I have been asked recently to discuss whether or not online learning is situated. This is an interesting topic that can go one of two ways. One, we could dive into Situated Learning Theory and its implications in an online or digital environment. Or two, is online learning situated in the context of being set in place or position, i.e. is it a mature technology that is now an established part of our society? My “partner in crime” for this topic, Catlin Tucker, took the Situated Learning Theory road and her wonderful discussion can be found here! Therefore, I will look at the situated stance from a more “established” point of view.
I am currently working my way through the book Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology by Michelle Miller. In this book, the first two chapters discuss the idea of online education and its establishment in the greater learning community. In her book, she dives into the idea of online learning being a permanent place of higher education or is it just a fad? Miller suggests that a variety of factors, “it is clear that technology in higher education is in fact here to stay – and that learning to use it well is a worthwhile investment.”
Miller goes on to discuss the validity of online education in comparison to its traditional counterpart. She discusses course design factors and the benefits of technology use versus the hazards. The ultimate conclusion is that if designed correctly, “Empirical research on outcomes tends to favor online learning, with some studies even turning up substantial advantages.”
From my own personal perspective, Miller’s ideas in her book are on point. Good course design does indeed prove advantageous to learning. Furthermore, I do not see online or technology going away, only becoming more prevalent. In fact, online continues to grow at a rate of 5% each year with 5.8 million students taking distance education courses in 2014. (Allen, E., Seaman, J., 2016, p.4).
Online education is indeed coming into its golden age, most instructors use some form of technology in their classroom. If they don’t, they are truly missing out. The advantages keep proving to outweigh any disadvantages. Because of these factors, I do believe online learning is situated. However, there is always room to grow and change.