The Covid-19 pandemic has compelled students and educators worldwide to rapidly adjust to online learning, which has been evolving for years and has taken on the responsibility of providing education for students worldwide during this tough time. The impact and opportunity that the COVID-19 outbreak presents to educational institutions could permanently alter how education is delivered.
1. Online Education
2. Historical Development
3. Advantages of Online Education
4. Institutional Support
5. Future of Online Education
6. Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Online Education
7. Challenges for Universities and Colleges
8. Solutions that Education Institutions Seek in Tough Times
9. Normalization of Online Education
10. LightCourse: A Global Higher Education Opportunity Provider
Online education is a new form of learning that has emerged in the 21st century. The internet has ushered in a paradigm shift in the way people study. Online learning can be delivered through various media, such as video conferencing, web conferencing, eLearning (web-based software), virtual reality (VR) and simulations.
Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of the use of machinery and instruments in teaching, such as radio and television. Personal computers and the internet, on the other hand, were key innovations that revolutionized distance education.
The first online course was offered by the University of Toronto in 1984. In 1989, the University of Phoenix was the first institution worldwide to launch a fully online collegiate institution offering bachelor's and master's degrees. This is the beginning of a revolution in education that makes learning accessible to everyone.
Online courses are being offered by an increasing number of universities. Some are completely approved by accrediting bodies such as the Distance Education Accreditation Commission (DEAC) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Harvard University, which has been offering online courses since 2000, is probably the most well-known example. Other universities that offer online degree programs include Arizona State University, Duke University, Indiana Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), Iowa State University, etc.
Advantages of Online Education
What are the advantages of online education?
· Flexibility in scheduling and location. Students can learn at their own pace, from anywhere in the world.
· Convenience. Online education allows students to study without having to make any special arrangements with the institution.
· Accessible and affordable. Many universities offer online courses that are cheaper than their on-campus counterparts.
· Various options. Students can enroll in online courses from different schools worldwide.
In 2020, to promote and facilitate efficient online teaching and learning practices, four U.S. organizations - Online Learning Consortium, Quality Matters, University Professional and Continuing Education Association, and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, have joined forces to create the National Council for Online Education (NCOE) to advocate for the careful and deliberate development and implementation of online learning courses and programs. The council believes that high-quality online courses and programs need to be guided by instructional design and teaching practices developed specifically for online education.
Future of Online Education
· AI+ Online Education
"Data + Intelligence" will serve as the key force of education. In addition to the three major roles of education (instructor, student, parent), the rise of artificial intelligence is becoming the fourth pillar of education.
As an essential impetus to lead the new round of technological revolution and industrial change, the advancement of A.I. artificial intelligence technology has brought new opportunities for educational development and rapid changes to the classroom. For instance:
- Through image recognition technology, teachers are freed from grading assignments and marking papers.
- Through speech recognition and semantic analysis technology, teachers are assisted in oral assessment.
- Through human-computer interaction technology, teachers are aided in answering students' questions and solving problems.
· Metaverse+Online Education
With Roblox going public and Meta (Facebook) CEO Zuckerberg's metaverse declaration, the metaverse has become the hottest trend since 2021. Its immersion and interactivity are the most prominent advantages of VR technology, which will have a revolutionary impact on the development of online education.
The technology is particularly suitable for use in immersive learning and can create a more immersive learning space for students, while also saving on research and education costs. The new learning format will significantly enhance the efficiency of the lessons and students' interest in learning.
Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Online Education
As the Covid-19 outbreak hit across the globe, governments implemented emergency education initiatives, which mainly included:
· Increasing the size of existing distance education programs or establishing new remote learning approaches.
· Using the Internet to provide online learning platforms or virtual classrooms.
· Developing and implementing large-scale online courses.
· Encourage instructors to make full use of digital learning resources and teaching resources.
· Carrying out international cooperation and sharing existing high-quality online education resources.
Due to the pandemic, students and instructors at all levels of education have been forced to adapt to online learning quickly. The epidemic's impact, as well as the adaptations needed to keep education functioning throughout the crisis, may have a long-term impact on how education is delivered.
Challenges for Universities and Colleges
1. The outbreak has disrupted the travel plans of overseas students. The epidemic has had a significant influence on international student mobility, which is an important aspect of the global higher education system. Many international students are unable to attend their schools on time due to flight bans, school closures, and outbreak recurrence.
2. Some institutions have postponed or closed sessions, disrupting the regular educational schedule. According to UNESCO, there were still seven countries affected by the virus as of February 28, 2022, with nationwide school closures affecting 43,518,726 students.
3. The emergence of more infectious strains. Schools must prevent large-scale infections of new strains from occurring on campus. For example, to avoid massive Omicron infections on campus, many U.S. institutions have taken action to reinstate and strengthen prevention measures. Over 70 universities in approximately 26 states have announced the suspension of face-to-face sessions and the transition to online courses for the 2022 Spring semester.
4. Many colleges and universities are closing their doors. Due to dwindling enrolment, budget limits, and financial challenges, several minor institutions have been forced to close permanently. For example, MacMurray College, one of the country's oldest women's institutions and one of Illinois's oldest liberal arts campuses, closed in March 2020.
