Term Paper: Emerging Technologies

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Technology

Emerging Technologies

The shift in the teaching and learning model is steadily evolving as technology evolves (Reid, 2003). Students are becoming more and more responsible for discovery and self-learning while teachers are assuming more of a facilitator role. Occupying a seat in a physical classroom is no longer necessary. With online access and a computer, students have unprecedented opportunities to earn a degree.

According to Kilmurray (2003): "The innovation brought about by e-learning does not follow the model of traditional, instructor-directed classes. The opportunity provided by e-learning is a different learning environment in which instructors can employ new learning models and new instructional practices."

Until two decades ago, the primary educational delivery model for collegiate professorial staff was basically the traditional lecture (O'Malley and McCraw, 2004). Student populations were made up of young residential people who did not work or worked part-time. By 2000, the student population had expanded to include older, employed, and non-residential students. Because of new technologies, online learning created new opportunities for all types of students to learn, regardless of time and location.

The changing demographics of students, new skill sets, and new educational opportunities are driving the adoption of new educational delivery systems that bridge the time-place gap that traditional learning has created (O'Malley and McCraw, 2004). Online learning offers non-residential education services that are more compatible with the student lifestyles and needs of many people. Online learning is also encouraged by the dramatic reduction in the cost of computers and the increased capabilities of telecommunications. In addition, reductions in state spending for higher education are causing school administrators to find new ways to reduce expenditures. While institutional start-up costs for online learning may be substantial, many educators believe that as more students use these services, cost per credit hour will substantially decrease.

For many adult learners, learning over the Internet has meant that critical and undefined work schedules do not stand in the way of their education (Reid, 2003). Computer-mediated online education is at the cutting edge of instructional delivery and the future growth of technology will offer students and teachers even more opportunities.

Relevant Technologies

It is impossible to predict the future of online learning, as emerging technologies are consistently improving upon existing methods (Murphy, 1997). Microworlds, adaptive navigation support, intelligent agents, user-modeling, scalable worlds, 3D objects, and interactive behavior are all examples of progress and trends in online learning. Still, even with these amazing new technologies, it is difficult to predict how these new technologies may evolve. However, when it comes to online learning, it is easy to see the contribution these technologies make.

According to Pinder, "Emerging technologies can make a major contribution to the development of a 21st-century education system - one that concentrates on student-centered programs. Technology is critical in this type of environment, as it can support 'anytime, anywhere' leaning, improve access to learning resources and offer collaborative, creative, dynamic and adaptive experiences that truly support personalized learning"(Pinder, Stead, Anderson, Cych, Sharpe, Philpott, 2006).

When it comes to online learning, hypertext and hypermedia enable new forms of learning such as inquiry-based learning or exploratory learning (Murphy, 1997). Students have the ability to move from one link to another in a large knowledge base full of resources on almost all subjects. However, without support in such an environment, users can easily become disoriented. In addition, this type of learning deviates from more traditional classroom practices where learning is teacher supported, controlled, and directed. Enabling inquiry learning through hypertext exploration and browsing is therefore challenging in even the most innovative of online classrooms.

One of the most important trends in online learning is the evolution of Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) (Murphy, 1997). Currently, the various types of online hypertext and hypermedia react more than they interact. Selection of a link induces the appearance of a new node, yet the nodes themselves are generally static and do not enable manipulation or interaction by the user. Virtual Reality Modeling Language is an emerging technology that gives the user more options, such as varying the viewpoints, moving objects and changing colors.

According to Murphy (1997): "VRML transforms the two dimensional interface of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) into a three-dimensional reproduction and representation of objects, scenes, processes and worlds." VRML has the potential to improve learning environments for activities like simulations of scientific experiments using variables selected by the student or exploration of worlds in space. Real or unreal, abstract or concrete, present, past or future: Virtual Reality Modeling Language enables interaction with all these worlds. This technology has the potential to help students better access and structure information while also customizing it to their specific needs and interests. In this light, online learning can be designed to more easily merge with and transform traditional classroom practices.

Many exciting technologies and features are used in online instruction today, and many more are emerging each year. Education is one of the fastest-growing economic and social sectors in the world, and the use of emerging technologies is a key driver of that growth.

Multimedia include text, graphics, and audio media (often with real video or animations), combining these elements into computer programs (McReal and Elliott, 2002). The majority of personal computers have the capacity to deliver multimedia presentations for education. Multimedia on the Internet is still not as popular or common as multimedia on CD-ROM or DVD, which are widely used in homes and classrooms. Internet connection speeds limit the quality and quantity of files that can be transmitted. Even with wireless and high-speed improvements, the transmission of large sound, animation, and video files is challenging and time-consuming.

For this reason, streaming multimedia is an important emerging technology for the online learning industry (McReal and Elliott, 2002). Dues to technical advances, large multimedia files can now be sent even over modem connections. Streaming multimedia is an Internet data transfer method that enables the transfer of audio and video files from one computer to another in a "stream." Streamed media packets are available as soon as the data is received by the receiving computer -- users no longer have to wait until the full file has been downloaded. Streaming audio improves the concept of video, which has generally been limited to small picture sizes or low resolution video projections, but as the bandwidth increases, higher quality, full-screen video is possible. Using this format, large amounts of audio and video content can be received

Streaming multimedia is currently being used to aid online course delivery, usually in the form of lectures, expert interviews, student projects, examples of student classroom interaction, or sound bytes of content that explains the course of study (McReal and Elliott, 2002). For music or speech courses, it can be used by teachers or students to record their work and submit them to the rest of the class. With streaming video, a still photo of a teacher comes to life as he or she delivers a lecture or provides a demonstration using a streaming video format. When used correctly, streaming multimedia makes online learning more interesting, interactive, and dynamic.

According to McReal and Elliott (2002), the Web has the capacity to play "on demand." There are many examples of emerging technologies that attempt to address the merger between existing media, with their synchronous broadcasting of news, weather, and sports, and the asynchronous environment of Web publishing. Pointcast was the service to do so, offering real-time customizable information to individual desktops.

Channels of "pushed content" are another source of dynamic content online (McReal and Elliott, 2002). Channels are customized communications paths between computers, and are comparable to "Bookmarks" or "Favorites" within a browser, but with enhanced features and interactivity. Rather than having to browse a site for new content, channel-based users have content pushed directly to their desktops. Users can monitor new content from the sites they select. A user can create his or her channel that links to several sites that pertain to the topics selected. For example, a mathematics major might select "Alegebra" or "Statistics" as his default channels.

Push technology applications can be used to feed inexpensive and relevant news, current events, or other information from relevant sites to a classroom to be used for essays or lectures (McReal and Elliott, 2002). As more and more channels are available for subscription, more and more supplementary information is available from numerous sources. As these technologies evolve, classes can even create their own dynamic channels, broadcasting school updates to the entire online classroom.

Benefits of Emerging Technologies

Because online learning lacks the element of physical interaction, it is important that students have means to communicate with one another (McReal and Elliott, 2002). For this reason, text and audio chat is an important emerging technology. While text chat has been widely available for some time, audio chat has only recently become popular. Point-to-point audio connections can be made between computers on the Internet, and some Internet service providers (ISPs) are now offering free Internet-based long-distance service that connects users calling through a personal computer… [END OF PREVIEW]

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