Effectiveness of Online Learning in Higher Education

Introduction

Since its discovery, Information Technology has been extensively adapted in various organizations in the world. Information technology has been highly adopted in higher education learning, enhancing higher institutions of learning to extend their educational operations to online learning. This form of learning has completely replaced traditional learning in some cases, or acted as a part of the education system by forming hybrid learning. The use of online leaning has been very extensive in institutions of higher learning. It is being adopted progressively in different institutions of higher learning in the United States.

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Online learning is rapidly replacing traditional form of learning. Although it is anticipated to provide the same or better quality of education, it is not very clear on whether this is attained or attainable in online learning. Online learning is has demonstrated a number of unusual challenges that include possibility of involving a third party in completing exams and continuous assessment test, need for computer and internet knowledge and resources, and little or no physical interaction among students and between students and teachers. Work plagiarism is also becoming common with online learning. Although it has a number of advantages, some of the presented disadvantages make it hard to trust online learning credibility and effectiveness. This paper focuses on determining the effectiveness of online learning in higher education as compared to traditional form of learning.

Problem Statement

Higher education is very important in a life of a student since it acts as their first step into their career. It is therefore important to ensure that students have credible education which will permit them to develop their profession effectively. This has always been achieved in traditional learning which has been in place for a considerably long period of time. However, things have taken a different course today.  Institutions are using online learning which is a new technology whose credibility has not been certified conclusively. The use of technology in earning is changing and growing every day, introducing new advantages and challenges in each case. This makes the credibility of online learning hard to guarantee all the times. This research focuses on determining whether this form of learning is effective enough to guarantee quality obtained from traditional learning.

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Purpose

Online learning is becoming very popular in higher institutions of learning in the United States. More and more institutions are integrating online learning in their system, while other are offering pure online learning as an option to those who prefer it, especially those studying abroad and working students. Online learning is associated with cost cutting, learning efficiency especially due to ability to do classes when one is available, extensive electronic academic databases, and discussion forums. However, it lacks in terms of direct lecturer-student and student-student interactions. It also presents unique challenges in exams supervision and eliminating plagiarism among other things. This brings its credibility and efficiency in question. The research focuses on determining the effectiveness of online learning in higher education. Its main purpose is to determine whether online learning has attained, or surpassed the traditional learning standards in institutions of higher learning.

Review of Literature

Online courses in higher learning are a new occurrence that has been growing dramatically since the 1990s. The initial completely online course was provided in 1981. The online courses ancestors have however a long history that can be traced back to the 19th century. Universities since the 1890s have provided courses at a distance and education of this kind have been the topic of both controversy and research ever since. Universities and colleges across the world ever since the beginning of 1990s to provide courses and sometimes entire online degrees, a condition made likely by unimaginable advance in technology as recently as 25 years ago (Wallence, 2003).  Online learning according to Means et al. (2013) is among the fastest developing trends in the application of technology in education.

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The rate of online learning adoption demonstrates that about 61% of the higher institutions of learning in US provided online courses by 2006-2007. More than 4.6 million students in fall of 2008 were at least taking one online course. About 33% in corporate world in 2007 almost tripled the 2000 recorded rate (Means et al., 2013). There is a lot of discussion regarding online learning regarding its uses and benefits. Some of these discussions focus on online learning cost effectiveness, its utilization as professional development, its cost-effectiveness in an attempt to reduce increasing postsecondary education cost, its effectiveness in educating learners, the postsecondary level credit equivalent, and the likelihood of offering a world class education to all individuals with a broadband link (Nguyen, 2015; Lu & Vela, 2015).

Method

Research Design

This wills use mixed research method where both qualitative and quantitative research methods will be used to collect data. The research will involve three institutions in Pennsylvania that use traditional or hybrid learning and pure online learning but separately. The quantitative research will be based on descriptive study, and will focus on determining the relation between the two methods of learning; online and traditional learning methods and effectiveness. Generic qualitative research will be conducted. In this case, the researcher will directly participate in the two forms of learning as way of finding out more details on what happens in these classes. The observation will focus finding the difference in the two forms of learning.

