Higher educational institutions have adopted online degrees and courses as a substitute for the conventional classroom instruction. A United States higher institutions study on online education discovered that about 80% of the entire course content those institutions deliver were online courses (Song, 2010). In spite of the definition, an initial sign of the prevalent popularity of about 862 education courses delivered online are contained in a study carried out by the United States Education Department, which showed that over 54, 000 education courses were offered online in 1998, with more than 1.6 million students registered (U.S. Department of Education, 1998).
According to a new research: (a) more than 1.6 million students were enrolled in an online course during 2002 Fall, (b) more than 1/3 of these students (578,000) took everyone of their courses online, (c) among the United States students during 2002 Fall, at least 11% were enrolled in an online course, and (d) among the students that enrolled in institutions that offered online courses, at least 13% offered one online course (Song, 2010).
The main aim of this paper is to assess the quality of the already existing online courses that make use of the internet as the sole delivery tool. This study evaluates the perception of the students on the quality of online studies as compared to the conventional classroom method. The results of this study may be useful as a literature on online studies when considering quality assurance. The result is expected to help the institutions where these online courses are offered to carry out an assessment on their programs as determined by the results and recommendations from this study.
Context and Background
With the ever-increasing growth of the internet, several universities and colleges have been offering online courses as best alternatives to conventional classroom instructional teaching system. Nevertheless, some considerable problems and concerns have emerged, especially in terms of online educational quality. Online education is an entirely new learning technique that successfully combines the conventional classroom instructional system and distance learning using internet-enabled computers as means of communication. The main features of online education:
(a) It offers a different learning experience from the classroom system since the learners are not the same,
(b) Computers and the internet as used as mode of communication,
(c) Involvement in classroom works by the learners are quite different,
(d) A different social dynamic of the learning environment, and (e) Reduction in cases of discrimination and prejudice (Liam, Huang & Chen, 2007).
New technological inventions, the Internet, net-meeting, streaming videos, etc. have made higher education more affordable and accessible to most students, irrespective of location, and for people who would have been unable to access higher education in the conventional classroom setting.
Online mode of study can equally promote the critical thinking, collaborative learning, and problem-solving skills of the students. Online education may also help academic institutions enlarge their scope of studies without any additional costs and can enable graduates learn new technology skills to make them more marketable. According to proponents of online education, online education can equally enhance nondiscriminatory teaching and learning techniques since neither the teachers nor the students meet one-on-one. Since the students are not able to know the physical characteristics, gender, or race of their teachers and fellow students, online education is a bias-free learning environment for both the students and the teachers. For any distance learning education system to be recognized as a quality education program, it is expected to meet all these parameters (Song, 2010).
Song (2010) created an adequate student retention and satisfaction model. Rooted in the theory of well-thought-out action in which behavioral intentions are predicted by attitudes and the actual behavior is, in turn, predicted by the behavioral intentions, according to the hypothesis of the model, the satisfaction (dissatisfaction) results in intentions to continue (quit), and, this results to the retention (attrition) of the student. Four dimensions were included in the retention model which impact on the satisfaction of the student, and this, in turn, influences the desire to continue/quit. These four dimensions existed as independent variables:
Faculty issues (accessible, understanding, willingness to help, professional, provision of feedback),
Classes (project/cases, real-world relevance)
Advisory staff (accessible, responsive, understanding, willingness to help, and professional), and Assessment of results (career progress, cognitive development, development of business skills).
Subsequently, online education has become an important aspect of the expanding curriculum of higher education institutions. Consequently, there is an increase in the number of online education courses. Several problems that emerged from online education concerning quality are mostly related (but not limited), to the following:
(a) The prerequisite of different standards for quality assurance,
(b) Programs with low quality standards or none at all, and (c) Lack of consensus on what is accepted constituents of learning quality.
There are concerns also as to the rationale behind the use of technology as a means of correcting financial problems the institutions might have, instead of using it as a valid learning medium. Online education is at most times viewed as a means of saving money by the administrators of these institutions — a medium for delivering the learning instructions to a large number of students without the need to make available certain amenities like temperature-regulated learning halls and parking lots (Klobas & McGill, 2010). This study, therefore, seeks to explore the experience and feeling of the students on online education and its relationship to the conventional classroom learning system.
This study will employ a phenomenological approach focusing on adult non-traditional immigrant students who have taken both online and traditional courses at college or university levels. Online Education encompasses a vast and disparate population, spread across different cultural, educational and stage of developmental backgrounds. The issues involved in such a study requires in depth study and intersections across various paradigms in education. As such, the target population will have to be diverse, well-informed and Tech-savvy. Such participants would be available on, and will be contacted through online social platforms namely Facebook and LinkedIn and thus, study location is irrelevant. As for the study participants, it is expected that they will be recruited from diverse locations to capture authentic essence of experience.
