Most components of online learning have an ancestor that can be traced back to a traditional classroom setting. In the case of instant messaging (
What exactly are those online tools and how can they be used? Research has examined a few common tools being utilized in education. First the blog or weblog, is a journal in which the writer posts comments, graphics, and links to other web based information. These journals are interactive when the owner allows other people to post comments and reflections on the writing. In online education blogs are often used to post assignments and comment on other students’ writing. They are used as assessment tools to ascertain if a student understands the material or task at hand. In a study that compared student attitudes toward educational blogs to the tools audio conferencing, the Rotisserie system, and instant messaging, blogs consistently came in least popular tied with Rotisserie although “students admitted that they had been ‘won over’ to the benefits of blogging through the exercise of having to use it and reading the blogs of their peers”. (Weller, 2005). The other advantage to blogs is their flexibility in how and when they can be accessed by students to “provide opportunities for instructor–student as well as student–student real-time and/or time-delayed collaboration.” (Beldarrain 2006) an important consideration for many students in choosing on-line classes. The other component is the degree to which a student feels they are controlling the direction of their learning, another component of andragogy. In an Australian study of the use of blogs in an MBA course they found “The inherent creativity of blogging and the distinctly open environment for topic advancement allowed students to direct their own learning in a manner that transcended the existing curriculum.” (Williams, 2004)
The greatest perceive disadvantage to online learning is the lack of socialization. Interaction with peers and instructors is important, and distance learning can decrease the amount of social contact, and it is far easier to misinterpret writing because it doesn’t have the visual cues face to face communication does. Also, students can begin to feel isolated and cut-off from the learning processes. Interactive tools like blogging can help alleviate that experience of being inaccessible to others or of them to you. Steven Glogoff’s research indicates that blogging can add a dimension of interaction beyond what is usually experience in the traditional classroom setting. He states, “Finally, the opportunities for each student to post substantive comments to other students' blog entries add an additional tier of interactivity and social interaction. In online courses where communication remains largely text-based, such opportunities to enhance community can make significant contributions to student learning.” (Glogoff, 2005) There is some thought that blogs might create actual virtual communities even after the course has ended, but this remains a topic for further research. In an actual classroom, some students form social bonds that exist and continue outside the confines of the class, and many continue on with their own direction, occasionally meeting again in another required course. One can imagine the obstacles involved with maintaining friendships through a chance meeting would be exacerbated by the limited contact of a virtual course, but maybe not. Maybe the availability of a virtual relationship unconstrained by physical location would promote the ability to continue.