Benefits of online education for students
Online courses have been found to be conducive to students who favor self-regulated learning (You & Kang, 2014). In a study conducted by Kirtman, a student responded to online coursework by stating, “It is more self-guided so I can spend more time on the concepts that I need help with and less on concepts that I can pick up quickly” (Kirtman, 2009, p. 110). Selfregulated learners have a tendency to use various “cognitive and metacognitive strategies to accomplish their learning goal” (You & Kang, 2014, p. 126). Learners who are able to hone in on their self-regulated learning skills frequently utilized time management, reviewed material 6 ONLINE LEARNING regularly, sought help from professors or peers, meet deadlines, and had the skill of metacognition in order to reflect upon their own learning (You & Kang, 2014). The benefit of flexibility in online courses cannot be overstated due to its prevalence in reasons why students are attracted to online learning. Online learning allows for students to work at a time and a place that is compatible with their learning needs. A number of instructors and students commented on their ability to focus more of their attention on the content of the course and less on issues such as parking, traffic, and other problems that may arise when attending a traditional class environment (Thomson, 2010). One secondary teacher explained, “I don’t miss the huge vistas of wasted time that inevitably become a reality in a face-to-face school context” and further explaining that “No schedule restricts us… We meet and stay as long as needed in the virtual space” (Thomson, 2010, p. 36). The increased accessibility and interest in distance learning is resulting in a number of public high schools, such as the public school system in state of Michigan, beginning to require students to successfully complete an online course as a prerequisite to graduation (Matuga, 2009). The momentum of high school enrollment in online courses has resulted in universities offering courses for university and secondary school credit. The classes that high school students are enrolled in may be taught by either a professor on campus or the instruction may be delivered by a secondary classroom educator (Matuga, 2009). A study conducted by Dana Thomson during the 2008-2009 academic year produced qualitative findings that emphasized the significance and appeal of flexibility and expanded opportunity for students enrolled in online courses: “I can take classes that my school doesn’t offer, and I can work when I have free time or a lighter homework load in my school classes” (Thomson, 2010). 7 ONLINE LEARNING Over the past few years there has been a push for the development of courses that dually provide secondary students with college credit and secondary school credit for enrolling and successfully completing the course. Many colleges and universities are capitalizing on subsidies provided in “the United States to support initiatives serving secondary students with options to take university courses in areas such as mathematics, science, and foreign languages, while still enrolled in secondary schools” (Matuga, 2009, p. 4). The competitive nature of education, particularly higher education or post-secondary education, demands more opportunities for students to explore future options such as courses in various degree programs at a multitude of colleges and universities. Schools frequently face the challenge of expanding opportunities for students while being faced with a declining budget year after year. Speculative cost simulations have concluded that “a hybrid model of instruction in large introductory courses has the potential to significantly reduce instruction compensation costs in the long run” (Bowen, Chingos, Lack, & Nygren, 2014, p. 1). One type of online environment can be referred to as “interactive learning online” (ILO). ILO refers “to highly sophisticated, interactive online courses in which machine-guided instruction can substitute for some (though not usually all) traditional, face-to-face instruction” (Bowen, et al., 2014, p. 97). ILO collects data from a large number of students and uses the collection of data to provide feedback and guidance that is directed for a particular student. ILO also can provide an instructor with student progress tracking, therefore allowing the instructor to provide the student with “more targeted and effective guidance” (Bowen, et al., 2014, p. 97) in order to successfully interact with new knowledge. Machine guided instruction does not appear to be replacing face-to-face instruction, but it does seem to be a tool that instructors can utilize for rapid feedback and student tracking. 8 ONLINE LEARNING Online courses have the potential to open the pathways for more opportunities for students in “small, rural, or low socioeconomic school districts” (Chaney, 2001, p. 21) to take courses that generally would not be offered. A growing concern that the United States is losing its competitive edge in the overall preparedness of high school graduates in the global market may be able to close the gap and lessen the financial burden by providing more opportunity for a lesser cost (Bowen, et al., 2014). The expansiveness of distance education may be delivering the transformation that education has been waiting for, slowly breaking down the financial and locational barriers that have acted as hurdles and at times, unsurpassable barricades to equal opportunities and quality education for all students.