A Comparison of Traditional Education to Online Education, Capstone Project Example
Words: 5866Capstone Project
In an historical context, education has always been thought of from a traditional viewpoint. Students would gather in a place of learning, usually a classroom or a conference room, and be instructed by a wiser, more experienced individual, generally thought of as a teacher or professor. As additional education became a requirement for continuing professional development, classes catered more so to adults. Because these individuals sometimes served dual roles as employees and parents, classroom hours needed to be designed to better accommodate these adults. By the 1970s, junior colleges were offering weekend classes to serve working adults. As computers found their way into the consumer marketplace, both junior and senior colleges began offering synchronous education to adults working from the privacy of their homes. Although synchronous education provided a means by which working adults no longer had to worry about travel to a college campus, it still was necessary to work from their homes at the same time. Therefore, adults in different time zones still had to adjust their personal schedules to be online at the same time regardless of the area in which they resided. By the first decade of the 21st century, synchronous education was being replaced by asynchronous education. This latest educational application means that professors can create a course which can be accessed online, but at any schedule necessary for each student’s personal comfort. Regardless of the time zone in which working adults reside, they can access their assignments at a time convenient and appropriate to their own needs.
Pictures of Socrates teaching his students while sitting on the steps of an outdoor arena can be found hanging on the walls of several college centers. Indeed, the picture depicts how education was delivered to students of that era. Times change! Although as early as the 1970s, junior colleges offered Saturday and after-hours classes to working adults, the modern electronic conveniences of the early 21st century first became available in the late 1990s (Houle, 2006). Rote instruction began quickly changing to instruction using digital media. The bricks of the traditional college setting are giving way to the comfort of one’s own living room.
The earliest form of education used no textbooks, no graphs, and no charts. It was simply the information collected by the wise men of that era; they passed down what they knew to be true to the next generation. Some of the material was interpreted for personal use and thus, multiple individuals receiving the same information often accepted some things and cast out other bits of information (Webb, Metha, & Jordan, 2010). An example may be the differences in how the same religion is practiced in different geographic localities.
As men developed over time some stared in bewilderment at the nature surrounding them. People examined the stars, the moon, the sun, and how the days got longer or shorter at different times of the year. Others studied the oceans and their respective tides. People planned and measured, and created shapes. From these observations and other like them, notes were kept and compared and the first textbooks developed (Robinson, 2006). The information passed by wise souls from generation to generation became more standardized.
Following the Industrial Revolution many adults returned to school to further their careers or to receive training that would lead to the start of new careers. In the middle of the 20th century the Civil Rights movement opened up additional job opportunities for minorities, among those Blacks and women. In order to prosper, those individuals like their early predecessors returned to school for additional training (Alden, 2011). These individuals attended traditional education programs operated at junior and senior colleges throughout the United States.
Although some differences may have existed at these colleges, most traditional programs shared similarities. These included a classroom in which all classes were held, a student cohort in which all enrollees remained together for the entire course of their studies, different professors teaching different subjects, a time schedule determined by the college instead of the student, many professors who were not cognizant of adult needs and maintained order and discipline similar to the way it was maintained for younger students, class meeting times which were scheduled for the convenience of the college instead of for the adult students, and sometimes classroom furniture geared to younger students instead of more bulky adult physiques (Hanushek & Woessmann, 2008).
According to Cummings, Bonk, and Jacobs (2002), for young women or man recently graduating high school and beginning her or his college career, brick-and-mortar universities may afford them the best opportunity. Brick-and-mortar universities possess some similarities to secondary schools, although the school work is more difficult. However, classes are still held according to an institutional schedule. Professors in these environments may lock doors after classes begin forcing tardy students to either be on-time or to seek permission to enter the classroom. Having food in the classroom is usually prohibited. Students are given specific amounts of time to complete their assignments; tardy assignments will lose points.
