Online learning has been trending for some time, growing rapidly and bringing with it a new era of teaching and learning (Capra, 2011). Institutions like Westford University College has taken full advantage of this development. For example, the Post Graduate Diploma in Supply Chain management along with many other programmes are now offered online, attracting students, both in the UAE and abroad. Quite recently I have had a student from the Bahamas, some 12000 or so km away from the UAE. A surprise for me. But then, I underestimated the technology and the reach of social media. The online content has been able to attract students in every territory and continent with much more potential for growth. For example, Nigeria, with a 160 million populace, targeting117 universities (Guardian, 2012) and 1 million youths seeking limited access to universities (Odunayo, 2013) an online based MBA for Nigeria nationals is quite appropriate to be explored.
Having conducted several online sessions myself, I have found that in order to be successful at it, similar to onsite models, you must engage the student. The technology allows students to collaborate and engage each other, either verbally or in written form on the online platform. The student interaction is done on our Electa platform and is as vibrant as our onsite sessions. This brings out the cooperative model in learning where peer to peer engagement is encouraged to facilitate shared knowledge (Schell and Janicki, 2012). Students can now easily interact with each other, as they do in a WhatsApp group and even use video chat if needed. A constructivist approach, like in our onsite sessions, could still be practised, a model that is also student-centered and one that has promoted collaboration and communication among participants (Gold, 2001). This is what the technology facilitates or can facilitate if the teacher allows it too. This learning environment also brings about a wider range of real-world examples due to the geographical reach of online platforms. But these experiences depend heavily on the school’s philosophy. Active learning being at the cornerstone of our university college, we encourage online trainers to teach as if they are conducting an onsite session. The role play, quizzes and case exercises can all be done online with not many limitations. This approach is what brings out the best results, mimicking the successes of the onsite classroom.
A detailed scope in the trainer’s delivery doesn’t always fit well with the online delivery and theories though. Discussing and teaching a wide range of concepts has to be done in a more controlled timeframe when compared to the onsite model. This could be quite challenging for educators and requires some skill and experience to balance the use of a more constructivists approach vs a behaviourist slant. For clarity, for onsite sessions, we usually attract a mix of experienced and inexperienced students in the module taught. Students with considerable years of experience in our supply chain management diploma, for example, might become bored, when applying a traditional behaviourist approach, argued to be useful for novice learners (Moallem, 2001) who are likely to benefit. Here is where more lecturing will be done to help cement key theories and concepts. My advice is to blend both based on the audience ability.
Another consideration for educators, new to the online form of pedagogy might be a reduction of presentation content and creating discussions around videos, photos and case studies. More detailed content can be made available on the portal’s information feature. This approach can also compensate for time lost due to student login delay and technical issues encountered by the presenter, if at all.
Anderson (2008), The Theory and Practice of Online Learning [Online]. Available at: http://stoa.usp.br/ewout/files/1073/6047/TerryAndersonEntireBook.pdf#page=27 (Accessed: 4th May 2018.
Capra (2011), ‘Online Education: Promise and Problems ‘MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 7, No. 2, June 2011.[Online] Available at: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no2/capra_0611.pdf. (Accessed: July 13th 2018).
Gold (2001) A Constructivist Approach to Online Teaching and Learning [Online] Available at: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ833907.pdf. (Accessed 12th May 2018)
Guardian, (2012), ‘The Reality and Challenges of E-Learning Education in Africa: The Nigeria Experience’ International Journal of Humanities and Management Sciences (IJHMS) Volume 1, Issue 3 (2013) ISSN 2320-4036; EISSN 2320-4044 [Online] Available at: http://www.isaet.org/images/extraimages/P513699.pdf. (Accessed: July 13th 2018).
Moallem, (2001). ‘Applying Constructivist and Objectivist Learning Theories in the Design of A Web-Based Course: Implications for Practice’, Educational Technology & Society 4(3) 2001 ISSN 1436-4522. [Online] Available at:https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mahnaz_Moallem/publication/220374758_Applying_Constructivist_and_Objectivist_Learning_Theories_in_the_Design_of_A_Web-Based_Course_Implications_for_Practice/links/558c062d08ae591c19d9e058.pdf. (Accessed 14th May 2018)
Odunayo, (2013) ‘The Reality and Challenges of E-Learning Education in Africa: The Nigeria Experience’ International Journal of Humanities and Management Sciences (IJHMS) Volume 1, Issue 3 (2013) ISSN 2320-4036; EISSN 2320-4044 [Online] Available at: http://www.isaet.org/images/extraimages/P513699.pdf. (Accessed: July 13th 2018)
Schell and Janicki, (2012). ‘Online Course Pedagogy and the Constructivist Learning Model’ Journal of the Southern Association for Information Systems, Volume 1, Number 1, 2012 [Online]. Available at: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jsais/11880084.0001.104/–online-course-pedagogy-and-the-constructivist-learning-model?rgn=main;view=fulltext (Accessed: 18 June 2018).
TeachOnline.ca (2018)A New Pedagogy is Emerging… and Online Learning is a Key Contributing Factor. [Online] Available at: https://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/how-teach-online-student-success/new-pedagogy-emerging-and-online-learning-key-contributing-factor (Accessed: 5th May 2018).