As technology grows, many university instructors are finding ways to incorporate online learning platforms into their classrooms. Programs such as Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle allow teachers to post reading assignments, PowerPoint presentations, lecture notes and quizzes for students to complete outside of class. While posting lessons online can be friendly to students' communication styles and easily accessible, they also pose disadvantages in terms of increased reliance on technology and potential for academic dishonesty.
According to the University of Massachusetts, one advantage of online lessons is that they let students become acquainted with new learning styles. While homework assignments used to consist of readings and activities from a textbook, students now can interact with classmates through online discussions, watch videos related to course material and do additional research on their own. Online materials also are friendly to the technologically savvy nature of today's students. Because email, social networking and texting are integral parts of their lives, online lessons and materials bring learning into their comfort zone.
Another advantage is that students can access the material virtually anywhere. Because of widespread Internet access and portable devices like cellphones and tablets, it's no longer necessary for students to have a textbook with them to do homework. They instead can access course lessons in the university library, on their phones during lunch or from home. If students are unable to attend class due to illness or other reasons, they still can be held accountable for completing assignments and catching up on necessary material.
Reliance On Technology
A disadvantage of posting lessons online is that it may encourage students' reliance on technology in the classroom. Instead of physical textbooks, many now bring tablets and cellphones to access materials during class discussions. While electronic devices can be valuable learning tools, they also can lead to distractions from learning, such as social networking and online games. According to Media Shift, it is extremely difficult for students being exposed to multiple electronic tasks to focus or remember key information. Some may argue that the classroom should be free of electronic devices, even if materials are posted online.
Cheating And Motivation
The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology reported that a second disadvantage is that online lessons open up potential for cheating. Many instructors require students to complete quizzes, post within discussion groups or submit major assignments online. As a result, a number of educators have reported cases of students having someone else complete their assignments. A contributing factor is that online assignments are best fitted to self-motivated, self-directed students. Students who struggle with organization and completing assignments may gravitate to the ease of cheating online.
In spite of these disadvantages, educators can take steps to make sure students use online lessons responsibly. If instructors are uncomfortable with electronic devices in the classroom, they can require students to print out assignments and readings to reference during sessions. To deter cheating, a study by the University of Minnesota Duluth suggests using online assignments as a supplement to traditional in-class work, or creating open-ended assignments rather than using assignments like multiple-choice quizzes that have only one right answer. Being familiar with what the platform looks like from a student perspective also can help instructors anticipate potential pitfalls.
- University of Massachusetts: Teaching and Learning Online: Communication, Community and Assessment
- Media Shift: Cell Phones in Class? No! Students Need to Pay Attention
- Turkish Journal of Online Educational Technology: Perceptions of Online Instruction
- University of Minnesota Duluth: The Accuracy and Validity of Online Homework Systems
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