Leaving the comforts of home, often for the first time in their lives, enrolling in college offers some new experiences. Without parental supervision these students will be forced to wash their own laundry, keep a room or apartment reasonably clean, and possibly find some kind of employment which will afford them a few extra dollars (Coburn & Treeger, 1997). In addition, they will have to learn to maintain schedules and budget their own time. Mom or dad will not be available to drag them out of bed in the morning. These students will have to decide when not to party but instead, to engage in their studies. They will have to decide for themselves which friends to make, and which to shun. They will have to decide for themselves which organizations to join—which will help them in their studies and in making lifelong friends—and which groups may cause harm and mischief.
By the time of their high school graduation, some students have already made career choices. Some have made choices that they will later change. Mostly, career choices have not been made. Attendance at a traditional college lets students try different courses. Professors offer encouragement and assistance while working with peers helps students to defend their choices based on their friends’ successes or failures (Coburn & Treeger, 1997). A major purpose of a traditional liberal arts education is to give students enough of a sampling of course work that they will be able to make solid career choices for themselves (Cummings, Bonk, & Jacobs, 2002).
There are still many proponents of receiving a traditional education (Glenn, Jones, & Hoyt, 2003). For undergraduate students especially, traditional education offers, in addition to simple instruction, a safety in numbers. Showing up to class each day is a kind of recognition; not being present for an extended period of time is noticed by professors and classmates alike. A certain safety exists on campuses which have hundreds of students roaming around each day. Additionally, security personnel are trained to work in the background but to report anything out of the ordinary.
In class, students, regardless of their level of education, learn to depend on each other. Informal groups of students look out after one another (Pashler, McDonald, Rohrer, & Bjork, 2009). When someone can’t be present they can usually depend on their classmates to take notes for them. In any group of students some of them have a better understanding than others of specific subject matter. Study groups tend to form based on friendships and usually, peers are more than willing to assist one another.
Traditional education also supports cohorts. This is a form of classroom organization usually approved as part of the learning curriculum. Students who enroll for a program of instruction at the same time stay together for the entire duration. Thus, the same students may remain together for as short as a single semester or as long as a full degree program. Because of the dependence of each student upon his or her fellow enrollees in cohort programs, students often carry their friendships beyond the campus, learning each other’s family and friends. In many cases these friendships carry on for life.
According to Miller, Kuh, and Paine (2005), age differences upon entering college may help younger students feel more comfortable and gain more knowledge from traditional education. Although college assignments are harder than those of high school students, environments in both high school and college do have some similarities. Students meet at certain times determined by school administrators. In addition to taking responsibility for their actions, students are also supervised by their peers and by faculty members. Armstrong (2012) observed that students graduating high school with higher class ranks felt more prepared to do the college assignments that students graduating high school with lower class ranks. Although not examined as part of this document, Armstrong (2012) noted this may be a reason that greater numbers of high ranking students attend the larger public universities while students graduating high school in the lower half of their class usually frequent the smaller campuses of private, more expensive universities.
Selingo (2010) interviewed groups of students (1) who were first entering college or (2) who were returning to continue their education. His major question regarded course offerings and whether students were comfortable selecting specific courses or if they have ulterior motives for attending school. Selingo (2010) interviewed 800 students at various levels of their academic careers. He found that younger students wanted to attend college but were content with a well-rounded education that trained them to follow various careers. Interviews with continuing education students produced similar results, the majority of them stating that unless a specific employer wanted them enrolled in a specific course, they too were happy to take courses that may not be a part of their specific careers. Of the 800 students interviewed, more than two-thirds believed that American colleges should abolish students having to select majors and taking courses enhancing those choices. Except for students seeking professional degrees in the medical or legal professions, most students felt the economy is in a state of flux. They saw their college education as a means to benefit themselves financially—as opposed to people without college degrees—but were unsure where their college course work would take them in future employment. Therefore, they felt that declaring majors was not a wise choice at this point in their schooling. Continuing education students expressed similar opinions as young students. Although these students were returning to school seeking advanced training, the economy is so bad that some of their employers may close shop in the near future. Thus, training that would help them to find employment in other fields was more important to them than training in their present occupations.
