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Internet Based Learning

The education and training sector has recognized the emerging power of the Internet and this has helped breakdown the traditional barriers of time and place for the delivery of education. Trends that show that this is true:

  • Companies that traditionally developed stand-alone computer-based training modules and CD-ROMs are now developing hybrid modules that can be accessible with an Internet browser.
  • Educators and trainers are now using HTML editors and common web publishing tools to post class notes, assignments, case studies, video clips, and animations on Intranets or the Internet in support of classroom activities.
  • Corporate training is the "in-thing" now. Organizations are now developing media-rich, just-in-time support systems to distribute knowledge within the company and also bring their employees up-to-speed on new technologies
  • Virtual on-line universities are offering entire credit courses using Internet technologies. The Internet is the favored delivery channel of choice today.
  • Software development companies who have seen the trend have developed advanced learning environments that combine powerful Internet collaboration tools like email, synchronous and asynchronous discussion, shared work spaces, video conferencing, and so on.

The only limiting factor that prevents the Internet from becoming the dominant technology and delivery environment in education is the current bandwidth and speed limitations.

A framework that can help decide which learning tool to use in order to deliver and present the content in the right manner is the first step towards designing
e-Learning development. The Instructional Design Process provides this framework.

Analysis Phase

  • Project plan
  • Needs assessment
  • Audience analysis
  • Content analysis
  • Technical analysis and media tool authoring selection
  • Structure and organization of content

Design Phase

  • Learning objectives
  • Designing the lessons
  • Evaluation design
  • Media treatments

Development Phase

  • Authoring and integration of media elements
  • Electronic prototypes testing
  • Courseware ready for implementation

Implementation Phase

  • Distribution
  • Reporting and tracking
  • Maintenance

Evaluation Phase

  • Recommendations and learning effectiveness evaluations

Once it is decided that the Internet will be the chosen delivery vehicle, a further study regarding media, types of authoring and development tools and the technical and organizational limitations of the instructors, designers and students are evaluated. Based on these decisions, the right learning management system is selected. It could be a service that is rented out or a third-party product that is used or customized.

For example, a group of universities can have millions of courses with as many tutors and students as a part of each course. The LMS service will help match the needs of students, courses, universities and authors and then create the module that is made available to the student.

Instructional strategies

The four examples below are some of the ways that the Internet can be used as a delivery channel in e-Learning development.

  • The Internet can be used as medium to present content that would have otherwise been presented in the traditional manner. The use of media graphics and animation help make the presentation more useful. The classroom is very much in use here - for learner feedback, assessments and so on.
  • In an extensible mode, in addition to the above, email and discussion lists are offered through the Internet, but not in real-time. Sometimes, students can take tests online too. However, the primary delivery vehicle is still the classroom.
  • In the third case, an instructional designer prepares a series of self-instructional tutorials, and also provides interactive modules that guide the student through some topics. Online tests and assessments are also tracked and reports generated online.
  • Here, in a complete module of "distance education", along with the presentation of the course with media graphics and animation, collaborative tools like email, discussion lists, live chats, and shared work spaces are used for better learning. Tests and student participation are also tracked online. In this case, the entire course is "virtually" delivered over the Internet.

Combinations of the above approaches are also being experimented with. So, a learning management system that is used can contain a whole variety of combinations based on specific needs.

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