Graphic - School Boy Student And Female Teacher At A Chalkboard
Graphic - School Boy Student And Female Teacher At A Chalkboard
Online Courseware - This Isn't Anything Like Your Grandparent's Classroom!

What is Online Courseware?

While students once had only one choice with where and how they could learn, students now have many choices for their education career. One such choice, online courseware, allows students and teachers to take advantage of Internet learning technologies. Further, teachers may post assignments, course information, links to Internet sites, and other resources for their classes. Students can utilize these resources and may engage in discussions with the instructor and/or classmates. Students and teachers may get started by using their network usernames and passwords to access the system. Online Courseware can either be an extension of the classroom or as a replacement of the physical classroom. The most popular form of online courseware, which this page will focus on, is “Desire to Learn”, also known as D2L. D2l develops online Learning Management Systems (LMS) for schools, higher education, associations, government and private industry. This online courseware and its subsidiaries currently support more than 5 million learners worldwide. (1)

Below is an example of Online Courseware:

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of Online Courseware?

Online Courseware most closely corresponds with Constructivism, an approach that strongly supports active learning. Instructors do not impart knowledge, but rather, help learners build their own personal knowledge, which is done best through active learning. Online learning involves active cognizing by the individual, is subjective and self-organized. Student-centered learning is rooted in the constructivist philosophy. Through the use of discussion boards, online courseware typically involves working in groups rather than individually. Structured online discussions, collaborative online activities, online assessment, and interactive course materials are ways of promoting constructivism in online pedagogy.

What are the Benefits of Using Online Courseware?

There are a number of benefits associated with online learning. Many supporters and faculty members view the learning community as essential for cognitive growth and the development of critical thinking skills. Online educators also stress the importance of creating a learning environment that fosters interaction, dialogue, and mentoring in an effort to produce similar learning outcomes as traditional face-to-face courses. Findings support that online discussion and collaborative learning facilitate social interaction and building a community of learners.
From a student persepctive, online courseware is the perfect learning experience for the busy student. Such students can set their own schedule for taking the class, making their own hours and time format. This flexible and approachable format allows them to do the course work at 5am or 5 pm. Also, this is an extraordinarily affordable way to earn a degree or take a class. There are virtually no texts to buy, no papers to print, and no travel time to and from class. It is a busy person’s dream course! Also, there are many places that offer great online classes to take. Check out online course information!(2)

external image wvs.jpgFor the young student learner, online courseware is a great avenue to learning. In Wisconsin, there is even the Wisconsin Virtual Academy for students who do not like the traditional brick and mortar school experience. This approach to learner is quite new and cutting edge. Their approach is simple: With the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), students in grades K-12 have a high-quality, tuition-free, online public school education option. Working one-on-one with a teacher, students can learn anywhere an Internet connection can be found.

external image Bells_N_Whistles.gifWhat are the Challenges of Using Online Courseware?

A common criticism of Online Courseware is that online components are essentially the “bells and whistles” added onto traditional courses, which are costly and only minimally enhance the course content. Many critics argue that online courseware focuses only on providing course content, instead of creating an environment that enhances learning. Further, if courses are nothing more than content, why not simply provide the student with a textbook?

The fact that students are working by themselves is another disadvantage of Online Courseware. Between work, family and other responsibilities, the average person has little time to dedicate to educational pursuits even if it means a better job, more money and better benefits. Simply finding the time to attend regular classes may be impossible so Online Courseware becomes a great option. However, the same reason that online education is a good option for people who don’t have time is the same reason that online education is often difficult. When classes meet in person, there are scheduled and required times so that students don’t fall behind. If there are no time requirements, the opportunities to delay work are greater.

Another major disadvantage of Online Courseware is the lack of interaction. Since the student is not in a classroom, they cannot hear questions and discussion from other students. For those who learn best through discussion and listening to others, or may be learning a subject where discussion is important, Online Courseware is not the best avenue for learning.

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of Online Courseware?

Some key practices to using online courseware are discipline, flexibility, and creativity. First, both the student and the teacher must exercise great discipline. The teacher must be responsive in a timely manner, so as to help the student know what is expected when, and to understand how they are doing on a given assignment. The student, on the other hand, must be motivated and dedicated to the class. They must be on top of what is expected when, and must continue to monitor the class course work so as to be on time with assignment, etc. both the teacher and the student should be flexible in their approach to using online courses. As the class develops, things may come up that may change expectations in the course. Timelines may shift, like in any class, and thus the student must be able to adjust accordingly. Last, both the teacher and the student need to be creative in their approach to this course work. If an online class is to be educational, a variety of learning styles must be incorporated into the course. Presentations, videos, online research, chats and so on all help to keep the class fresh and interesting.

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What is the Current State of the Research on Online Courseware?

In an article writen at the National university, it was stated there are, "three best practices for the instructional delivery system in online courses. Embedded probe tests provide student rehearsal to practice test items that measure specified instructional objectives within the content lesson and can be readily infused in online courseware. Streaming audio with PowerPoint slides allows the instructor to customize the course by presenting a brief audio lecture accompanying the PowerPoint slides in the master copy of the courseware. Finally, teaching with iLinc and other synchronous technologies allow for greater student-teacher interaction in real time. Potential research topics addressing the efficacy of each of these promising procedures are delineated in this paper." (3)

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using Online Courseware?

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Any lesson can be open to online courseware. While a teacher may choose to purchase one of a number of developed online courseware programs for the curriculum needs they may have, creating one on your own may be most beneficial for the classroom in which they teach. Also, there is also free online courseware offered by the Department of Science and Technology for most grades. These are well developed programs that are creative, engaging and effective. The DOST website notes, “The launching [of online courseware] marked a significant progress in the country’s thrust to enhance the functional literacy of students in science and mathematics. Director Denis Villorente during the launching recounted the milestones of the courseware project, underlining the significance of information technology in uplifting the student’s imagination, creativity and interest in education." (4)

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What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using Online Courseware?

There are a plethora of online courseware resources for the teacher. Most curriculum programs now offer online tutorials with the teacher’s manual. These often have interactive websites for both the student and teacher to use to enhance their curriculum. While some are better than others, most have come a long way. Also, on the web teachers will find endless programs for every topic to be taught online. They are well developed, engaging, and state of the art. One excellent example is ICT digital literacy resources. This free website has countless online courseware for teachers of all grades to integrate into their curriculum. The mission is, “build awareness, encourage debate, and promote the importance of digital literacy. They provide practical information for business, government, teachers, and educational leaders, and encourage communication by employing technology tools in the most collaborative sense.”