Although online degrees have increased in popularity in recent years, Carnevale (2008) interviewed students who had taken online programs and were dissatisfied with their personal achievement. He observed that while the degree gave students the education they were seeking, job hunting following matriculation was difficult. Carnevale (2008) wrote about one such student he had interviewed; she was working for a university library. Wanting to further her career she took an online degree in library science. After graduation, she contacted several perspective employers. They expressed confusion about how she could attend a school located in a state different from where she resided. The human resources manager at one of her perspective employers, the California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, compared her online degree to taking a correspondence course. After a year of search for a better job, the student finally received a small promotion at the university library at which she was already employed.
Education can be intellectual learning or experiential learning (Picano, Seaman, & Allen, 2010). The first, intellectual learning requires the heavy use of textbooks and other written media. It is an examination of what has been said historically while its evaluative scope is determined by each student. Using intellectual learning some students will learn more while others will learn considerably less. Colleges themselves have been criticized as institutions of intellectual learning. Professors in traditional learning programs have themselves spent most of their studies as intellectual learners (Picano, Seaman, & Allen, 2010). Unless specialized course work or special interests takes them to places other than their classroom, they are usually little prepared to help students learn by examples other than what is in their textbooks. Empirical studies, on the other hand are based on hand-on experience. This will be discussed more completely in the section regarding online education.
Traditional learning is not really based on intrinsic motivators, but rather on extrinsic factors (Evarts, 2008). Education has been so over-valued in the United States that students only really attend college for the credentials that will help them attain a higher living standard. They wear their degree like a badge of knowledge, seeking a comparative advantage over people without this badge. These students work on getting their degree any way they can, including cheating, plagiarizing, seeking others to do their assignments for them, and using any other method to give themselves an educational advantage (Finn, Gerber, & Boyd-Zaharias, 2005). Unless they have previously apprenticed themselves elsewhere, having the degree is little better than a sports trophy hanging over their fireplace. Whether they really learn anything during their traditional education makes little difference to them. According to Maslow (1946), “students…have been steeped in values of extrinsic learning and respond to grades and learning as chimps respond to poker chips” (p. 174). Neither learning nor self-improvement is of value to these students. All that matters is the financial gain of having a college degree. Students do not gain personal value and self-worth through traditional learning.
All of us have from time to time looked at a course catalog. Two issues occur. First, the university pays an operations team to assemble course meeting schedules. These courses may be based upon the availability of instructional personnel, or simply because that is the time a certain classroom is available. There is definitely no thought given to when students are available; if certain students wish to attend a specific class it is up to them to alter their schedules. Second, some universities only offer specific classes at certain times of the year. A problem encountered by students all across the United States who are enrolled in traditional learning is that they may need only a single remaining course prior to graduation—and that class is not available. The student may have to postpone graduation for at least a semester, possibly for an entire school year, until that course is again offered. Federal student loans upon which many students depend have their own set of rules: To remain out of repayment the student must be attending school for at least 12 credit hours per semester. This means that to remain out of repayment status the student will have to stay enrolled in the university taking one semester or more of classes he or she does not need for graduation. To keep out of repayment status the student may have to adjust his or her loan by as much as another $10,000.00.
Research conducted by DeViney and Lewis (2006) suggested that traditional education was not for everybody. They found that students working on a first degree sometimes encountered problems similar to students seeking only a few classes for continuing education. These researchers observed that nationwide, 78% of the students responding to questionnaires found it discouraging that schools required them to take classes which were not needed and which would probably not add anything of value to their chosen specialization. The same researchers observed that 32% of the students objected to enrolling in schools owned by religious communities and then being told they were required to take religion classes in faiths they did not support. Twelve percent of the students in the survey attended a major Christian university in the Midwest. They were required to enroll in Christian-related religion classes even though none of them were members of any Christian faith, a fact known to the university prior to these students’ first day of class. Additionally, those students who identified themselves as members of the Jewish faith were required to attend classes after sundown on Fridays and at various times during the day on Saturday, contrary to the beliefs of their religion.
