring tool is a software application
used to create multimedia content typically for delivery on the World Wide Web.
Content-authoring tools may also create content in other file formats so the
training can be delivered on a CD (compact disc) or in other formats for
various different uses. The category of content-authoring tools includes HTML,
Flash, and various types of e-learning authoring tools.”
A lots of programs can be considered authoring tools,
including Flash, and PowerPoint. However, only a small group of programs
specifically include support for e-learning content standards such as SCORM
(Shareable Content Object Reference Model) or AICC (CBT) (Aviation Industry CBT
Committee). Examples: Articulate Storyline, Composica, Adobe Authorware and
Synchronous e-learning vs. asynchronous e-learning
tools and technologies
In today’s e-learning environment the type of learning
that takes place is generally divided into one of two categories: synchronous
and asynchronous. Both learning strategies have their own pros and cons, and
the technique that is right for a student greatly depends upon their method of
absorbing the information that is being provided.
What is synchronous learning?
Examples of synchronous e-learning are online chat and
videoconferencing. Any learning tool that is in real-time, such as instant
messaging that allows students and teachers to ask and answer questions
immediately, is synchronous. Rather than learning on their own, students who
participate in synchronous learning courses are able to interact with other
students and their teachers during the lesson.
The main benefit of synchronous learning is that it
enables students to avoid feelings of isolation since they are in communication
with others throughout the learning process. However synchronous learning is
not as flexible in terms of time as students would have to set aside a specific
time slot in order to attend a live teaching session or online course in
real-time. So it may not be ideal for those who already have busy schedules.
What is asynchronous learning?
Asynchronous learning on the other hand can be carried
out even when the student or teacher is offline. Coursework and communications
delivered via web, email and messages posted on community forums are perfect
examples of asynchronous e-learning. In these instances, students will
typically complete the lessons on their own and merely use the internet as a
support tool rather than venturing online solely for interactive classes.
A student is able to follow the curriculum at their
own pace without having to worry about scheduling conflicts. This may be a
perfect option for users who enjoy taking their time with each lesson plan in
the curriculum and would prefer to research topics on their own. However, those
who lack the motivation to do the coursework on their own may find that they do
not receive significant benefit from asynchronous learning. Asynchronous
learning can also lead to feelings of isolation, as there is no real
interactive educational environment.
Ideally, effective e-learning courses should include
both asynchronous and synchronous learning activities. This allows students and
teachers to benefit from the different delivery formats
regardless of their schedules or preferred learning
methods. This approach provides students with access to immediate help if
needed, while still giving them the ability to learn at their own pace.
What is SCORM & Tin Can Api?
SCORM, or Shareable Content Object Reference Model,
defines a specific way of constructing Learning Management Systems and training
content so that they work well with other SCORM conformant systems. Basically,
the different versions of SCORM all govern the same two things: packaging
content and exchanging data at run-time.
Packaging content determines how a piece of content
should be delivered in a physical sense. At the core of SCORM packaging is a
document entitled the “imsmanifest”. This file contains every piece of
information required by the LMS to import and launch content without human
intervention. This file contains XML that describes the structure of a course
both from a learner’s perspective and from a physical file system perspective.
Questions such as: “Which document should be launched?” and “What is the name
of this content?” are answered by this document.
Run-time communication, or data exchange, specifies
how the content “talks” to the LMS while the content is actually playing. This
is the part of the equation we describe as delivery and tracking. There are two
major components to this communication. First, the content has to “find” the
LMS. Once the content has found it, it can then communicate through a series of
“get” and “set” calls and an associated vocabulary. Conceptually, these are
things like “request the learner’s name” and “tell the LMS that the learner
scored 95% on this test.” Based on the available SCORM vocabulary, many rich
interactive experiences can be communicated to the LMS.
Why should I use SCORM?
SCORM is a really powerful tool for anyone involved in
online training. Content can be created one time and used in many different
systems and situations without modification. This plug-and-play functionality
can be powerful within an organization but even more so across organizations.
Content can be sold and delivered to the user more quickly, more efficiently,
and at a lower price.
SCORM is widely adopted by huge organizations. It has
the critical momentum and is the de facto industry standard. The US Department
of Defense has specified that all of its content must be delivered via SCORM.
All of it! Industry is following suit, and the standard appears in a vast
majority of RFPs to procure both training content and Learning Management Systems.
What is Tin Can?
SCORM was developed over a decade ago now. Times have
changed and the requirements of educators have changed, and so Tin Can was
developed. Tin Can is an open source API that adds some needed extra
functionality to SCORM and lifts many restrictions of older specifications.
