Benefits of online learning overhyped: Prof

While a recent survey reports educators’ increasing enthusiasm for Web-based teaching tools, a university faculty association director warns that benefits of e-learning are often over-hyped.

North American business and educational publisher McGraw-Hill Ryerson recently released a study measuring

the importance of computer technology on post-secondary student success. The study, consisting of the combined findings of three annual surveys the company conducted among more than 2,000 Canadian and U.S. educators, reports the vast majority now see Web-based teaching tools as more important than traditional aids such as books.

Web-based educational tools are a valuable resource for both students and teachers, says Henry Jacek, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association. The students appreciate the flexibility and access they allow, while educators say the Web enables them more time to concentrate on lecturing and interaction with students, he says. But technology in the classroom has not been the revolutionary tool everyone would like it to be for one reason: Money.

“”It often means you need to have personnel at the university who can devote their time to creating these Web sites, adding material and making sure they’re functioning properly,”” says Jacek.

“”You also need to educate the students on how to access these sites and use them effectively.””

Jacek says online tools are most helpful when dealing with large classes where instructor-student interaction is limited. In such instances, he says, putting additional information online can be very helpful to the student.

“”Of course, it’s not a substitute for talking to the professor,”” he says.

Trying to make such a substitute is where using technology in the classroom becomes problematic, says James Turk, Canadian Association of University Teachers executive director.

“”There’s a lot of evidence to show that online education is not particularly useful,”” he says. “”One piece of evidence is the reported high drop-out rates from strictly online classes. All the anecdotes I’ve heard, they’re dramatically higher (than regular courses).””


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