Research conducted by Picano, Seaman, and Allen (2010) suggested that students were required to take mandatory classes in areas well outside of their specialization. Complaints ranged from having to take classes that would be of no value to certain students to taking classes just so schools could keep in school those students who would otherwise drop out for a semester because the classes they really needed were unavailable. Faculty deans suggested that classes in chemistry and physics were designed to make students academically well-rounded. Students complained that courses of this nature were necessary in a science curriculum, but were of little value to somebody majoring economics.
Students seeking regular degrees were not the only individuals identified as having difficulties with traditional education programs. Those students seeking only one or two courses of more complex forms of adult education also had difficulties earning their credits in traditional programs. The biggest complaint among adult students was that traditional schools required continuing education students to meet prerequisites for certain courses. Over the years many of the prerequisites changed. Thus, students returning to school seeking additional credits in different subjects were told they first needed to complete the appropriate prerequisites, even though in many cases they didn’t need the prerequisites when first earned a degree and many of the required prerequisites covered material which they were also using in their regular jobs (Whyte, 2009).
Still other adult students enrolling in continuing education classes found that their professors’ attitudes were much more geared to working with younger than with older students (Selingo, 2010). Assuming that older students were able to alter their personal and business schedules enough to attend class, they often came to school by skipping meals, avoiding a stop for a cup of coffee, or needed to frequently leave class because of hygiene issues or simply to call home or the babysitter to checkup on the well-being of their children. Although most working adults thought of these issues as normal activity, some professors thought they disrupted class and wanted to exclude these student activities during class time.
A second issue was the lack of interpersonal relationships developed between professors and adult students. These students observed that most professors wanted a level of respect associated with their teaching positions which, adult-to-adult, they would probably not receive in non-academic situations. There were many adult students who were themselves business leaders in their community including some who had their professors for clients, yet when in-class these students were expected to place themselves in different levels of the working hierarchy. Carnevale (2008) commented that “while knowledge gives the impression of superiority, friendliness shows the signs of humility” (p. 89).
Online education has been rapidly growing since the last decade of the 20th century. It was spawned by the growth of the Internet and the development of the personal computer. The first entry by colleges and universities into online education was synchronous. Students still met in classes according to particular time schedules, but their physical location was no longer the traditional classroom. In addition to removing transportation time, students could take their classes using occupation or home-based computers. Scheduling around other activities including one’s occupation or home-life remained as issues.
Following synchronous education, post-secondary schools developed asynchronous education. The format is a series of lectures and assorted other materials assembled by professors and other school personnel. These are placed online and the student can access the materials from whatever computer, and in whatever timeframe, he or she wishes. As with most school work, timeframes for completion of submission of the assigned work are provided. Although asynchronous education is usually regionally accredited some employers and state licensure departments have been unwilling to accept it, saying that the school must have a physical location in the state where the education is being applied. Adam Putnam, Commissioner of Florida’s Licensing Department recently commented that since most professions do not have national accreditation, the requirement for each profession is left up to the state (Brush, 2012). For instance, a lawyer in any given state cannot usually practice law in a different state.
Evarts (2008) observed that asynchronous students are able to grasp more complex issues. This is because students are not required to provide immediate feedback and can take additional time to study, reflect, and analyze what they deem to be appropriate answers. Simple discussion, less complex materials, and providing immediate feedback is best left to synchronous instruction. Because immediate responses are necessary in synchronous education, this kind of instruction may be used to keep unmotivated students more actively engaged. Asynchronous means that enrolled students need to share thoughts via email, discussion boards, and sometimes even blogs. These needs are eliminated in synchronous education and replaced by videoconferencing, instant messaging, and chat.
Selingo (2010) noted in his studies that there is a strong reluctance on the part of students to participate in discussions. This is observed in both synchronous as well as asynchronous education. In the former, synchronous education, discussion needs to be instantaneous while in the latter, asynchronous education, the material can first be reflected upon with comments later posted to discussion boards and blogs. To encourage students to participate in discussion, synchronous instructors have attached these discussions to grades. In order to achieve a higher grade, students must participate in class discussions. Asynchronous instruction permits more time for individual reflection, but posting (by students) to discussion boards and blogs are also minimal at best. Therefore, in asynchronous education instructors have issued more complex sets of instructions for completion of the work; longer length, well thought out reflective papers can take the place of this discussion.
