Description of Technology
One of the challenges that come with the new trends towards online learning is the new opportunities it presents to change traditional learning mechanisms to suit the environment. In the traditional setting knowledge is fixed to a specific time and place i.e. the classroom while in the online setting knowledge is always accessible (Gold, 2001). This in itself suggests changes in various aspects of learning, for example, a typical assignment may involve library research whereas an online environment may include an assessment of various websites to find assignment material. This suggests that the instructor in this new environment must be adequately trained online to effectively provide instruction for online learners (Gold, 2001).
It has been suggested that without adequate online training the teachers are likely to replicate the traditional teaching practices on to the online environment (Gold, 2001). If this were to take place then the change from a traditional learning environment to an online environment is unlikely to bring about any significant impact. Despite the fact that the change in the mode of delivery is expected to improve learning outcomes through the inclusion of more relevant and engaging material. The mere technological change without the essential teacher support is unlikely to bring about educational reform that online learning aims to produce (Gold, 2001).
This because online learning is not about delivering information but encouraging or instructing students on how to identify relevant information. The nature of the internet thus requires the teacher to be well informed on resources available. This would require some additional training within an online environment to help teachers understand the student position in the new environment.
Growth trends in this Technology
Online courses for teachers are essential because an increasing number of students are annually enrolling for online courses all over the world (Kim & Bonk, 2006). In response to the demands more and more institutions are currently making plans to prepare for the demands of these courses. At the same time, there is a lot of misconception about the difficulty associated with teaching and learning online. In part this could be attributed to the huge amount of technologies that are in use in parts of the world such as e-books, text messaging, blogs, wikis, and podcasts (Kim & Bonk, 2006). The situation suggests that a teacher within this kind of environment will need to be well informed on various technologies and how to incorporate them into the curriculum.
In some countries, online courses have been characterized by increased drop out rates and complaints from students to include richer and more engaging online learning experiences (Kim & Bonk, 2006). This comes at a time when administrative budgets are already tightly stretched by increased technology infrastructure budgets. Such a situation is probably very hard to overcome and it is for this reason that it is suggested that Saudi Arabian colleges undertake online training courses for their teachers. It has been reported that the readiness of online instructors is essential to the process of online learning (Kim & Bonk, 2006).
As is the case in most institutions the aspect of quality is of the utmost importance when considering the introduction of online learning in Saudi Arabia. In line with this therefore comes the challenge of providing the best possible online learning experience (Oliver, 2001). If online learning is to become a part of the higher education package offered it must become a part of the mainstream practice in the higher education setting. This position suggests that more and more activities that are more productively carried out online should be altered to reflect the institutional position.
For example, it has been observed that online assessment schemes are effective for periodic assessment. Institutions must indicate this by increasing the number of online assessments offered to its student population to reflect this. However, for this to be done the teachers need to be trained to identify appropriate modules to test using online assessment procedures. It has already been mentioned that for these schemes to be successful the teachers can not merely transfer traditional mechanisms onto the new media (Gold, 2001). For the institution to achieve the transformation that online learning suggests it is crucial that the teachers are well trained and understand how to best use the technology to teach (Oliver, 2001).
Similarly just as the inclusion of various online schemes is crucial to the success of online learning also of importance is the choice of technology. As earlier stated the online learning classroom has to choose from a huge variety of technologies such as blogs, podcasts, etc. The online learning courses will help the teachers identify which of these technologies will bring about the best results within their classes. Teacher currency is essential in this and can be improved through online training (Oliver, 2001).
The Vision and the People
As it has been reported by some author’s online training course promise immense returns on investments and enhance organizational responsiveness in the market (Hansen, 2003). Through effective use of such programs, organizations can adapt fast to the changing needs of students. However, it has been observed that these online training courses rely heavily on management support for their success (Hansen, 2003).
This is because the process of building intellectual capital involves developing opportunities for employees to improve job performance but also in assisting employees to reach their individual potential. For this to take place an organization is required to invest in adequate infrastructure and develop a learner-based curriculum that will allow the teachers to adapt to the use of technology in their various disciplines.
In addition to the immense benefits in terms of return on investment, online training courses have the potential of assisting in teacher retention. It is reported that 39% and 25% of beginning teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years in the US and Australia respectively (Herrington, Herrington, Kervin & Ferry, 2006). Among the reasons cited for leaving work includes large classrooms, lesson planning, and student management. Though such statistics are from foreign countries it is likely that teachers in Saudi Arabia face similar circumstances. Among the solutions that have successfully been used is the inclusion of online training. This program allows beginning teachers to access curriculum resources, communicate with each other, and contact expert mentors to assist in the adjustment (Herrington et al., 2006).
This innovative use of online training material has been found to be effective in reducing the sense of professional isolation felt by novice teachers. This use of online training is crucial to colleges given that the level of attrition has a greater effect on subjects such as mathematics and sciences (Herrington et al., 2006). It is based on such reasons that it would be prudent for institutions in Saudi Arabia to consider the use of online training for its teachers in the future.
Gold, S. (2001). A Constructivist Approach to Online Training for Online Teachers. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 5(1), 35-57.
Hansen, D. J. (2003). [E-Learning Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age, by M. Rosenberg]. Education Technology & Society 6(3), 80-81. ISSN 1436-4522.
Herrington, A., Herrington, J., Kervin, L. & Ferry, B. (2006). The Design of an Online Community practice for Beginning Teachers. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education 6(1), 120-132.
Kim, K. J. & Bonk, C. J. (2006). The Future of Online Teaching and Learning in Higher education: The survey. Educause Quarterly, 22-30.
Oliver, R. (2001). Assuring the Quality of Online Learning in Australian Higher education.
In Wallace, M., Ellis, W. A. & Newton, D. (Eds). (2001). Proceedings from Moving Online II Conference, 222-231. Lismore: Southern Cross University.