Term Paper: Pre-Course Program for Entry-Level Online

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SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] " (University of Phoenix Online, 2003)

The software and hardware needed for University of Phoenix online includes:

266 MHz or greater (Intel Pentium or Celeron, or AMD Athlon processors)

Windows 98®, ME®, or 2000®

Microsoft Office 97®, 98®, or 2000®

Microsoft Word®

Microsoft PowerPoint®

Microsoft Excel® (for selected courses)

Microsoft Access® (for selected courses)

Microsoft Project 98 ® or 2000® (for selected courses)

Microsoft Visio 5.0 ® or later (for selected courses) current anti-virus application

64 MB RAM or greater

GB hard drive or larger

56.6 kps modem, DSL or cable modem

1024x768 or greater monitor and video card

Sound card with speakers

CD ROM

Inkjet or laser printer

Internet service provider (ISP) account

Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 5.0 or later For an entry-level PC user, even with support, utilizing the technologies above could prove to be quite challenging. When I spoke to an admissions representative at University of Phoenix Online, he did tell me that they do require all first time students to take a 30-day introductory course that indoctrinates them into the world of online learning. When I asked the same representative about the dropout rate for students who completed this course he told me that that information was not available.

Unfortunately, the University of Phoenix Online is not the only non-traditional educational institution that teaches statistics but does not keep them on the drop-out rate of students who become frustrated with problems associated with technology and their lack of training on how to work in the online environment.

Like the University of Phoenix, most distance-based learning programs provide a wide array of Internet and Web-based applications for education and training. The applications are not only numerous; they differ greatly. Most distance-based programs:

Aim to increase access to learning while reducing costs

Utilize cutting-edge applications, such as tutoring systems and simulation-based trainers, that can increase the quality of learning

Provide learning materials that are responsive to consumer and business needs

Support online communities that help students meet challenges in higher education

Provide limited training on how students can maximize learning in the virtual classroom environment

The existing web of computer, telephone, broadcast, and other kinds of networks does not (yet) constitute the... powerful infrastructure -- no more than the thousands of U.S. dirt roads in the early 1900s made a national highway system." (Rossman, 1993) In other words, even though non-traditional students have access to programs that utilize technology, there is no guarantee that this technology will assist them in completing a non-traditional degree program. "Those who have not had time to keep up with technology are nevertheless increasingly affected and challenged by the electronic/digital developments that appear to be transforming education. Perhaps the most important aspect of the technology for a global higher education network is not any one component, such as increasingly versatile and powerful computers, but rather the interconnection of technologies on a global scale. Combinations into more comprehensive tools can make possible some kinds of research, instruction, and educational experimentation on a scale never before possible..." If students understand how to access them properly. (Rossman)

Many adults are being asked to combine the demands of full-time work and at the same time pursue and education. Most companies have now adopted philosophies of life-long learning and are demanding that their employees become life-long learners. "Rapid changes in the organization of knowledge, work, and tools in all fields are making it increasingly necessary for all of us to become lifelong learners. Schools need to model this process for students, in the structure of student learning, and, equally important, in the design for teacher learning. Teachers, often faced with overwhelming problems, can benefit from access to collective solutions shared by peers in other locations. The advent of learning communities offers a revolutionary change in the way we organize school learning for all the people who work in education. It means using technology in education not just to do more of the same, but to do something different, something powerful, something appropriate for all learners in the new millennium." (Riel et al., 2001) Because of time constraints, demands at work and balancing personal and family time, most adult learners are prohibited from entering a traditional college or university learning program in order to pursue their degree. Because of this, non-traditional, distance-based educational programs appear highly attractive to many. But, most adult students' lack the necessary PC skills needed to make it in the online classroom environment. This more than likely attributes to the high dropout rate of students who enroll in online programs and who have limited computer experience.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the online adult population enrolled in distance-based learning programs. Many non-traditional students are becoming increasingly frustrated, as lack of computer skills becomes yet one more barrier in the pursuit of continuing educational opportunities. Despite the many non-traditional, Internet-based programs available for adult learners, technology-enhanced learning is still in the development stage. "We are learning more about HOW we learn as we delve into new content areas themselves. What a great time we are in for becoming more of who we are on an individual level, as people, as professionals, as learners." (Bloom et al., 1998)

As educators continue to expand their comprehension about what it takes to teach adults effectively, they are seeing clear patterns that point to how adults tend to learn. It is important for educators who work with non-traditional students to understand how to appreciate and work with varying adult learning styles and patterns.

Most adult learners tend to expect learning to be delivered in a traditional, teacher-led way, and to expect the faculty member to do the "work" of the learning. The adult learner is accustomed to absorbing learning. This pattern tends to be paradoxical to learning in the online environment where the onus of education is placed on the student who must be self-motivated and self-teaching. This does not mean that online learning is ineffective, but simply points out that most learners have been taught via faculty-led instruction. "We have not been expected to be part of the hands-on learning process. This is a pattern that is in the process of being broken down; however, we are talking about breaking down a pattern that has been in existence for decades, even centuries. This mindset is not going away easily, and to expect adult learners to automatically embrace a brand new way of learning immediately, or without proper orientation, is expecting too much." (Nixon, et. al., 1998)

Adults who tend to take on projects on their own accord, as opposed to being assigned projects, do so with the purpose of solving a problem, or applying the information right away. Learning a new subject is not simply done for the sole purpose of learning it. This is more than likely a direct result of our high-speed culture -- our plates are full with home, work, and family responsibilities. Free time, therefore, is used as advantageously as possible. This has spilled over into our adult learning experiences.

It's no wonder that many online courses, for example, are viewed primarily as good "training" courses, and not necessarily "educational" courses. This is not to slight the efforts of universities or other institutions whose mission is education rather than training; however, this is the perception that many have toward online learning at this time."

Nixon)

Motivation for adult learners in education tends to come from a need to fill a professional gap or a direct order from their boss. Based on this fact, most adult learners adopt a mindset of practicality toward continuing education. Therefore, adult learners may be primarily motivated externally and in order to be successful in a distance-based program adult learners must be self-motivated. The problem then of self-motivation creates a huge obstacle that can add tremendous stress to the adult learner in a non-traditional learning environment.

It is also important to note that adult learners tend to rely on colleagues or friends who are experts in their professional field for assistance when seeking advice on learning. This has both positive and negative results -- obviously, if a potential non-traditional student has colleagues who share similar learning interests and have had positive experiences with online learning opportunities, it is important to hear about those experiences and apply that potential to our own lives. On the negative side, reliance on another persons opinions instead of our own may result in disappointment when the online learning experience is not all that the student had hoped for. Therefore, potential candidates for online learning programs should seek out opinions of others, but temper them with their own knowledge of distance-based learning and their own particular learning styles and preferences.

When it comes to learning opportunities, most adults tend to do best in courses where they feel they have a significant contribution to make to the classroom discussion, even in the online learning environment. When courses are developed, regardless of whether they are online or traditional… [END OF PREVIEW]

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