Exploring Online Learning Through Synchronous and Asynchronous Instructional Methods
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Over the last twenty years, online learning, eLearning and distance learning have greatly evolved to adapt to different audiences, addressed various time and spaces, have been customized to meet a variety of subject matter, and have allowed connectivity to content through many modalities. Distance education/online learning has grown dramatically in higher education institutions. According to Seaman, Allen, and Seaman (2018) over 3 million students utilize online-only learning in higher education. In their report published by the Babson Research Group, they state “nearly fifteen percent (14.9%) of all students enrolled in higher education programs participated in distance-only programs (p. 3).” Students taking distance education courses “grew by 5.6% from Fall 2015 to Fall 2016 to reach 6,359,121 students taking at least one distance education course (Seaman et al., 2018 p. 3). That means “31.6% of all students” (p. 3) are now taking distance education courses. With the growing demand for online programs in higher education, demand for online instructors and the demand for the development of quality online curriculum that includes synchronous and asynchronous instructional methods has never been greater.
As the Internet has become ubiquitous, so has access to online education. Online learning has expanded to reach audiences worldwide, in large cities, in developing countries, in rural and urban communities, in the sub-Saharan deserts of Africa, and even in remote islands in the South Pacific. Online learners range from kindergartners to adult learners, and every age group in between. Online courses are designed for undergraduate and graduate degree programs, for certifications, for job training, and for meeting the needs of grade level expectancies in K-12 education. In fact, many high school students are now taking online classes as a form of credit recovery, for Advanced Placement coursework, for enrichment, and even for college credit. Powell from the Aspen Institute states, “Research shows that more than 75% of school districts use blended and online learning for expanded course offerings and credit recovery.” Virtual schools are growing at an unprecedented rate and educational institutions as a whole are all embracing online learning as a viable alternative to the traditional, “face-to-face”, “on ground” instructional environment. If educational institutions are not currently offering classes online, they will be beyond 2020.