Solutions that Education Institutions Seek in Tough Times
The unanticipated health crisis has pushed the academic order of schools, as well as instructional systems and methodologies, into disarray.
According to a Cengage survey, educators had been using a variety of technologies and services to deliver lessons, including the school's learning management platform (83%), live streaming video conferencing (80%), self-produced, and pre-recorded video lectures (65%).
The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the paradigm of higher education. To address the pandemic, higher education institutions have implemented a variety of teaching modalities, including online and hybrid learning.
1. Online learning
There are different modes of instruction for online learning, including live ("synchronous"), recorded ("asynchronous") courses, and self-paced courses.
· Synchronous/ Live
- Students must present at the Zoom video conference rooms on time according to the professors' scheduled class hours to attend class.
- Professors live-stream during face-to-face classes while students use the internet to attend the classes.
Pros: Students can take classes remotely and engage in real-time interactions with professors and classmates.
Cons: Sessions are fixed, and students must stick to the class times or else miss the course.
Target audience: Students who wish to interact with their lecturers and classmates and want the course closer to the traditional classroom experience. For example, when MSU closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, Ruby, a Chinese student at the university, returned to Beijing. She had intended to enroll in the summer program at UC-Berkeley in 2021. Her parents, on the other hand, were adamant about keeping her. So, she decided to enroll in UCB's synchronous online classes on LightCourse. Even though she couldn't visit Berkeley to experience top teaching methods in person, she could still connect with academics in real time, enhancing her learning experience.
· Asynchronous/ Recorded
- Professors record their lectures in advance, and students can watch the recordings before the due date.
- Instructors record lectures during synchronous/ face-to-face sessions, students who can't attend class on time can watch the recorded lectures.
Pros: Asynchronous courses are more flexible and have no location and class time restrictions. Students have the freedom to study whenever and wherever they wish within a predetermined time frame.
Cons: Lack of real-time interaction and engagement with instructors and classmates.
Target audience: Students who do not have a lot of schedule flexibility and are unable to attend classes at a specific time; students who wish to watch the courses multiple times in order to gain a better understanding.
Self-paced courses, as the name implies, allow students to consume learning material at their own pace. These courses give students a lot of freedom, allowing them to register and begin lessons whenever they want. Students have more flexibility in completing their education since they can work at their own speed without being bound by strict deadlines.
Pros: The absence of time constraints is the most significant advantage of self-paced learning. Students can repeatedly go over the course materials to ensure that they comprehend the material thoroughly.
Cons: Self-paced courses often comprise PowerPoint presentations and video clips, with hardly any interaction from the instructor. Students may become demotivated if they do not have access to in-person trainers.
Target Audience: Students with extremely tight schedules who are unable to study at a particular time and who want complete control over their learning plans.
2. Hybrid learning
Hybrid learning, or blended learning, is a style of education that mixes online instructional resources with traditional in-person classroom methods. It's neither entirely virtual nor entirely digital. It consists of a mix of in-person classes, as well as pre-recorded lectures and online learning modules that can be done remotely. Through this method, students can benefit from both flexibility and classroom engagements.
Pros: Students can benefit from both types of teaching methods. They can access a variety of digital resources such as e-books, videos, and audio clips while still being able to participate in traditional classroom activities with instructors and their peers.
Cons: Students must have access to high-speed Wi-Fi as well as learning gadgets in order to participate in online learning. In addition, when students learn online, there is insufficient real-world participation on their part.
Normalization of Online Education
Given the likely long-term coexistence of the epidemic, a hybrid of online and offline teaching models will grow increasingly prevalent.
Online education is one of the fastest-growing educational technology sectors in the digital age. According to data, 33.1 percent of undergraduates in the United States attended an online course in 2017, and 34.7 percent in 2018, but by the fall of 2020, 97 percent of college students have shifted totally to online classes. Based on the data, college students are enthusiastic about online learning. This is because it provides benefits that are not available in a traditional classroom, such as providing students with more flexible and diverse options. The increased use of mobile devices and mobile apps by students to participate in online instruction will become an even bigger trend. According to a poll, 57 % of Colorado Technical University students use their smartphones to access instructional materials and as supplemental learning devices. In fact, it is the primary way that many people interact with the world nowadays.
Predictably, more universities will normalize the combination of online and offline teaching in the post-epidemic era.
LightCourse: A Global Higher Education Opportunity Provider
LightCourse has been working closely with over 200 colleges and universities in North America for the past decade, providing professional academic guidance and assistance to over 10,000 students worldwide, accumulating valuable experience in online education. We take full advantage of our resources and experience to quickly adapt to the changing environment and continuously improve our online education platform's course offerings and service quality in this post-pandemic era.
More than 7,000 official college courses are available through LightCourse's vast and global network of world-class partner institutions, covering over 300 majors and subjects. Courses available include typically required courses for many majors, general education requirements, electives at various levels, and more specialized offers. Asynchronous (recorded) and synchronous (live) courses are available to students in online courses. In addition to the standard spring, summer, fall, and winter terms, self-paced courses are also available, allowing students to pursue high-quality international education at any time and from any location.
Our goal is to lower educational barriers. We connect students with high-quality study and professional development opportunities in order to broaden their perspectives and gain new skills that will help them flourish in a global economy.
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