The extra features provided by Tin Can include
simplicity, extra security measures, the ability to run courses outside the
LMS, better support for offline and mobile learning and (potentially) more
Development of Tin Can is an ongoing project so we
should expect more from it in the future.
E-learning tools and technologies used in online
E-learning makes use of many technologies - some of
which have been developed specifically for it, whilst others conveniently
complemented the learning process, for example computer games. Communication
technologies are also widely used in e-learning. Starting with the use of email
and instant messaging, message forums and social networks, we see a plethora of
tools that any internet user would use in any case.There are also some
technologies that work in a complementary manner to other software and enable
new features, for example software that adds a whiteboard on your video
conferencing tool to allow you or your peers to make changes on other people’s
work for review, or screen-sharing which allows someone to make a presentation
while still making comments and giving input using the microphone.
E-learning makes good use of database and CMS (Content
Management System) technologies. These two work hand in hand to store your
course content, test results and student records. The data is stored in the
database and the CMS provides a user interface for you to add, update and
delete data. A good LMS will often provide reporting tools to generate and
store progress reports.
Elearning tools and technologies used to improve the
quality of content are manifold. Software such as Flash and PowerPoint will
help you make your presentations slick and interesting, with high quality,
graphically rich content. There are word processing packages and HTML editors
available these days that make formatting your text or web pages a breeze,
removing a lot of the complexity. There are also lots of online services
available that you can use to create interactive elements for your courses such
as quizzes and games.
The important elements of online learning courses
When creating an online course, a number of criteria
must be met to ensure that students receive the benefits they signed up for.
Below is a list of important ones:
Consistent instructor presence: the value of feedback
The role of the instructor is very important in the
e-learning process because it’s in his hands to encourage, inspire and ensure
students don’t feel like they have embarked on the learning trip alone, and
also because it will ensure that students will be tracked and given proper
feedback which is very important throughout the learning process. To facilitate
such a relationship, Learning Management Systems offer options like instant
messaging between peers, email and other tools that ensure learner and
professor are but a click away from each other.
A streamlined and well-designed LMS
When talking about the success of a LMS, we primarily
mean that we want an e-earning site that will be easy to navigate, is
well-organized and contains high quality material. Everyday tasks include the
distribution of new material and sending, receiving and grading assignments. A
well designed LMS will ensure that those tasks are hassle-free and that its
users can easily tap into the myriad of features that are an important part of
the e-learning process.
Content that is up to par
Aside from the ease and design of your LMS, the next
most important thing to keep a student satisfied is the material. The role of
the curriculum is to set the tone for an organization to design a successful
course and offer both teachers and learners a set of guidelines. So while a
system must be well designed and efficient, the quality of the content must be
on par with the impression you want the LMS to make in its entirety.
Tested delivery methods
Let’s start with an example: you are running a course
on astrophysics and you have found a very interesting video that you feel
enhances the points made within the already existing content. Is adding said
video to the material the right move?
As with any other website, application or product,
compatibility is always a delicate matter. We need to always be sure that the
material we post for learners to use is compatible with all the possible web
browsers or platforms being used. To avoid discouraging learners, keeping it
simple is preferable to overextending ourselves and possibly hitting an
All of these key elements have the ability to foster a
supportive, effective e-learning environment. When all of these essential
components are in place, online learning establishments have the ability to not
only provide students with the skill sets and knowledge base that they are
looking for, but a virtual education platform that helps to contribute to the
future success of (and serves as a model of excellence for) the e-learning
Online tests and quizzes
Despite the fact that e-learning lacks the element of
physical presence, tests and quizzes are still an essential part of the
educational process. Through online tests and quizzes an instructor is able to
track the progress of students and assess the effectiveness of the curriculum,
while at the same time students have the ability to track their own progress
and improve on their skills accordingly.
The importance of tests & quizzes for students in
Tests and Quizzes play an important role in e-learning
and provide an array of benefits for both the learner and the instructor.
Let's first look at how they improve the experience of
Less work to be done
Remember school, when tests lasted an hour at a set
time of day and the instructor usually had to stay up late to grade them and
then write detailed feedback for each and every individual student?
We've already gone through how e-learning alleviates
the need for testing to be done at a specific hour, but it also makes testing a
hassle-free task as corrections are automated with a LMS. In the cases of
"Essay Question" tests, e-learning systems are usually equipped with
keyword tracking tools that grade depending on what has been mentioned in the
essays. This isn't a fool-proof system but it helps save some time in
comparison with long grading sessions.
