Online learning: Worth it?

TAS leading you into the information era

Online learning/ e-learning includes learning with the assistance of the internet and a personal computer or hand-held device. Online courses can be synchronous, asynchronous or hybrid.

Asynchronous courses do not take place in real time. With these courses, students are given content, assignments and a timeframe in which to complete the coursework and exams.

Synchronous courses require the course instructor and students to interact online simultaneously. These courses allow students to participate in courses from a distance in real time, similar to participation in a webinar.

Hybrid courses (blended courses), as the name suggests, are learning environments that allow for both in-person and online interaction. With blended courses, there are a number of contact sessions coupled with computer-based communications.

In Zimbabwe, online learning uptake has been slow for a myriad of reasons. However, the world has not been spared from the challenges being experienced by Zimbabwe in the online learning space. There are a number of challenges with online learning and this blog goes on to explore some of them. The hope is that users will be able to use this article to gain a better understanding of online learning.

Here are some challenges experienced in the online learning world:

  • Minimal or no face to face interaction

There is an argument that online learning creates a “monologue and not a real dialogue”. This is more so for asynchronous courses. Building relationships with the instructor and classmates will require more effort in an online environment.

  • Increased workload

There is a requirement for most online courses for students to spend a lot more time grasping the concepts and go through assignments and handouts than would be needed for traditional courses. More will be required from students to prove that they have mastered the concepts depending on the courses.

  • Intense requirement for self-discipline

Online courses, unlike traditional learning, rarely ever have a dedicated person following up on students to make sure they are studying the course concepts. The onus is on the student to manage their time and pace themselves appropriately. Many students struggle to manage time and in so doing miss set deadlines.

  • Great sense of self direction required

Many courses offered are short courses which will require students to pick and choose from the vast options available selecting ones in line with their desired career path or interests.

The world is fast becoming a true global village, as a result, online learning is gaining ground in spite of the challenges being faced. Many course providers are implementing different strategies to try and counter the challenges and give their students the best chance of excelling from the courses.

TAS has a number of courses set to be rolled out during the course of this year. The main emphasis has been on quality and accessibility. The courses have had the team put in many hours to ensure quality but also the best way to help the students navigate the treacherous world of online learning, but tailor made to the Zimbabwean Cultural and Technical context of learning.

The system in use for hosting of online courses has been revamped in such a way that there are progress trackers to help track students’ progress throughout the course. Some of the courses will have a blended element to allow for face-to-face sessions.

Asynchronous has been the model of choice for the majority of the courses. This is ideal as it gives the student flexibility. It allows the student to plan their time and go through the material provided. The assessments will, however, be timed to allow for integrity as many of the courses will be accredited by reputable organisations.

Look out for more insightful blogs on Online learning.

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About the Author : Innocent

Innocent is an associate advisor at Training and Advisory Services. He is an expert in International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). You can contact him via email: innocent@tas.co.zw

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