Research Hypothesis

The research hypothesis is “online learning enhances more efficiency and benefits to the higher education learning system. The research predicts that online learning has more value in enhancing learning efficiency as compared to traditional learning. This hypothesis will be tested by determining how online learning enhances higher education learning in terms of cost, ease of learning, availability, and student-teacher interaction.

Independent Variable

The paper focuses on determining how online learning influence efficiency compared to traditional form of learning. In this regard the independent variable is online learning ad traditional learning

Dependent Variable

Dependent variable in this case is the learning efficiency

Definition of Key Terms

Online Learning – it involve the use of internet to access learning in a school situated in a different location; similar to distance learning

Hybrid classroom – It a class that integrates the use of technology in learning with traditional learning methods

Plagiarism– Copying someone else’s work or idea, and presenting it as yours.

Traditional learning – normal classroom where teacher use boards to teach and interact with students face to face

Participants and Sampling Plan

The research will consider two institutions of higher learning located in Pennsylvania State one which practice both traditional and online learning but separately. These institutions will be selected purposively to obtain the institutions that meet the needed qualification. The research participants will include students and tutors from both online and traditional classes, and also the institutions administrators. Students and tutors will be selected randomly from the list of each form of learning. The research participants should not go below 100 in total; from all anticipated groups of participants.

Data Collection Procedures

Data will be collected by use of semi structured interviews among the tutors and administrators in the selected institutions. The interviews will be tape recorded for easy retrieval of information. These interviews will be collected via the phone and they will take 20-30 minutes each. Semi structured questionnaires will be distributed among students participants via the email. The questionnaires will be anticipated to be sent back within 24 hours after their distribution. The researcher will take notes in observation research for traditional classroom but include screenshots for online classroom.

Data Analysis

The interview data will be transcribed and tabulated based on the identified themes. Questionnaire data will also be tabulated. Comparison will be done based on the respondents’ method of learning to be able to define a specific conclusion. Data will be displayed using different descriptive statistics that include mean, modal, median, standard deviation, and skweness. To test the research hypothesis the researcher will use t-test form of inferential statistics will be used to compare the average performance in the two methods of learning (Locort, 2014).

Expected Results

Online learning involves the use of advance technology in learning. This has a number of advantages that include easing the process of information access, and reducing cost by eliminating the need to travel and live in the school or school locality to study. It also enhances healthy academic discussion in class discussion forums among others. Online learning has a number of challenges. Nevertheless, various measures have been employed to eliminate or reduce their negative impact. For instance forums have been used to enhance student-tutor and student-student interaction. Plagiarism checkers software have been developed to fight plagiarism, and strict IP address monitoring system have been employed to enhance exam supervisions among other things. This has highly enabled the effectiveness and reliability of online learning. In this regard, it is anticipated that online learning will be found to be more effective compared to traditional learning.

Ethical Considerations

The research will be presented to the school board for approval, which ensures that it meets the required ethical standards. Letters will be sent to the selected institutions requesting for permission to conduct the interview. The research will involve human participants and hence one of the most important is their respect. The research will protect research privacy and confidentiality by labeling their interview responses and questionnaires with random letters or number to enhance anonymous identity.

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The research participants will be provided with comprehensive information regarding the research which includes the research purpose, the research procedure, as well as its risks and benefits. This will be done using a simple language. Participants will also be allowed to sign informed concept and be granted free will to participate to the end or quit at any time. Data in this research study will be reported as collected. There will be no data falsification or fabrication to reach to anticipated results.

Limitations

The main research limitation is that it may be considerably hard to identify an institution of higher learning that purely uses traditional learning. Most institutions are currently using a hybrid classroom where technology is integrated and class work and tests are managed using an online student’s portal. Thus it may be considerably hard to have primary data from a traditional classroom.

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