Testing and quizzing can be made unique in a LMS by
randomizing question and answer order. This is especially useful when a learner
has to re-do a test which he/she previously had poor performance on so that the
test is not completed by memory, but rather by actually thinking through the
correct solution once again. This feature is also useful to produce more
variety by using a large pool of questions from which testing can be done,
rather than recycling the same questions over and over.
Instant grading and feedback
Grading and giving feedback is probably the most time
consuming task for the instructor. It's where the instructor has the ability to
comment on the strengths and weaknesses of a learner and enable learning to
actually take place! Feedback needs to be good. A LMS will usually allow the
instructor to create dynamic feedback depending on the answer a learner will
give to a specific question. For instance, in a multiple-choice test if the
learner chooses answer B over the correct answer C, the appropriate feedback
will be given back to the learner, indicating fault in the thought process, or
hints as to why another answer would be more appropriate. This complements
point 1 above (i.e.: "Less work to be done") by the instructor
because it allows the learner to get instant feedback on a correct/ incorrect
answer, and it saves time for the instructor who can take advantage of
In-depth analysis readily available
Tests have to be gathered and graded, and feedback has
to be written for the individual learner to take back and improve on particular
areas. Learning Management Systems give the instructor even more analysis
though. Through a reporting system, a LMS gives the instructor an overview of
test scores, progress and growth with graphical representation to make the
analysis even easier to grasp especially when the class-size is very large.
That way, an instructor has the ability to analyze which students scored
highest/ lowest, and which questions were hardest/ easiest for the majority of
students. Reporting is a handy tool that allows the instructor to see trends
and act upon them to improve the curriculum.
It is also environmentally friendly!
Going from hard-copy tests/ quizzes to offering the
same capabilities online reduces consumption of goods such as paper -
especially important when the online classroom is large and growing!
Now, let’s see how tests and quizzes improve the
experience of the student:
Testing and quizzing online will usually provide the
user with results instantly. This is good for students because it allows them
to know what they did wrong immediately, what they need to focus on, and how to
improve should they have to retake the test.
Keeps learners engaged
Tests and quizzes have always been a motivator to
study harder when students know that their progress will be judged upon an
exam, a performance review etc. It sets a deadline for when material needs to
be learned by and diligent students know they must adhere to that.
The use of different forms of testing, such as
multiple choice tests, fill-in-the-blanks, true or false, or essay questions
can also be used to assess the progress of students with different learning
styles. Catering to the needs of different learning styles is an important
aspect of e-learning which gives it the edge over traditional learning models.
It is a good idea to use different types of material, and varying types of
tests and quizzes to engage everyone in an online class.
An important note on online quizzing and testing is
the ability a learner has to research the web for answers and creating tests
should be done with that in mind. If something is too hard and/or a little off
topic in terms of the material taught, it is likely to be researched online. If
the tests are too easy, they will be dismissed and passed over without much
being learned. Thus tests should be structured in a way that encourages
learners to think back to the material taught within the course rather than
looking for answers elsewhere.
How to make e-learning effective and tips to increase
Anyone may be able to create a simple online course,
however increasing the effectiveness of online learning is altogether
different. An effective elearning course takes a good deal of time, hard work,
and a commitment to high quality content.
Here are some tips that can help you create highly
effective e-learning courses regardless of the material or curriculum:
Know your subject material well!
There is no golden rule on how much time you need to
put into creating the ideal content, but one thing is certain - you need to
take your time to research material before making it available to your
learners. The reasons are simple, you want to be prepared to back up any claims
made within your course material, not all learners digest information the same
way, and some may need more explanation through examples or further proof.
Online courses provided should appeal to all learning
The design of the online course should take every
learning style into consideration. For example, while one student may benefit
from visual multimedia presentations of coursework and lessons, another student
may be able to better absorb the information when it is presented in text form.
An effective e-learning course always takes these various learning styles into
account when the lessons are being created.
Students and teachers should be able to establish an
open line of communication. Also, teachers should specify which means of
communication they prefer and during which hours. This will ensure that
expectations are met and that the student receives the help or support that
they need. Also, students should have contact information for the systems IT
support staff, and have access to a member of staff on a regular basis if
needed. Examples of how students can communicate with their instructors are:
discussion forums, social media, chats, email, video conferencing and other
Platform should be easy to navigate and fully
When designing the site and e-learning platform, ease
of navigation and functionality should be top priority. A well organized and
intuitive web-based learning platform enables students to focus on the
coursework rather than having to sort out technical issues that may arise from
poorly designed sites and systems.