Rationale and Significance
A number of online education proponents question whether online learning has the capability to provide the same level of interaction between the instructors and the students obtainable in the conventional classroom system. Similarly, a number of proponents question the quality delivered through online education, since it is hard to guarantee the qualification of most online instructors. According to some arguments, online students cannot ascertain to the authenticity or the quality of the courses offered online. Most universities and colleges who provide online education fail to provide students with relevant information about the courses they are offered, e.g., how can a student determine which online course meets his or her needs? Additionally, conditions for taking certain online courses are not always stated clearly on the websites for the students, and when the students start encountering certain technical issues, who do they approach for assistance if the assistance is not readily available? (Yang & Cornelius, 2003). Therefore, there is need for more research to evaluate the quality of online education.
Proponents support online education. They have offered suggestions that inadequate one-on-one interaction can be replaced by online discussions in online video seminars, bulletin board system or on list serves. For any course to be a certified quality online course, the following ten important elements must be included: content, motivation, pedagogy, feedback, usability, coordination/organization, assistance, flexibility and workload (Yang & Cornelius, 2003). Several researches and studies have been carried out from the faculty and administrator’s perspectives about distance education quality, with the Internet as the main medium of delivery, depending on IHEP’s benchmarks for quality. Nevertheless, from the perspective of the students, there is need for more researches to assess online education quality. Not much is known about the quality of educational programs offering online courses, mostly those based on the Internet. Administrators, faculty, and policy makers need to understand how the students see the online courses they offer and the entire online educational program, judging from their learning experiences (Yang & Cornelius, 2003; Lin, Lin & Laffey, 2008).
Research Problem and Research Question
The landscape of higher education has changed by the improvements in learning technology. It has led to higher use of Web-improved and web-based applications used in higher education. University and college students now have an option of conventional classroom settings, fully online courses, courses with mixed options. Non-conventional immigrant students, mostly, now view online learning as feasible option to fulfill their individual needs and have a more transformational learning method. However, teachers are still seeking the most suitable platform for teaching the non-conventional immigrant student.
In view of this, the study question is: How do the non-conventional students with foreign origin feel about this mixed/online study experience as compared to the conventional classroom experience with regards to personal transformation and academic success; what lived experiences do they have? How can these educators make mixed/online education more impactful and transformational to the immigrant students?
Definition of Key Terminology
The definitions below are made available to enhance the understanding of the relevant terms in a very consistent manner all through the course of the study.
Online education is a learning procedure that takes place online through the Internet. It constitutes of no physical training material nor a one-on-one contact between instructor and student. Real online education is mostly the use of e-learning applications in a distance learning environment using the Internet as the major medium for every learning event and contact between the teachers and the students. For this paper, however, online education can be defined by a coursework with not less than 80% of the entire content and online interactivities (Song, 2010).
Quality: According to ISO 9000, there is disparity in the quality of learning qualities. Some are more relevant than others. What the students want is most important. These are some of the qualities that must be found in products and services (Yang & Cornelius, 2003).
Learning Management System (LMS) is the web-based software that enhances the delivery and tracking of every e-learning process within an educational environment. A good learning management system is expected to serve different functions other than just delivering the e-learning course contents. It should be able to automate and simplify the supervisory and administrative tasks, track the achievement of competencies of the learners, and function as a storehouse for all instructional material at all times (of a day).
Student satisfaction: The rundown psychological state that results when emotions that surround unverifiable expectation is added to the online student’s original feelings about the student experience (Yang & Cornelius, 2003).
Pedagogy: This is customarily used to describe instructions that are teacher-oriented, but nowadays, it is often used to represent the framework of useful education techniques (Yang & Cornelius, 2003).
My research framework will mostly deal on Transformative learning (TL) Theory. This theory is under the umbrella of the adult learner theory and is related directly to my study on adults in both conventional and online frameworks, showing how the learner is transformed by the instruction. Transformational learning can be described as a learning aspect that alters how learners think about themselves in particular and the world generally. The core structure for my study will be Transformative Learning (TL) Theory. According to Mezirow, transformative learning is a very sane process (Mezirow, 2000). The attributes of Transformative Learning enable the learners gain deeper knowledge through more advanced knowledge of the courses being offered (Mezirow, 1991). In the words of Friere, there is something liberating about transformative learning (Friere, 2000).
Critics of Transformative Learning (TL) Theory
New ways of dealing with this theory have not been effectively incorporated with existing, conventional techniques (as a theory in progress will imply) (Cranton & Taylor, 2012). We now find ourselves in a situation where some scholars are asking if transformative learning theory is deeper (Newman, 2012), but it has remained on the edges without creating any chance for improvement.
