Online learning has existed for a long time. However, it has become more popular in the recent past due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through animations, simulations, and virtual labs, educators can give students opportunities to understand concepts that don’t need experimentation.
Technology applications that support contextualization and personalization of the online learning process can result in demonstrated value and better returns. Technology has enriched online learning experiences in different ways.
Research is an integral component of the learning process. Cloud technology has simplified the research process for students. Today, students don’t need to peruse through hard copies in the library to do referencing and citations to improve their research work.
Search engine algorithms are more efficient and can offer suggestions on connected topics that a student may not have considered researching. Students have been able to use specific computer programs to analyze data and present findings when writing projects and dissertations. With technology, research has been an effective tool, especially in supporting higher education.
Technology, therefore, allows students to save a lot of time during research so that they can incorporate knowledge and information in their work more efficiently. Additionally, the generation of results and solutions globally is now possible. This is the most obvious benefit to any student who pursues online education.
Cloud-based software has changed the way students collect and analyze data. It has significantly reduced the potential for human errors and improved the speed of the research process.
Effective communication is an important aspect of the online learning process. Technology has helped to bridge any communication gaps and it has simplified the flow of knowledge. As long as there is no digital divide created by limited access to the internet, learners and teachers can communicate with each other through various platforms.
With the internet, email, online agendas, and discussion boards, communication among teachers and students have improved and so have been the learning outcomes. Advanced and innovative communication tools can enable teachers to get in touch with their learners fast.
With online collaboration tools in virtual classrooms, educators can easily assign tasks to students promptly. The students can seek clarifications on those tasks and get instant feedback.
The ability to collaborate and communicate with peers has also been enhanced. Students can conduct online class discussions where they can post any questions and participate in teamwork to find solutions.
Google’s messaging, voice and video app facilitate private communication between teachers and learners hence supporting the person learning. Teachers can also have a private conversation with a small group or all the students at once. With the video feature, teachers can convert the conversations into video chats.
VoiceThread is a web-based application that enables teachers and students to upload documents, videos, and images and invite others to give their comments as well. This technology has enhanced teaching and learning by supporting peer reviews and live project presentations.
Teachers have also been able to use podcasting applications to record audio files that serve as study guides. Not forgetting the GoToMeeting video conferencing software that lets participants collaborate in real-time. GoToMeeting is greatly being used to host lessons. For example, teachers can illustrate learning concepts by sharing their whiteboard screens.
The use of technology in online education has created fun learning experiences among students. Students can concentrate on various learning tasks and retain the concepts acquired.
Gadgets such as tablets, computers, and mobile phones have improved the scope of applications in education. Thus, learners can enjoyably capture various concepts. They can watch live streaming videos to make them understand concepts, ideas, and subjects better and enjoy the learning experience.
Using technology in virtual classes is an effective way to promote enthusiasm among students. Some of the common technologies that create fun in learning include:
- Video-based learning – Video-based learning creates a more complete and clearer picture of the concepts for students. For example, students enjoy lessons conducted via YouTube than they would otherwise have done in the face-to-face learning environment.
- Game-based learning – Using devices such as mobile phones, tablets and iPads can keep the students engaged in educational games, especially those around a topic or subject. Game-based learning is effective because it motivates learners through positive reinforcements with minimal penalties for underperformance.
- Augmented Reality (AR) – AR facilitates experiential learning through discovery, exploration, and collaborative interaction and learning. It is a strong tool to allow learners to visualize ideas and enjoy the learning process.
- Podcasts – Podcasts are suitable for learners who prefer going back to a lesson that they missed. Podcasts have opened the learning world, allowing learners to watch a collection of them online.
- Laptops – Laptops are an integral part of online student learning. They enable students to complete assignments, share and review other students’ work and use common tools and resources that promote learning.
- Video Conferencing – Video conferencing has been used to bring a different perspective to online learning. Students who travel a lot can interact with their guest lecturers and also participate in class discussions with their peers.
Remote learning is not considered complete until students are assessed and evaluated. Digital simulations and models are not only used for preparing lessons efficiently but also to track the students’ progress. Teachers are now using specialized software to administer or receive their students’ assessments in real-time.
The software helps teachers to have updated students’ records concerning the assessments. For example, they can know the time the students take to solve problems, the number of assignments given, and so on. When the teachers know the time students take to tackle questions, they can have insights into the students’ learning behavior. This can help them to create room for improvement among the students who may not be doing well.
Technology-enabled assessments are more efficient because they reduce resources, time, and learning disruptions. They can also enable educators to have a clear and complete picture of the student’s interests, abilities, and needs, thus allowing them to personalize learning.
Educators are also able to see the students demonstrating their thinking levels during learning and give them real-time feedback via learning dashboards. Parents can be updated about their students’ performance in real-time as well. In the long run, educators, states, and schools can use the information gathered to support innovations in learning.
Technology-based assessment tools also support evaluation and coaching. The tools capture evidence of teaching qualities such as collaboration and teamwork. They offer avenues for peer reflection, self-reflection, feedback, and evaluation.
Visual group collaboration
Digital technology has improved the idea of virtual learning and group study. Students no longer need to gather together physically to participate in group work. Online collaboration platforms have enhanced the efficiency and effectiveness of group study, making distance learning more meaningful.
Students can chat, discuss and share notes and relevant documents. This approach is ideal where students are assigned group projects. By participating in a shared project or lesson, students can learn various skills, including teamwork-building skills and group analysis.
Students who cannot attend live events online can participate in virtual collaborative learning through message boards and other forums that need real-time interaction.
Group work for students can allow students to:
- Acquire time management skills
- Enhance communication
- Break down tasks into manageable parts
- Discover methods of problem-solving
Through collaborative discussions, students can participate and make the discussion equitable. Discussions forums have so far provided an opportunity for students to creatively use other tools such as course wikis and video blogs.
Flexibility in learning
Technology has made it possible for students to participate in self-paced learning, allowing them to enjoy the learning process. They don’t need to skip any difficult concept since they are not under pressure to learn it within a defined time frame.
Some learners can grasp concepts faster than others. The slow learners can use the emerging technologies to learn at their own pace. Thus, they can pace up with the rest with an understanding of lessons and an online curriculum tailored to their needs.
Students need a flexible learning environment, especially those who are battling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Students have had to take care of their affected families, a situation that has made it challenging for students to learn at a given pace.
Some students prefer to do their lessons over the weekends or in the evenings because they are working or have families to take care of. Others may prefer to take shorter lessons at a time and learn independently. Virtual learning can accommodate individual learning styles and customize the curriculum to meet the learners’ unique needs.
The online learning experience has changed dramatically due to the adoption of advanced technologies. Technology has enriched research and promoted communication between educators and learners. Students can enjoy learning as the educators address their unique learning capabilities and adhere to them. More importantly, technology has facilitated collaborative and self-paced learning. The adoption of technology in e-learning will continue to emerge as more and more people are appreciating its benefits.