Course documents should be available to every student
Course documents like the syllabus must be available
for students to view, particularly at the beginning of the term. This will ensure
that the student knows which lessons will be covered throughout the course, and
can use the syllabus as a guide throughout the entire course. It provides
teachers with an effective road map as well, and helps structure their lesson
Set and communicate clear goals
A point we can't stress enough: one of the reasons
teams are unable to achieve goals is not having clear enough guidelines on how
to reach them. Part of the curriculum of any course should be what will be
done, when it will be done, and what is needed for the successful completion of
tasks. It is therefore important that all instructors set and communicate clear
goals to their learners in a manner in which they are sure they will understand
and will be able to put into action.
What are the best tools to help us create an online
If you are considering creating an online course to
upload and sell online, the process may not be as challenging as you might
think. As a matter of fact, thanks to advancements in modern technology,
designing a simple and straightforward e-learning course can be relatively
stress-free (as long as you already have a clear concept of what content you'd
like to include and a solid core curriculum). Here are a few online tools that
can help you to create an e-learning course.
Most people in the online course industry will tend to
side with a LMS - especially when new to the scene - because it offers a large
array of embedded tools that provide the administrator with the ability to
create, curate and enhance content in ways that are more cost-effective than
using individual tools would be. Also, the benefits of using a LMS include the
all-in-one element which enables the user to create the platform (website) and
the content all in the same space without needing special network
administration or website management skills. Another attractive feature is the
ability of the system to automatically calculate exam results and generate
reports which help both instructor and learner.
Website creation platform
There are a variety of free or low-cost website
creation platforms online today. Even if you aren't going to be offering
strictly online courses (and are planning on providing CD-based courses),
creating a high impact website that is easy to navigate and aesthetically
appealing can help you to promote your product. For those who are offering
online courses, having a well-organized and intuitive website can mean the
difference between effective e-learning and a disappointing online learning
experience for both teachers and students. There are also a myriad of companies
that offer e-learning website design services if you simply don't have the time
or know-how to create your own.
Course design tools
Many companies now provide affordable course design
tools. These sites enable you to upload the content of your courses and then
design effective presentations. There are even free platforms that you can use
today. For example, Google now has an e-learning design platform that is free
of charge. Even those who are not well versed in coding or course designed can
now share their knowledge with the world.
Multimedia production tools
The key to having a truly interactive and engaging
e-learning course is using the various multimedia resources that are available
today. In our technological age, we now have access to instant streaming video,
crystal clear recording capabilities and instant chat support services. Also,
you can rely upon a myriad of highly interactive multimedia production tools,
such as design software and high definition cameras to record informative
courses for your audience. There are even editing tools that give you the power
to turn raw footage into a masterpiece in just a matter of minutes.
Furthermore, online learning has revolutionized higher
education because of the many advantages it offers. As an online student, you
are able to learn at your own pace and time, at a much lower cost.
Michael Aldrich The Michael
Aldrich Archive - Internet Online Shopping. Online shopping was invented and
pioneered by Michael Aldrich in the UK. In 1979 he connected a modified
domestic television via a telephone line to a real- time multi-user transaction
The first secure retail transaction over the Web was
either by NetMarket or Internet Shopping Network in 1994. Immediately after,
Amazon.com launched its online shopping site in 1995 and eBay was also
introduced in 1995.
But studying for your degree online may also raise
some questions and concerns. It’s a new and unknown experience, so it is
natural to be uncertain about what to expect and how the process will unfold.
While your Student Adviser will walk you through the
entire process upfront and will be there to support you every step of the way
from first contact to graduation, we also offer the following brief highlights
as an introduction to the Online Learning Experience.
Highlights of Online Learning
Your classes will take place in an online environment.
You can log in at any time at your convenience. Once online, you’ll communicate
with your instructors and fellow students, read assigned texts, access digital
materials, post assignments and comment on other students’ assignments. While
you’re required to log in at least two separate days each week, you will, of
course, benefit greatly from regular and more frequent attendance.
Your online course experience will take place on an
advanced learning management system designed to facilitate the optimal learning
experience for students. In addition to the educational platform you’ll utilise
to communicate with faculty and fellow students, you’ll also have access to
e-textbooks offering you the capability to highlight, annotate, create
bookmarks, search, download and self-assess.
