Advantages and Disadvantages of Web-based Courses
There is no doubt that Web-based courses have distinct advantages over traditional face-to-face interactions. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek (2003) maintain that Web-based courses are available at the learners’ convenience, are usually self paced, contain current information, accommodate a variety of learning styles, maintains equity for all learners, and can even save money in transportation and travel time. Another group of researchers, (Sunal, Sunal, Odell, & Sundberg, 2003) acquired data showing student satisfaction with the ability to communicate anonymously within their course.
Yet one cannot praise the advantages without taking a look at the possible limitations of Web-based delivery. The authors, (Sunal et al., 2003) stated that Web-based students indicated dissatisfaction with the number of opportunities for interaction with the instructor and other students. (Simonson et al., 2003) concluded that access to technology, paradigm shifts for instructors, bandwidth limitations, and training and technical assistance may hinder course delivery. They (Simonson et al., 2003) reported too, that online courses require students to be motivated, self directed and responsible for their success. Another possible disadvantage with Web-based courses is the potential loss of social relationships and sense of community that exists in traditional face-to-face courses (Hiltz, 1998).
Student Factors To Promote Success
Even before a student embarks on an online course, Tomlinson (1998) pinpoints a handful of factors that can promote student success. He states that students need vision, discipline, accountability, time, space, physical resources, and finally perseverance. Without these characteristics, even the student in a well constructed course would have less of a chance for success.
Characteristics of Successful Courses
As course designers plan a teaching and learning environment on the Web, there is agreement on some of the characteristics of successful courses. Graham, Cagiltay, Lim, Craner, & Duffy (2001) agreed to evaluate four online courses using the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering &Gamson, 1987). In taking the perspective of a student in the course, they (Graham et al., 2001) developed a list of “lessons learned.” First, instructors need to develop and provide clear guidelines, establish policies for discussion areas, and set standards for response timelines. Second, instructors must create well-designed discussions where students are expected to post at least a set number of times and learners should receive feedback on the quality of the postings. Third, projects or presentations where students can learn from one another as well as the instructor should be assigned and discussed asynchronously. Fourth, instructors need to provide prompt feedback to the whole class or personal feedback to individuals. The researchers (Graham et...