What type of learning environment works best for students? This is a difficult question to answer since each student is unique and learning theories are so diverse. A knowledgeable educator should incorporate different learning theories into his/her classroom at different points in the activity based on the lesson objectives and the students in the class. E-intensive learning has become popular with the craze over the Internet. As the potential of the Web expands, it is being used more as a communications medium rather than a mere content provider. (Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004).
With the growth of the Internet, many educational institutions worldwide are using it to offer distance education courses (University of Texas, 1997; Pagram & McMahon, 1997). The growth in e-learning courses can also be attributed to the cost savings to universities of running a ‘virtual campus’. Also, it is significantly cheaper to produce materials electronically than in printed form. Thus, the Web is being seen as an effective and inexpensive means of delivering courses-an alternative to traditional face-to-face modes of education. However, it is important that financial directives do not override educational goals (Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004).
E-intensive learning can be extremely beneficial for students who are self-directed and aware of their skill level and knowledge deficiencies. Such deficiencies need to be exposed to obtain the most from e-intensive learning, so student-teacher communication needs to be more deliberate and frequent. Nevertheless, I have learned that students from different cultures, especially Asian cultures, don’t always share their learning struggles with their instructors. These students may be fearful of being publicly scrutinized if required to write their feelings and beliefs in publicly accessible blogs. Hence, when using e-intensive learning, instructors may need to modify digital activities to accommodate these cultural differences. If students are not aware that e-intensive courses can be less social, require strong computer skills and a willingness to guide oneself through lessons without daily reinforcement and instructions from the teacher, then this type of learning environment may not be as beneficial for the individual. Therefore, educators need to ensure that students are aware of the course requirements before using e-intensive learning techniques.
E-intensive learning satisfies connectivism where students’ education occurs mostly outside of the classroom in informal settings. This type of education is unanticipated and unpredictable, but it isn’t random. Through this arbitrary learning, understanding and knowledge is obtained (Siemens, 2009). This does not imply that students will naturally learn just because they are connected to other students or educators. Therefore, Selwyn (2010) argues that there needs to be a more structured and scientific approach to using technology in classrooms. Teachers need to implement digital technologies carefully so that it fits content found within the framework of programs of study. This is one way to ensure a consistent and integrated approach to lesson planning with the end result of creating instruction that is personal, complex, participatory, and dynamic in nature (Chatti, Jarke & Specht, 2010).
E-intensive learning offers educators benefits as well since online peer assessment can help educators meet their marking responsibilities. In addition, it is fast and reliable. Student also profit from completing assessment forms online since it encourages student independence and the development of higher cognitive skills (Bouzidi & Jaillet, 2009). Bouzidi showed that peer evaluation is equivalent to the teachers when the course is more predictable such as mathematics. However, I am not certain that teachers in areas outside of mathematics can reach these same conclusions. I do value peer and self-assessment and often use both to determine formative and summative assessments-especially for group work and presentations. It also provides immediate feedback for the students since teacher evaluations usually requires more time and are strategic in encouraging participation in group projects.
Nevertheless, in my experiences, adult students can be resistant to peers grading their assignments, so teacher evaluations should compose of the majority of final assessments. I usually have student complete a self and a peer assessment, which encompasses about 10% of evaluation; whereas, teach appraisal makes up approximately 90% of the final assessment.
Even though e-intensive environments can be advantageous for many students and teachers, some individuals prefer the social aspects of traditional classrooms, and they need the daily contact with their teachers and other students. Personally, I enjoy the in-class experience, so I was disappointed in my first online experience. If my online classes weren’t structured with Elluminate sessions, I would not find the collaboration as fulfilling as traditional classrooms, for it is difficult to simulate the just-in-time interactions that face-to-face classrooms offer.
As the Internet changes in the future with increasing bandwidth and processing power, more interactive activities including video conferencing and real time visual manipulation of data is possible. These improvements will greatly benefit on-line educational environments and enhance interactive authentic learning leading to further usage of e-intensive classrooms (Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004).
Bouzidi, L., & Jaillet, A. (2009). Can Online Peer Assessment be Trusted? Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 257-268.
Chatti, M.A., Jarke, M., & Specht, M. (2010). The 3P Learning Model. Educational Technology & Society, 13(4), 74-85.
Educational Broadcasting Corporation (2004). Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from: http://thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/constructivism/index.html
Pagram, J. & McMahon, M. (1997). WeB-CD: An Interactive Learning Experience for Distance Education Students Studying Interactive Multimedia. Poster presented at ICCE97-International Conference on Computers in Education, Kuching, Malaysia, 2-6 December 1997.
Selwyn, N. (2010). Looking beyond learning: Notes towards the critical study of educational technology, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26(1), 65-73.
Siemens, G. (2009). Chaos, and emergence. Retrieved from http://docs.google.com/View?docid=anw8wkk6fjc_15cfmrctf8
University of Texas (1997). World Lecture Hall. University of Waterloo (1996). Introducing WebTest for the Web. Retrieved from http://fpg.uwaterloo.ca/WEBTEST/</