Each module is carefully planned to align with an expectation
of the depth and breadth of study required to achieve an award at a given
level. In accordance with international agreements, each award is expressed as
a number of credits to make the achievement transportable and transparent to
future employers and other institutions of higher education. In planning the
learning activities within each programme, there is an expectation that the
average student will dedicate approximately ten hours of total study time to
achieve 1 ‘credit’ (this approximation includes all preparatory work, reading,
writing, assessment tasks, time spent communicating in discussion forums or
attending virtual seminars and workshops). As an example, a candidate
participating in a 20 credit module which lasts eight weeks could be expected
to devote an average of 25 hours of study time each week (200 hours total) in
order to achieve the learning outcomes of the module and complete the
assessments. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule on this (for example, each
candidate will have a unique profile in terms of the time it will take them to
readand understand learning materials,
or complete written work), the following list of tasks may help you to
understand the time commitment necessary to successfully complete your
Within a typical module, candidates will be required
each week to:
Plan their study time according to the weekly plan of
activities set out in the module and guided by the instructor.
Read case-study and background materials from e-books
and other sources.
Participate in discussion fora, reading contributions,
making contributions and responding to particular questions .
Prepare formative tasks that have been set up (for example, submit a draft
response to a question for feedback)
Prepare written assignments and submit them by a
deadline for formal marking and feedback (typically this is not a weekly task
but may be required, normally at the end of a module)
Reflect on your learning and feedback your experience
of the module to your instructors and peer group
Similar to a campus classroom, the online learning
experience will include extensive participation and interaction with faculty
and fellow students. You’ll also use the online forum to communicate with
advisers, teaching assistants and instructional specialists.
Once you have successfully completed your degree, you
will be eligible to participate at one of two annual graduation ceremonies at
the University of South Wales.
Module sequences begin each month, so you can enroll
and begin your degree programme, immediately putting you that much closer to
You’ll take one module at a time. This advanced
learning method designed for adults allows you to concentrate your entire focus
on one subject area before moving onto the next, while also allowing you to
earn your degree in an accelerated time frame.
Distance Learning Has Been Around Since 1892, You Big
James Marshall Crotty, CONTRIBUTOR
Nov 14, 2012 11:46 AM 11,134
As noted in my pieces on MITx, edX, Udacity and other
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms,online education is driving today’s higher education revolution. Though
the flurry of attention around MOOCs may lead one to conclude that distance
learning is a recent phenomenon, it actually dates back over 120 years.
According to a team of Ph.D’s and NASA scientists
assembled by Post University, distance learning began in 1892 when the
University of Chicago created the first college-level distance learning
program. Expanding from this initial use of the U.S. Postal Service for course
correspondence, distance education moved towards live radio shows in 1921 and
then televised broadcasts in 1963.
In 1970, Coastline Community College became the first
college without a physical campus, offering exclusively televised college
courses. Many other schools followed Coastline’s lead with televised courses of
their own. And, in 1985,National
Technological University became the first school to offer online degree courses
via satellite transmission.
In the 1990s and 2000s, distance learning over the
Internet became the dominant remote learning craze. As more schools embraced
online education, smaller, less well-known colleges and for-profit universities
drove further innovation in the online education space.For instance, in 1993, Jones International
University became the first fully online university accredited by the Higher
Learning Commission. And, in 2002, MIT launched its popular OpenCourseWare
Babson Research Survey Group and College Board
estimate that in the fall of 2010 6.1 million students took at least one online
education course. In addition, according to Babson and College Board, 65
percent of higher education institutions say online education is now a critical
part of their long-term strategy.
However, what has really blown the virtual lid of
online education numbers was the 2011 introduction of Massive Open Online
Courses (MOOCs). As noted in a previous Crotty on Education column, in the fall
of 2011Stanford University Professor,
Sebastian Thrun, launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on artificial
intelligence that attracted more than 160,000 students. Thrun’s success
inspired other universities — such as Princeton, Penn and the University of
Michigan — to join the Stanford MOOC fiesta.
Now a full-blown race to become the dominant MOOC is
well underway, with Coursera, World Education University, Udacity, edX and many
others competing for critical mass and first-mover advantage.
With the tremendous increase of students participating
in MOOCs and sundry online courses, distance learners are forced to become even
more self-directed, engaged, and collaborative than ever before. As educational
technology and students inevitably evolve, distance learning design will need
to evolve as well.
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On the other hand, online education is nothing new,
but the technology is relatively new. However, the concept is over 170 years
old and has its origins in a correspondence course offered in Great Britain
where the instructor sent lessons and received students’ completed assignments
by mail. Distance learning was born, and today’s online courses are modern
versions of their humble predecessors. Online education overcomes the biggest
drawback of correspondence courses, mail transit time, and allows students to
interact not only with the instructor but the other students in the class in
Online programs allow flexibility so that someome can
work full-time and take classes at your own pace.