How is the Development of Online Learning Environment?

Centuries and decades have challenged human survival in various ways. While this fact has adapted, human nature always strived for solutions and approaches to life problems that can not only be solved comfortably but also require less effort. 

Nowadays, it is said to “work smarter and not harder,” which has been made possible through machines and technological devices providing ideal outcomes in no time. When Innovations arrive, it becomes impractical to survive with old tips and tricks. 

In the current times that this world is going through, the only biggest challenge is to survive. Even though it seems like we have become more confined to our homes, this situation has provided everyone the opportunity to work in their comfort zones.

As the world was seeing a dramatic rise in the use of technology and its impact on our daily lives, a natural disaster made us dependent on technology. Just when the world entered the new year of 2020, things took a rapid turn. 

The COVID-19 (viral) pandemic took the world by storm. Almost every country lost precious lives due to the pandemic. In such a crucial time, where medical research for a cure is a top priority, education can also be not neglected and asks for prompt action. 

People around the world are demanding appropriate information, measures, and awareness programs. In this state of distress and chaos, education was not to be compromised. Here we understand how to involve people in beneficial and healthy activities, helping them live their lives without any restrictions. 

To make this tactic successful, the non-stop flow of learning and skill development is indispensable. Due to this reason, online education came to the rescue. Prior to the pandemic, online education was merely a part of education and not entirely a part of current academics. But the pandemic shifted education wholly online (Bao, 2020).

But as we know that every new technology comes with its own challenges. Well, this century hasn’t been called a technological era for fun. On the one hand, if we can say thanks to technology for saving and keeping our lives comfortable through its mechanized systems, it was worth waiting. 

We cannot deny the fact that it has also changed the attainment of knowledge into a challenge for those who hold the duty of providing it. The primary expression of concern is to maintain its quality amidst rumors and dissatisfactions. Educators had to face a lot of challenges due to this abrupt transition from face-to-face to online (Kebritchi, 2017).

Online Learning Environments (OLE) have been established to upgrade the old system. They provide virtual spaces where collaborative communications take place between learners and instructors. The consortium of digital tools helps develop such online environments where the flow of knowledge does not compromise at any level. These essential digital tools include the following.

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

LMS is the primary technology-integrated platform through which students access instructions and guidelines associated with different online courses. LMS is required to abridge management upon teaching and learning events within an institute. It supports the communications between the educator, the learner, and other linked assets. 

LMS assists learners in planning and monitoring their progress in their educational journey. Through LMS, the incorporation of useful tools achieved is to administer the follow-up process of students and the learning material along with suitable workflow procedures. This blending of operations with the support of valuable tools permits an LMS to maintain the distribution and supervision of learning and also in generating results.

LMS is set up either on housed off-site at service providers or on an institution’s intranet. When availing the option of services providers, we can log in LMS through an extranet, which can be explained as a reserved system. The extranet consumes public telecommunication systems and Internet protocols to share a business’s data on the exterior or by the internet, consisting of interconnected websites using TCP/IP protocols.

Content Management System (CMS)

The CMS is a digital storage system where information is kept and made accessible to students. Content management systems work as reservoirs of data, holding sequencing, authoring, and content accretion tools. 

CMS serves the purpose of rationalizing the foundation and management of online content. CMS is used to integrate a workflow progression and organize facts and figures based on searching and retrieving criteria. CMS can provide sustenance to digital material produced just one time and consumed countless times. CMS control interlinked small units of information where its location on a site defines each group. CMS focuses on creating a webpage and performing alterations with cross-linkages among pages. 

The CMS delivers stable incorporation amongst the repository and the authoring, a databank used to preserve and manage fragments of info or knowledge accompanied by a potent publishing engine. Content that is transferred through CMS includes simple webpages and complex ones with definite frameworks and presentation outlines, vigorous information obtained from digital records, teaching resources, thousands of pages linked together, and policy and procedures.

Knowledge Management System (KMS)

KMS is a system supported by CMS, which delivers knowledge by providing services to search and sort. The use of expert opinions in collaboration works on numerous subjects. 

In a Knowledge Management (KM) perception, students should pass through the practices of educational association, design, interchange, acquisition, sharing, storage, dissemination, and customization to attain knowledge. 

KM gears support apprentices to study in such a learning environment that is accessible anywhere around the globe. Search engines & taxonomy tools, personal KM tools, collaboration, and standard tools, peer to peer KM tools offer the purposeful and combined efficiency of KM to expand e- learning systems. 

It answers with solutions as to how it can help the student recognize the explicit learning materials in a learning institute environment created on the learner’s interaction and individual preferences.

These learning methods, when combined, provide a blended learning approach. Blended learning can also be known as hybrid learning. Two or more online learning methods are combined to enhance the quality of education provided in a virtual environment and involve learners fully into the learning systems. 

The main fields of concern in blended learning are education and technology used in providing education. It is the combination of two instructions, face-to-face and computer-mediated. Physical pseudo-presence occurs only when the student and trainer are permitted to interact in the virtual environment; this interaction occurs either synchronously or asynchronously.

In a synchronous learning environment, all students and teachers are present virtually in the same space at the same time. It resembles the traditional classrooms and provides the learner with another way to learn. 

Mainly this type of learning is made possible through videoconferencing, sharing of documents, and learning content in the form of lectures and presentations, which run simultaneously in real-time. The synchronous learning tools, also known as “Webinar Tools,” provide the opportunity for a student to meet and interact with the teacher and ask questions, follow instructions that the teacher offers directly. 

Numerous software is known to contribute to the synchronous learning environment, such as Skype, Google Duo, WebX, iVisit, etc. One of the popular tools, Blackboard, provides the facility with advanced teleconferencing and resource sharing. 