Carnevale (2008) observed in formal studies that the use of discussion boards was gaining significantly in both synchronous and asynchronous education. Discussion boards allowed instructors to post noteworthy information for students to consider and discuss among themselves. These discussions could easily be monitored by instructors hoping to post valuable information, thus allowing students to gain valuable insights. In additions, students observed that they were less threatened by contributing to what they thought were reasonable discussions, without fear of being ridiculed by other students who may have had more insight into particular issues. Carnevale also noted that 83% of polled continuing education students responded positively that the discussion boards were beneficial to them. However, according to Bowles and Gintis (2011), in their analysis of the study conducted by Carnevale, when the instructor of the particular course stated to his students that at least three discussion posting were necessary for their grades to remain unaffected, 100% of the students maintained the minimum requirements but only 15% of the students in the class exceeded the minimum requirements.
The analysis of the findings regarding discussion board content suggested the majority of the students (85%) did not achieve substantial learning (Bowles & Gintis, 2011). The professor noted that just over one-third of the students did reach levels of critical thinking and were able to demonstrate critical arguments and analysis with other high-achieving peers. This level of achievement suggests that one-third of the students engaged in asynchronous education are achieving at a level equal to their peers both in online as well as in traditional studies. However, also suggested is that approximately 66% of the students in asynchronous education are not achieving above a minimal level of education.
Leaser (2010) separated traditional learning from online learning. She identified content costs as the most important in online learning, while in traditional learning costs are identified with both content plus the cost of delivery. According to Leaser, the online learning market reached $17.2 Billion in 2008 and by 2013 is expected to exceed $25.4 Billion. Leaser further identified the benefits of online learning by:
- The elimination of travel costs.
- Consistency – Like with all people, instructors don’t have “bad days.”
- Programs are easily scalable, from a few uses to the global marketplace.
- There is greater flexibility in online learning and students have a greater time to learn, absorbing the material presented according to their own needs.
- Programs can be presented in modules, providing customization options unavailable in traditional learning.
- Since programs are presented online, tracking of acquired skills while confirming compliance can be accomplished using the already loaded academic software. Measurements of student accomplishment can take in thousands of bits per second instead of human measurement using tedious mathematical equations.
- The reporting capabilities reported in Item 6 can more easily be used to identify and clarify gaps in instruction.
Leaser (2010) also identified distinct disadvantages to online instruction. Initial investment is much higher than in traditional learning. However, online instruction, while significant in its first year can be amortized over several years, thus reducing the amount if the lifespan of the program is great enough. Conceivably, a program costing millions to set-up may cost almost nothing to operate over a lifespan of several years. Therefore, over the life of the online learning program the income derived can be equated as pure profit. By contrast, traditional learning has continuing escalating costs associated with it including the salary of faculty and the assorted overhead factors necessary to maintain the physical location of the school building.
As the lifespan of online course work expands, greater costs incur so that the colleges offering such course work can make sure that what is being taught closely relates to the needs of the students who are enrolled. Just as products are, over the course of time, phased-out because of their lack of usefulness, over time the business models being taught in online learning reach levels of antiquity and need to be phased-out or reconstructed using newer learning techniques. To remain successful providers of online learning, schools need to assign researchers assigned the task(s) of keeping current those business models being provided to students through online learning.
Technology issues are also important considerations (Leaser, 2010). In large cities bandwidth and hardware costs have consistently decreased over the last two decades. However, in more rural areas of the United States and in less developed areas of the global marketplace in which most businesses now depend, have the required technology necessary for delivery of online learning may pose a problem. Additionally, in situations where employers allow employees to use company technology for online learning, the technology located in these organizations must be appropriate for receipt of the online learning. Most online learning is provided on computers using Apple or Windows software. However, may larger companies find these computer platforms to be too immature on which to conduct their normal business, instead using computer platforms such as Oracle or Linux (Webb, Metha, & Jordan, (2010).
