Parallels of Online Learning and Higher Education

Increasingly my mind returns to the parallels of online education and transitions to higher education. Challenges of both blend into similarities and hurdles which students need to overcome. A broad generalisation – that I am aware of. Nevertheless, let’s consider some of the parallels:

1 – For those who initiate online learning, particularly in the case of distance education, more than learning about the subject matter, they need to learn how to learn online. This means being an autonomous learner, taking responsibility for time-management, being able to read instructions and follow them. (any echo here of higher education expectations?)

Students who have grown up more accustomed to using digital platforms for learning may perhaps be accustomed to the features I mention, but for students who are commencing an online course, this is not so obvious. For instance, often,  participants will post replies where ever they want to, either not following instructions or not being used to reading carefully and understanding instructions. This is certainly not because instructions were obtuse or complex – merely because the learner has not had sufficient online learning experience, as well as studying within an paradigm of educational expectations/demands. Asking the teacher to repeat instructions is common; in online education, the learner has to re-read him/herself. In other words,  the learner must be independent.

It is within this shift of behaviour  that I clearly observe parallels.

2 – The time spent at higher education often represents the best years of youth; expanding minds, new encounters, a bliss of options and parties. Discipline does not come easily. Managing one’s time to focus and to enjoy all the frills of higher education (e.g. extra curriculum activities, free conferences, foreign visitors/speakers and so forth) is not a skill which one is born with. It is a learning process. Both as an online student and online teacher, I have experienced the urgency to refine one’s time management in order to meet deadlines and be a full participant of the course.

Time however, is relative. Concepts of time, concepts of deadlines vary from culture to culture. The emphasis of meeting a deadline seems to be closely entwined with personal and social accountability. If a particular social environment does not place responsibility on citizens nor expects responsibility from its citizens, how will learners from this setting perform online according to other cultural expectations?

As an educator who works in foreign settings, these are challenges I have observed in different countries; I am an outsider, imposing foreign norms and educational expectations on my students. Most norms are international – for example, being on time for class – yet time is not fixed and tomorrow’s deadline may be perceived as next week’s assignment.

Discipline with time management is closely woven with cultural perceptions of time.

3 – Despite the many years we now live with digital technology, not all students have been taught digital literacies. Yes, they may have their mobiles and use Facebook as an extension of their physical body, but digital literacies are much more than mobile texting, playing games on an iPad and spending time in coffee-shop talk on Facebook. Digital literacies, the ability to present and understand information in the multitude of digital forms, is no appendix to learning. Digital literacies are as essential as the skill to read and do basic mathematics.

For both students entering higher education and online learners, these skills are a challenge to master. From uploading an image to embedding, to using a digital tool to present information (e.g. a popplet, using SlideShare and so on),  there is a wealth of key language to understand and then skills to accomplish. Lack of knowledge may be de-motivating for many. If motivation is to be taken as a personal driving force, not all learners are equipped with this engine to successfully study at higher education nor on online courses. Nevertheless, few options exist today as so many colleges and alternative institutions have decided to become universities. A university may hold more prestige, may receive more financial support from ministeries of education, yet does not do justice to every single student – many who would perform much better in a higher education college where their real skills and interests could be developed, equipping students to become more productive in their societies.

Results in both cases are again similar. Drop-out rates in online education and incomplete or poorly achieved degrees.

From features of

distance learning,

online learning,

blended learning,

classroom learning,

characteristics of learning are present. It is not the label which defines; learning processes share similarities. In the quest to promote knowledge, to exchange and create knowledge, the digital tools we have today are one’s compass to achievement. Whether one follows the advice for learning on a MOOC or in a classroom, it is not a question of labels, but rather, mapping one’s learning process.

Further reference:

Amy’s MOOCs – Professional Digi-velopment


7 thoughts on “Parallels of Online Learning and Higher Education

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  6. Hi my name is Kasey and I am in Mrs. Lees humanities eight class. I can really connect to what you are saying because I myself see this issue around me every day. The lack of motivation, drive, heart and passion. Students are relying too much on their teachers and internet to give them inspiration. What happens to a simple piece of paper? I love how you started your writing. It was really cool how the beginning was some what like a poem. It stated a very smart analogy of our learning. Your ideas were powerful and relatable. Everyone can read your work and be able to say ” she is totally accurate we do rely on others for motivation.”

    Your message was that not just young students but all students have to stop relying on others for ideas and inspiration. passion is not something you can get on the internet. Passion is when you can feel and believe in your idea or work one hundred percent. It was also about Tue fact that teachers now a days have trouble trying to inspire their students in their work however they are more inspired by the phone in their hands. Us students need to learn to dig deep and learn what passion and inspiration is and how much it can add to your work. If students believe in what they are doing they will try a lot harder because it intrests them. To my understanding you are also trying to say that the technology we have is taking away from our learning and our perception of our work.

    The audience that you wanted to attract is any teacher or student. This is because as a university teacher you want to make a difference in how your students learn and how other teachers may teach. You are trying to inspire people to find that passion inside of them and use it to their advantage. You have done what you set out to do. You have inspired both teachers and students to find their passion. Now the question is will they find it? Will they keep it? The answer to that question is unknown by you and your readers. The people that will know are the ones that take a look at themselves and think. What am I passionate about? How can I bring that passion I have for sports or music into my school work? How can it affect my work ethic? These are all questions that your audience will think of as they read your writing.

    Your writing connects to our course a lot. We are in grade eight and just starting high school. We are making new friends and starting a whole new chapter in our lives. We have nothing to guide us other that our passion and insperation. Our teacher our there, however like you said, teachers can only do so much to inspire their students. There are some students that get lost and can’t find their passion. In those situations there is not much their teacher could help with.

    Some improvements you could make are to maybe add a few less pictures. I found that they really distracted the attention away from your powerful speech. Also you could try to link words to a few inspirational websites or stories as well as link to Wikipedia and perhaps a video. What I really likeed About your writing is that you found your inspiration and passion. You showed your drive to want to inspire others and I really admire that.

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