There are several explanations to this obvious oversight, which includes the inability to carry out adequate research through primary sources and concentrating on assessments of the transformative learning theory (as mentioned previously). This is mostly challenging for studies outside the adult education field (that involves transformative learning), that has either overlooked these major sources or is unaware of it. Additionally, most scholars have relied heavily on the available literature reviews on transformative learning with little or no effort to evaluate innovative study, both, in creating a standard for the study and evaluating it using new discoveries as the basis. Several methodological issues can also come up which are attended in the latter part of this paper, in such a way that most of the studies on transformative learning is designed in an interpretive study model, thereby missing the improvements that could have been recorded by engaging both positivist and decisive study paradigms (Taylor & Cranton, 2013).
Additionally, most study on transformative learning has been carried out by North American researchers in spite of several theoretical foundations in Habermas’s study on critical theory and the close relationship this theory has with the three domains of learning (communicative, instrumental, and emancipatory). This might give some explanation on why study on personal transformation and inadequate attention on the connection between non-western learning techniques and transformative learning (Taylor & Cranton, 2013).
Kokkos (2012) carried out a review to ascertain the level the European adult instructors integrate transformative learning as the foundation on which their studies were developed. In conclusion, he said: “the theory of transformative learning has no solid basis in the theoretical structure of these European adult instructors, most of whose work depend on theoretical European paradigms and these authors see no need to incorporate their work into the new transformative learning theory.” (Kokkos, 2012, p. 297) This is most unfortunate, especially when one considers that the rich scholarships of European adult instructors concentrate on the critical and social dimensions of adult education, and would have a lot to contribute to the work on transformative learning theory.
Responding to a few of the concerns raised, stagnancy and inadequate theoretical improvement in transformative learning theory we consider five distinct concerns, which hopefully, will lead to advanced researches and further discussions. Everyone of these concerns emerges from discussion, researches and studies during conferences, and initial concerns which are yet to be addressed properly in this paper till now. Instead of concentrating on memorable subjects like the relevance of serious reflection or the concern on social change that can renew the energy currently needed by the field (Cranton & Taylor, 2012).
Three of the concerns we chose concentrate on essential constructs found in transformative learning-these constructs are always present, though hardly explored deeply or deconstructed. These include empathy, experience, and the desire for transformation. We all talk about making meaning out of experience, and make use of the idea of experience as the basis for understanding transformative learning, but we hardly explore the real meaning of experience. In a similar way, empathy appears to be an important tool for promoting transformative learning, but then, it too, is yet to be deeply examined. The desire for transformation is all about the necessary step individuals are expected to take in order to be translated from mere reflection to real transformation (Newman, 2012).
The fourth concern concentrates on an issue that comes up concerning transformation and its intrinsically positive course and result. Why has this become an issue and what is its significance to the transformative learning theory?
The fifth concern we decided to look into is methodological and we consider the reliance on the interpretive study method of approaching transformative learning and the importance of research that involves positivist and decisive approaches. We hope that publishing this article in a globally recognized journal for adult education will ensure it reaches most of our European counterparts, and we could persuade them to contribute their knowledge on any subject that would be relevant to the research in adult learning (Newman, 2012; Taylor & Cranton, 2013).
Rationale for using Transformative Learning (TL) Theory
Since transformative learning has to do with a reference frame that is comprised of mind habits and meaning perspectives, which result to a transformation of perspective, the influence wielded by paradigm recommended by past works is very obvious in the (Mezirow, 1991, 2000) work of Mezirow. Additionally, the transformative learning theory on its own has become a type of paradigm, as it gives explanation to a number of questions that have been begging for answers on adult learning and developed specific group of special practitioners.
Transformative learning provides a learning theory that is specially tailored for adults, are idealized, and well-grounded in the human communication nature. This theory is a developmental process partially, but inasmuch as learning is known to be a process of making use of a prior interpretation to interpret a new or remodeled interpretation of the original meaning of a person’s experience with the aim of guiding future action (Mezirow, 2000). Transformative learning explains change in a meaning setting that develops in two learning domains depending on the Habermas epistemology of communicative theory.
Instrumental learning is the first, and it concentrates on learning processes that are executed using problem-solving techniques that are task-oriented and the determination the relationships between cause and effect-gaining technical knowhow, depending on empirical-analytic discovery. Communicative learning comes second, which is the learning technique utilized to understand what is contained in the subjects communicated by others about values, feelings, ideals, moral decisions, and other concepts such as justice, freedom, labor, love, commitment, democracy and autonomy (Mezirow, 2000). When these learning domains include reflective evaluation of premises and moving through cognitive structures by judging and identifying presuppositions, then we say transformative learning is occurring. Transformative learning tries to give a clear explanation of how our expectations, built within cultural presuppositions and assumptions, directly affect the meaning we get from our personal experiences. This is the review of meaningful structures from experiences addressed by the perspective transformation theory, which explains why it is adopted for this study.