Online learning does not offer any gauge of personal interaction. First, although message boards may be used in online learning, as discussed elsewhere in this document, it was noted that less than one-third of the students taking the course used the message boards unless the instructor somehow tied the use of messages to the distribution of grades. Second, because everything is done online, the instructor may have a difficult time measuring the level of the student’s comprehension. In particularly difficult online course work, students enrolled in the work and being tested online may request assistance from friends or other individuals. The result is the online instructor will never know whether the student achieved full course comprehension based upon his or her personal abilities. A student’s personal initiative to begin the training, to work on full comprehension, and to allocate the proper amount of personal time to learn lies fully with the student.
Regardless of chronological age, there are some people in the world who are technophobic. They are afraid of computers and other digital media, erroneously thinking that they will accidently press the wrong button cause irreparable harm to the device. Instead of dealing with their fears and finding ways to familiarize themselves with the various apparatus, they will make-up excuses why they will never get to the studies that must take: too much work, too many household hold tasks, the need to think about others including spouses and children before tackling their own needs.
Visiting a research library, the student found that there is a wealth of information on the latest method of learning—online instruction. The available materials centered heavily on asynchronous education and to lesser extents on synchronous instruction and blended learning. On the other hand, very little research material was available that dealt with traditional learning. Most of the material cited in this document started out with analysis of online learning followed by small excerpts here and there explaining why traditional learning, at least for continuing education students, is outdated. If the student was examining several analyses using inferential statistics, traditional learning would have been better explained through the null hypothesis more so than through deviations and frequency charts.
The traditional instruction methods started as far back as Socrates and were used as late as the last decade of the 20th century has been literally decimated by newer, online instruction. Younger students entering post-secondary learning centers right of high school are still comfortable with traditional learning. The “college experience” is much more so than just learning. It is a time for making new, sometimes lifelong friends. It is a time when students can experiment with their chosen majors, changing them when they realize what they selected, is not what they want to do following graduation. It is a time to participate in sports, join clubs, and find socialization through membership in fraternities and sororities. For many students it is also a time of maturing. It is a time when they must take over those duties most teenagers leave to their parents. For some students it will be a period of cook or starve. It will entail housecleaning or living in filth. It will almost certainly entail washing and ironing clothes or presenting oneself unkempt. It might also mean finding some kind of job to help extend personal funds for buying school supplies or just having a good time during off-hours. Parents also prefer traditional instruction for their college-age children; parents think that friends will watch out for each other’s safety and that if needed, school security staff is available 24 hours a day.
Traditional education helps students, new to the post-secondary academic community, to build stronger bonds with their instructors. Typically, at the start of each semester, students receive a set of instructions from their professors about how classes will be taught, and what rules are expected to be followed. Students who find themselves having trouble with these instructions have people they can turn to for guidance: their professors, graduate assistants, course counselors, and assorted other personnel in-place to help students find their way in this new academic community.
Online education started out as synchronous education, and while synchronous course work is still available, the majority of online studies are now taught as asynchronous education. Synchronous education closely matches traditional education. It offers course work using computer platforms. All students still meet at the same time and study the same things but transport is eliminated. Students can work from whatever computer location is available to them. Asynchronous education means the course instructor will put information and course instruction on tapes and on film. Students are given a range of activities that must be completed in a specific timeframe. However, the student may sign on and complete the assignments according to his or her own schedule. Students enrolled in asynchronous education can complete their course work at their own convenience. This may be after work or on a work break. It may be after household chores are completed, or after children are asleep for the night. Asynchronous education is geared to adults more so than is traditional education.
Although less expensive than traditional education, asynchronous learning is not equal across the spectrum. Discussed elsewhere in this document is that human resource officers from varying corporations don’t understand the parameters of online education. Therefore, they view the course work as enrollment in correspondence school and demean the education and/or degrees students present themselves with. This attitude is especially troublesome because first, most online programs carry regional accreditation and second, as online learning continues to grow in popularity more and more universities are incorporating this instructional method in their curriculum. Research by Selingo (2010) suggested that traditional learning and online learning will at some undetermined time become more in tandem with each other. The student knows that with her personal responsibilities, she would not have been able to further her academic goals without online learning.
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