Teaching is one of those spheres where it is comparatively hard to come up with innovative approaches – with the existing variety of learning theories and strategies, inventing a brand new concept is quite complicated. However, with the rapid pace of technical progress and the appearance of computers and Internet, the existing teaching theories have evolved into another approach known as online teaching.
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Offering new opportunities for the students to learn certain subjects distantly and to train their skills with the help of specific programs, online teaching, indeed, provides a number of issues for teachers to consider and has a lot of advantages compared to the old-fashioned manner of teaching.
However, it must be taken into account that online teaching also presupposes facing a lot of new challenges, one of which concerns the relationships between the teacher and the students as well as the relationships among the students.
Because of the lack of live communication between the students and the teacher and among the students, online learning can fall flat as a means to teach the students the basic group interaction skills and to help the students solve the conflicts which can arise in the course of communication.
Hence, while offering more opportunities for the students, the online teaching approach misses out the aspect of live communication, which makes it look rather as an addition to the real-life classes than an independent teaching approach.
In the course of online teaching, I have had the experience concerning the communication aspect, and to say that this experience left much to be desired would be to color the truth.
Actually, the students in the group which I was to provide with tasks and whose progress I was to control displayed consistently increasing improvements in such aspects of language learning as reading and writing, yet started experiencing great problems when it came to listening and speaking.
When rethinking the given experience and analyzing the factors which could have possibly led to such deplorable results, I had to consider the learning theory. As it turned out, the idea of teaching students solely with the help of online teaching, which made the bulk of the chosen method, did not work as well as one might have expected it to.
Before going straight to emphasizing the downsides of the online learning concept, one must give credit to some of the luckiest improvements which the given theory has introduced into the field of English language learning. To start with, the given approach allows not only foreign students, but also adults to partake in the learning program.
Helping people from all walks of life obtain the skills and information which they will need in their further career, online learning has literally embraced the entire world. The online learning theory will help adults to learn what they consider necessary for their jobs without actually quitting their current positions.
However, the above-mentioned issue also presupposes facing certain challenges in developing the current theory. In contrast to the theory of adult learning, which has been developed long before and is nowadays firmly established among the rest of the theories as a truly solid set of concepts, online learning still requires further development.
Another minor drawback of the theory of online learning is the lack of live communication between the learner and the teacher, which has been mentioned above. The issue of communication can possibly become a major stepping stone for the students who will resort to the online learning theory to acquire new knowledge.
According to the ideas offered by Tough, interaction between the students and the teacher is extremely important for the learning process, since among the four planners described by Tough, none features learning process without communicating with the teacher (Tough).
Indeed, while evaluating the conclusions made in the course of the lesson and learning the “enduring value beyond the classroom” (Understanding by design by Wiggins and McTighe: A summary, n. d.) is important, the process of communication with the teacher and the peers is also of great significance.
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When deprived of the given element of learning, students are likely to start feeling uncertain; hence, the possibility of a failure is highly likely.
Nevertheless, the above-mentioned does not mean that the theory of online teaching has no intrinsic value in it. There are a number of positive aspects about the theory, and they are worth bringing up.
To start with, as it has been mentioned above, the online teaching approach does allow foreign students and the students who have to work to study distanced and yet manage to get all the necessary information without having to attend every lecture.
Another important issue that makes online learning theory worth consideration is the fact that online learning provides ample opportunities for both self-study and learning in virtual classrooms (Clark & Mayer, 2008).
Providing the students with enough freedom, online teaching offers considerable flexibility and presupposes that the student should be rather independent in the course of learning.
Therefore, the question is how important the communication process between the teacher and the students, as well as among the students, is.
As Brna (2002) puts, it, live communication with the teacher helps digest new information faster. Moreover, Brna also notes that “the learning environment should foster students’ self-regulation guidance” (Brna, 2002, 128), which is exactly what online learning offers.
Hence, it can be considered that the postulates of the online learning theory have certain rationale which justifies their existence, yet the above-mentioned theories are way too raw to be established as the guiding principle of the modern learning process.
While online learning theory does offer a lot of new opportunities for learners, allowing international students to study without actually moving to a different country and, which is even more important, be considered a specialist in the chosen field as well as any of the students who attended a college or university.
Moreover, computer programs presuppose having new possibilities, such as the training of specific skills, e.g., listening skills.
However, it must be admitted that, with all the innovations which online learning offers, there is still a huge drawback that the students have to put up with; to be more exact, online learning has literally nothing to do with working in a team, which usual classes often focus on.
Hence, it must be assumed that, while helping students to have a better idea of the course material and to digest the newly obtained knowledge, practicing the new skills, online teaching should be considered as an additional method of teaching which must be comprised with the live teaching methods.
Brna, P. (2002). The role of communication in learning to model. New York City, NY: Routledge.
Clark, R. C., &Mayer, R. (2008).E–learning and the science of instruction, 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Tough, A. (1971). The adult’s learning project. A Fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning. Retrieved from http://ieti.org/tough/books/alp.htm
Understanding by design by Wiggins and McTighe: A summary (n. d.). Web.