I think that the case scenario is a good discussion started for why e-learning is such a good tool. The school is too small to offer AP classes to the science students, so e-learning helps them get content that they would not otherwise be able to get. I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to e-learning up to this point in my educational career, which spans 38 years (yikes!). My first exposure to e-learning was getting my undergraduate degree, when I took a video course and watched a series of VHS tapes all of which had assignments at the end. I had to take this course for pretty much the same reason as the case study. There were not enough students for the course to be taught in the traditional sense, and I needed it to graduate. It was interesting to watch videos that couldn’t see me, and have them tell me what I needed to do, and how, and then to turn in assignments to another person that I would never meet to have them grade my work. In the end, it met the objective of getting me the necessary credit (and an A, too!). I was in the United States Air Force at the time. I have wondered about e-learning and how folks in the military are using it these days. As the chapter illustrated very well, there are advantages and disadvantages to e-learning, and face to face (f2f) learning. For military folks, the asynchronous nature of e-learning would be a big benefit, as they are always on the go, and attending traditional classes would be a tremendous challenge. I have always felt sorry for my fellow servicemen who served in the Navy, particularly those who served at sea. How could they possibly go to college in the same way I did? That was in 1991. Today, I’m sure that the folks in the Navy are able to attend all kinds of classes via a computer with a webcam. I think subs surface every few days to get a signal to send messages, and I bet the folks in the Navy are turning in papers and projects when they do.
The chapter did an excellent job of covering e-learning very thoroughly, down to the etiquette of typing in all caps, and emoticons. Also, the way that the instructor has to be more prepared in the e-learning environment versus f2f, due to the nature of not being f2f to answer questions.
I have had online classes that I really enjoy, and I have had a couple that were not very good. Overall, I’d say the biggest factor that I miss in online classes is reading non-verbal communication, both of the instructor and of the other students. A tilted head, or a furrowed eyebrow can mean so much. Someone nodding with agreement, or shaking their heads in disagreement is missed in e-learning. But, e-learning is a valuable and amazing tool that when used correctly and prepared for, can produce learning that is equal to and, in some cases, superior to the results that can be obtained in a traditional f2f setting.