Higher education is enduring a thoughtful transition across the world. This transition leads to the introduction of technology into the education system and provides opportunity to pursue degree through online. Thus education system gets transformation from legacy classroom model to new online model. Globalization has a great impact in the transformation of system. The technological revolution and internet has helped to overcome the boundaries of time, place, space, languages, etc. and has enabled the user to share access and transform information across the globe economically. Internet and technology fulfil the student’s expectations by providing them flexible and unlimited opportunities across the globe. More than 370 million of Indians, which is close to 72% of their population, are connected to internet (Internet world statistics, 2015; pyramid research; McKinsey Digital Consumer Survey). In past 25 years, the life of college students has improved drastically due to social changes and technological innovations. In addition to that, commencement of new technology in the education system/territory has helped many to pursue their higher education through online education program to pupil who was initially unable to study due to various reasons like location accessibility, job and family responsibility.
According to Bramble and Panda (2008), globalization plays a vital role in recognizing the necessity of providing online learning opportunities in higher education. An open source online learning has been developed by IIT Kanpur and named it as “Brihaspati”. It was funded by Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. This online platform has been deployed in more than 80 universities across India and used to post notes, reference materials and hand out by faculties in electronic mode.
A similar project was funded by Ministry of Human Resources named – National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) in 1999. This is the first project that delivers course materials through multimedia and web-based technology to enhance the quality of education/learning. Tamil Nadu government established Tamil Virtual University in order to endorse Tamil language, culture and literature all over the world with the help of internet in 1999. “Vartalaap” is the virtual classroom environment created with the help of computer based solution and networks. It is very effective and useful in improving the learning experience of learners who choose distance education.
In 2000, Doordarshan introduced an exclusive TV channel for higher education known as “GyanDarshan”. Similarly, All India Radio (AIR) introduced “Gyanvani” a network of 17 FM stations. Chukki-Chinna is the one of the program broadcasted through Gyanvani. It is an interactive radio programme which has won “Manthan – AIF” award for teaching science, mathematics and social science. Aim of Gyandarshan and Gyanvani is to provide quality distance education to all the citizens of India.
A virtual classroom was introduced by former president Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in “Rashtrapati Bhavan” in order to reach out scientists, students and teachers all over the nation. In addition to that a one stop educational portal was launched as pilot project called Sakhat which aims to serve 50 Crore users. The content of Sakshat was developed by AICTE, IGNOU, UGC, CBSE, KVS, etc. It associates vast material resources and the links are related to students, faculties, scholars and users who are passionate towards learning. A Telugu regional portal called “esikshak” provides free computer courses to rural area and it was launched by Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. Recently, private institutions have also introduced online education. Initially NIIT provided online distance education – “Netvarsity”. More than 500,000 students have been benefited through this online learning system. This is the network of 3500 centres in 33 countries all over the world.
Student Learning and Program Outcomes Obtained Through Online Instruction
Lots of studies were conducted on the comparison of student’s achievements in online education and traditional educational environment. The studies conducted by few researchers have no significant difference (Toyama et al., 2010; Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006) and few found relative difference in the performance of students (Bryan et al., 2003; Schmidt, 2012; Sitzmann et al., 2006 and Whitewater et al., 2005).The findings of above studies are summarized below.
Outcomes of the Study
The meta-analyses on learning outcomes are based on online delivery mode and traditional delivery mode. Results of the analyses are similar and there was no significant difference in achievement and performance of the students. The study conducted by Tallent-Runnels et al., (2006) states that, the method of delivery was adequate for both online and conventional. In certain cases, online learners performed well than the face-to-face traditional learners and vise-versa. In recent times, online learning is more effective than the traditional learning with the help of technology (Means et al., 2010 and Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006). Anyhow, these meta-analyses serve as important evidence and say there is no significant difference prevailing in student outcome with respect to the mode of educational delivery.
Few studies have found difference in the performance and outcome of the students in online and traditional based learning. A sample study has been conducted among post-graduation students in order to learn the difference between online and traditional learning (Anstine and Skidmore, 2012) and found that traditional learning is superior to online learning. Quasi–experimental study was conducted among people who pursue accounting through online and through face-to-face learning which resulted in no significant learning between them (Schmidt, 2012). Similarly, study conducted by Bryan, Campbell and Kerr concluded that there is a better outcome from online learning than the traditional learning.
The level of achievement of students found is similar in some studies and better in online learning and vice versa in other studies (Sitzmann et al., 2006; Dell et al., 2010; Heale et al., 2010 and Yoshimura, 2010). A study conducted through these modes on various academic disciples and their final grades have been taken into consideration. The three modes of education are traditional learning, satellite broadcasting and via live video streaming. Engineering, computer science, mathematics, education, communication, English, economics, geography, marketing, nursing, management, psychology are included, where same instructor handles the same course in all the modes (Yoshimura, 2010). 364 members participated in management studies. After providing course through online and traditional learning, the results of students were compared. There is no difference in the outcome of students between online learning and face-to-face learning in all kind of course like technical course, nursing, criminal justice, human development, psychology (Lam, 2009 and Beck, 2010). A Relative difference has been found between online learning and classroom instructions depending on the knowledge domain. 96 Studies have been taken into consideration that includes 168 courses with 19,331 students. Out of which 67% of them were undergraduate, 18% postgraduates and 15% employees. On the basis of teaching declarative, online learning is 6% more effective than classroom learning. There is no difference found between modes of delivery on the basis of teaching procedural knowledge. When students are provided with independence of time and they practice the materials provided by online learning, then the online learning will be 19% better than classroom teaching (Sitzmann et al., 2006).
Teaching of natural science through online is bit challenging since it has laboratory and practical work. The factual content in course can be converted to online format but fieldwork courses are very hard to mend with online model. To avoid this complaint, hybrid approach is introduced in the institutions where, they can use lab facilities through campus learning and other course materials through online (Hallyburton and Lunsford, 2013). Even though there is no significant difference among online and traditional learning, it would be much better to follow hybrid approach for the science course.
Quality Guidelines of Online Learning: Employer’s Viewpoint
The quality of online learning cannot be decided only based on accreditation and content of course. In spite of efforts and initiatives taken by institutions, tutors, accrediting agencies and students, the important factor that drives all is the effort of “Employer”. If an employer feels that the quality of an online course is not up to the standards then, them won’t hire the candidates who pursued that course and down the lane that course will lose its significance and will not sustain in the market. Thus, it is very important for each educational institution to join hands with employer while legitimizing the standards and policies of the course. The perception, awareness, readiness and reputation of the employers on online education are also considered as the major important factor in the research. The qualities that are expected by the employer from online education and online graduate are
- Communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Innovative and Initiative
They are also expected to be strong enough in hard skills like critical thinking, mathematics, etc. (Branch, 2007). There are only very few research conducted on employer’s perception even though it plays an important role in online education. In the near future, perception of employer will play major role in prototype of an online education.
About the authors:
Dr. B Naresh is a faculty of Marketing Department at Pune Institute of Business Management.
Dr. Rajalakshmi M is a faculty of Human Resource Department at Pune Institute of Business Management