Applying theory to the study
Making transformative theory a part of your curriculum evaluation, one searches for proofs of serious reflection with regards to content, promise and premise. Content reflection involves curricular outline from the faculty and the students’ perspective; process reflection is based on best practices, self-efficacy measures and literature-based indicators; premise reflection should consider both process and content reflection to build recommendations.
The online environment questions traditional notions of authority and power in face-to-face college classrooms. The anonymity the Internet offers makes, students more willing to reveal more information about them. Research on promoting transformative learning in online learning setting recommends a number of strategies that can be quite successful:
1) Building a safe environment;
2) Encouraging the students to think more about their learning experiences, biases and beliefs;
3) Making use of teaching techniques that promote the engagement and participation of the students
4) Posing genuine global challenges that look at the inequalities in the society; and
5) Aiding the students to implement action-oriented solutions (Palmer & Bowman, 2014).
While such strategies and several others have been adopted in the quest for fostering transformative learning, there is hardly any empirical evidence that supports the feasibility of any of these mentioned strategies.
The relevant tools for transformative learning can be included in the design. Particularly, a very activating event can take place via concept quizzing, chances for the students to recognize his/her present knowledge level, reflect critically on self and interaction with the other students are all involved, there are also chances to carry out tests and put new perspectives into application (Palmer & Bowman, 2014). The other major aspects of the study design are the provision of quick feedback to students, peer-assisted learning, and theoretical learning. Rapid Feedback-offering feedback to the students based on their present level of knowledge is important for effective learning-in this study, the main goal is to offer courses at a theoretical level without giving up the calculation-based knowledge or skills. This will be carried out using concept questioning in the classroom. Peer-Assisted Learning — a peer-assisted learning setting is adopted in this study (Kilgyte, 2011).
A study on online education should aim to collect data and responses from those who are familiar and conversant with online communication platforms and thereby aware of the advantages and inherent lacunae. Tech-savvy and social-media users would suffice the criteria most easily, as such users frequent the web space more than those interested solely in the ‘search’ mode/capability of the internet. Social media sites “Facebook” and “LinkedIn” offer users to communicate and explore possibilities towards all human endeavors including career enhancement and information sharing and exchange. Authors of this paper believe that data acquired from subscribers of these heavily populated social platforms would provide requisite insight towards the purposes of the study. The profiles offered by the owners of accounts would help the research in its endeavor to access the most relevant candidates for gathering meaningful data, hopefully.
Cranton, P. & Taylor, E. W. (2012). “Transformative learning theory: Seeking a more unified theory.” In E. W. Taylor & P. Cranton (Eds.), Handbook of transformative learning: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 3-20). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Rev. 30th Anniversary ed. New York: Continuum
Kligyte, G. (2011). Transformation narratives in academic practice. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(3), 201-213.
Klobas, J. E., & McGill, T. J. (2010). The role of involvement in learning management system success. Journal of Computer High Education, 22, 112-134.
Kokkos, A. (2012). “Transformative learning in Europe: An overview of the theoretical perspectives.” In E. W. Taylor & P. Cranton (Eds.), Handbook of transformative learning: Theory, research, and practice (pp. 289-303). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Liaw, S., Huang, H., & Chen, G. (2007). Surveying instructor and learner attitudes toward e- learning. Computers & Education, 49(4), 1066 -1080.
Lin, Y., Lin, G., & Laffey, J. M. (2008). Building a social and motivational framework for understanding satisfaction in online learning. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 389(1), 1-27.
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In Mezirow, J. (Ed.), Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Newman, M. (2012). Calling transformative learning in question: Some mutinous thought. Adult Education Quarterly, 62(1), 36-55. doi:10.1177/0741713610392768
Palmer, G.A. & Bowman, L. (2014). The Application of Transformative Learning Theory to Online Teaching. Adult Education Research Conference. Paper 62
Song, Sung Mi, (2010). E-learning: Investigating students’ acceptance of online learning in hospitality programs. Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 11902.
Taylor, E.W. & Cranton, P. (2013). A theory in progress? Issues in transformative learning theory Issues in transformative learning theory, European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults, Vol.4, No.1, pp. 33-47
U.S. Department of Education, (1998). The Condition of Education 1998. NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS
Yang, Y. & Cornelius, L.F. (2003). Students’ Perceptions towards the Quality of Online Education: A Qualitative Approach. Mississippi State University
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