lunes, 14 de septiembre de 2009

The CU Online Handbook

Patrick R. Lowenthal
Do you currently teach online? Have you thought about teaching online but for some reason haven’t done it yet? Here at CU Online, we believe in the power of online learning. Whether you currently teach online or you are thinking about doing it in the future, we are here to help you sort through this process and we hope that this handbook might help you along the way. The boundaries between traditional face - toface courses and completely online courses are beginning to blur. Therefore, as we move forward, we all must consider when, how, and why we integrate the tools that we do into our classrooms.
So where are we? Online learning continues to shake up institutions of higher education (Daugherty & Funke, 1998; Kezar & Eckel, 2002). Despite failing to meet initial expectations of
growth (Shank, 2004), online learning continues to grow each year (Dawley, 2007).

For instance, according to Sloan-C, an estimated 3.2 million students took at least one online course in the fall of 2005, up 800,000 from the previous year (Allen & Seaman, 2006). While the rate of growth of online learning has slowed in comparison to previous years, it still outpaces the growth of traditional face-to-face enrollments (Jaschik, 2009).

The Instructional Technology Council reported an 11.3 percent increase in 2008 (Lokken, 2009). Similarly, Sloan-C, while surveying different institutions, reported a 12.9% increase in enrollments for 2008. Not surprisingly, at the University of Colorado Denver, we have seen similar results. In the spring of 2009, there were 6,540 enrollments in fully online courses, up 12.60% from the previous spring. While enrollments in hybrid courses were less with only 1,272 enrollments, they were surprisingly up 27.20% from the previous spring. This continued growth, coupled with
bold new policies—like the state of Michigan requiring high school students to take online courses in order to graduate (Watson, 2006)—suggest that online learning is here to stay.
Despite this increased growth and acceptance, many are still skeptical about the value of online learning. For sometime this led proponents of online learning to feel the need to prove that online learning is “as good as” face-to-face learning. This gave rise to the comparison studies movement in which researchers conducted countless studies comparing whether student learning in online learning was as good as student learning in face-to-face settings.

The majority of these studies resulted in what’s been called the No-Significant Difference phenomenon. That is, researchers found no-significant difference in student learning between online and face-to-face. Over time, though these studies have come under increased scrutiny. Methodological issues aside, people began to question whether being as good as face-to-face learning is as good as it gets
(McDonald, 2002). Instead, we need to begin focusing on what we do differently in each of these learning environments that help improve student learning (Wiley, 2002).
A recent study commissioned by the US Department of Education has stirred additional interest by finding that online students tend to achieve better learning outcomes than students in traditional face-to-face courses (and students in hybrid, online, and face-to-face courses do even better than online alone!)


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