Through this software, teachers are assisted comfortably in sharing their lectures with a large number of students. It delivers traditional lessons and influences wholesome distance learning with provisions of particular services, such as student and instructor portfolio, grade book and assignment management, content management and sharing, collaboration and communication, assessment management, etc. The extensive use of Blackboard is in American-based educational systems that are used in most North-American countries. 

Another software used extensively is Moodle, an open-source of knowledge to students, teachers, and the individuals linked with the institution’s administration. Advantages that Moodle provides are:

  • Courses developed are based on Constructivist pedagogy, which is defined as a theory of learning formulated on supporting and encouraging any student’s knowledge through direct experiences. Teachers assist by providing as much hands-on experience to the students to learn and develop maximum expertise.
  • It includes more than 80 languages.
  • Various software databases are supported.
  • Being open-source provides free access to read, download, construct, or modify any piece of information.

While defining Asynchronous online learning, it is divided into various terms because of its constituents, environment, and services that present mutual characteristics. One of the standard descriptions that emphasize the mechanisms of asynchronous e-learning gave it a type of online learning comprising a collaborative learning community that is not restricted by place, time, or classroom limitations. 

Like synchronous e-learning, asynchronous e-learning is a process that keeps all of its focus on learners from different perspectives. It utilizes digital educational resources to simplify info sharing irrespective of the restrictions posed by venue or time between networks of people. Asynchronous e-learning supports its system by availing the benefit of computer-mediated communication (CMC) to assure its learner in learning at own convenience anytime and anywhere by the assistance of online asynchronous consultations. 

The structure of asynchronous e-learning has been formulated on the foundation of the constructivist theory. This theory provides a learner-centered approach that focuses on the significance of peer-to-peer collaborations. This technique combines asynchronous connections with self-study to encourage learning. Through this type of learning, knowledge becomes facilitated in regular education or traditional on-campus, continuing education, and distance education. 

This mutual system of learners and the automated network through which communication is made possible is known as an asynchronous e-learning network. Synchronous and asynchronous learning is one of the integral parts of a Learning Management System, and without LMS, it is merely impossible to provide a blended learning environment.

Blended learning is the system of education that comes to light in educational institutes where the enrolled students appear in a more significant percentage, such as in universities and colleges. The presence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) improves the possibilities of apprehending and broadening education in a more enhanced manner. Being a significant part of LMS, Course Management Systems (CMSs) assists and applied comprehensively to blended learning. Sometimes, the terms of Content and Course Management Systems are confused together. 

As compared to Content Management, Course Management Systems are high in complexity. They are used to incorporate communication, distribution of learning materials, monitor student activities, provide a shared work environment, deliver comments and testing, groupware utensils, portfolio development, and managerial tools for the instructor.

Programs and Information Source in Online Education System

Multiple software and resources have been developed to assist online learning and make the process run smoothly with minimum hindrances. 

OER Commons

It is an Open-source. The library provides information and instructions to teachers and students with its educational resources. It offers courses in languages, humanities, social studies, arts, and STEM. It is available in multiple formats and is being provided in various languages like Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Czech, etc.

Open Stax

This platform provides licensed textbooks free of cost in a digital format with a low printing price. Courses are offered in languages, humanities, social studies, arts, and STEM. It is only available in textbook format and is being provided in multiple languages like Arabic, Afrikaans, Chinese, Chinese, English, etc.

Project Guttenberg

Massive resource of more than 60,000 eBooks. Online reading and free download available. It also focuses on old book resources for which US copyrights have expired. Available in many formats but is offered in only English. Courses are offered in languages, humanities, and social studies, arts, STEM.

Online Education Degrees

Various platforms are also developed to provide full courses and credentials online.

  • Associate Degree.
  • Bachelor’s Degree. 
  • Master’s Degree. 
  • Doctorate Degree.

Associate Degree

An online associate degree requires less time and commitment than a bachelor’s degree and is completed in two years. However, the course structure is somewhat similar to a bachelor’s degree requiring majors and electives. You can take it as a training program or as a pathway to a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

An online bachelor’s degree is also called a baccalaureate degree, which is a four-year program offered by accredited institutions. All of the degrees offered in a brick and mortar school or college are also offered online, like Bachelor’s of Science, Bachelors of arts, and even Business school. An online bachelor’s degree offers more flexibility than an on-site degree. It could be stretched to six years with gaps and breaks in between. Online degrees also pave the way for numerous opportunities like entering into a postgraduate university or enter a job market.

Master’s Degree

An online master’s degree typically requires a two-year commitment like an on-site master’s degree. The degree is offered in the Masters of Business Administration, Masters of Fine Arts, and Master of Education Programs. While applying for an online master’s degree, one has to be a bit more vigilant because of so many spam and low-quality master’s degrees, which are not par with the on-site degrees. Only accredited institutions offer authentic degrees, which could get us a suitable job and enhance our particular field skills.

Doctorate Degree

Doctorate degrees are not entirely offered online due to its requirement of vigorous research and analysis. Research and analysis could only be effectively done on-campus due to the availability of facilities and equipment. 

Although some theoretical courses are offered online in vast amounts like Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Business Administration, or Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. These degrees require a three to seven years commitment. After attaining a doctorate, one has complete command over their subject, which opens multiple avenues and opportunities.

Technological advancements have gifted us with the luxury of gadgets, which have now become our need. Without these gadgets and technology, we cannot imagine our lives because we have become entirely dependent on this technology. Every technology or invention comes with its pros and cons; it’s up to us how we utilize it for our benefit and the betterment of society. We can use this technology to mold ourselves as better citizens.

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