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Web Based Education

When a teacher and student are separated by a physical distance, · ‘lf/then technology is used to bridge the instructional gap. Web Based Education (WBE) is the technology that addresses this problem.

With the rapid growth of information and communication technologies, education minus technology seems almost improbable as declared by Bi ll Gates “we at Microsoft strongly believe that the single most important use of information technology is to improve education”. I n India, both the T.V. and computers were launched as class room projects. It is somewhat different that to what extent the television instruction and Computer Based Training (CBT) or Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) succeeded to replace the traditional mode of teaching and learning. Television is being used to telecast educational programmers and computers as a delivery device for instruction.

Thus, use of technology as a delivery device or as a means to impart knowledge/education still continues. But, at the same time, the tom of century has put the relationship between education and technology in a different perspective. Technology in various forms has enabled us to implement the concepts derived from the discipline of cognitive psychology and psychology of learning and instruction.         ·

Learning implies learner’s participation in the education process. Exploiting uses of instructional technology allow the students to direct their own path of learning. Through the discovery or guided discovery methods, the student

learns facts, concepts and procedures. For exploratory learning the most commonly used technologies are –

(i)  Computer-based information retrieval systems (eg. electronic databases);

(ii) Micro words (including micro-computer-based labs and simulations);

(iii)  Interactive Videos.

Although, these have different features but each of these enables a learner to access, discover and construct knowledge through a self-directed learning process. The proliferation of technologies that provides education commensurate with various theories of learning proves the connection between education and technology which has become inseparable. Each depends on the other to enhance the learning. The computer network that enable collaborative learning, computer-based training programmers (CBTs) that promote exploratory and self paced learning, virtual labs, dissection kits, etc. that are proved to provide successful hands on experience of the whole task. In brief, the CBT is the combination of: to speak, to show and allow the learner to ‘experience’. To comprise all these characteristics, it has to incorporate the essential elements from various branches of psychology such as:-

(i). Human Psychology: As per human psychology, a learner resists learning that he perceives to be forced;

(ii). Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive psychology emphasizes learning by doing. Thematic instruction, relevant information and effective content organization, makes the learning fast and effective;

(iii). Behavioral Psychology : It emphasizes upon instructional strategies that build the confidence and provide satisfaction to the learners.

In addition to psychological inputs, an effective CBT has to incorporate the basic theories of distance and adult education. The essential of instructional material are-simple language, systematic content organization, staying with a consistent bonnet, using examples and analogies and including a sequence of questions (Misanch uk, 1994).

The internet has emerged and become popular as one of the most important tool which is very fast but most economic device to deliver bulk of information throughout the world. The World Wide Web (WWW) is the easiest and most popular way to access the internet. The web has also emerged as the latest mode of instruction which is based on self-pace learning and guided simulation that provided hands -on learning experience too.

Creating a successful interactive web-based learning environment can be a challenging task. There are many issues to consider i n the design, development, and delivery of a web-based course, Instructors who are novices in online instruction often assume that all they have to do is transfer the content of their traditional course into few web documents, post it on a server, and then a web-based course is created.

In our view, WBE envisages providing

  • adults with a second chance at a college education;
  • Reach those disadvantaged due to limited time, distance or physical disability;
  • Update the  knowledge  base  of  workers  at  their  places  of employment;
  • Any time, any place access.

The delivery of such education may require reliable Learning Content Management  System. This consists of:

(i). Leaner Management System.

(ii). Content Management System.

(iii). Intelligent Authoring System.

While the above three components would take care of the learning process, we need to address a few serious issues to perform Online Examination and Evaluation of the learners. In the following we discuss the above three objectives as well as the issues of online examination and evaluation.

(i).        Learner Management System

Learning management system (LMS) enables the delivery, management administration of a range of learning activities, services, content and data, LMS should be easier-to-use and more scalable. Effective web-based instruction is much more complicated.  It takes time, patience, and a Willingness to be innovative. An integrated LMS should contain the following features.

  • Instructor information, virtual office hours, announcements;
  • Course description, course outlines, syllabi, and assignments;
  • Lecture outlines, class notes, and web bibliographies;
  • Testing and grading information, sample tests or test questions;
  • Course management policies, means for submission of assignments;
  • Interactive activates such as bulletin board, e-mail links to classmates;
  • Academic service support links such as the campus library and tutoring center;
  • Links appropriate lecture to assist student with review of material;
  • Grade postings on a site by which student can check assignments;
  • Password protection for pages with personal student content;
  • Virtual classroom and live collaboration tools;
  • Compliance with industry standards.

One of the most vital issues for the growth of LMS is the adoption of uniform, industry-wide technical standards for content and software components, selecting the right LMS and achieving a successful implementation is a challenge.

(ii).       Content Management System

Content management system includes the ability to integrate proprietary customer content onto an LMS system. It allows organizations to truly exploit their internal knowledge base and make it accessible to learners just i n time, wherever and whenever they need it. In its most elaborate from, this can imply weaving this content together with third party content to create customized courses or learning paths.

Web based learning is always looked upon as a fascinating field in Distance Education. Much has been argued about the advantage and pitfalls of computer technology in the delivery of education. The course representation involves displaying format of learning components which can be a text or image etc. Communication between the users makes the learning more effective. The course representation and delivery module tries to provide an effective distance learning tool by covering few of the major issues of distance learning. Now-a-days internet is making its path from hardcore business systems to educational system. Internet based education provides global access of material, interactive teaching and student performance analysis. One can make some study material and share it over the net, this way anybody can access it from anywhere.

(iii).      Intelligent Authoring System

The purpose of developing the (Authoring) System is to provide a comprehensive and easy to use tool for the development of content. It is felt that providing information in terms of simple text and graphics would be too restrictive. In order to take full advantage of information Technology, other methods of conveying ideas and concepts must be provided. Thus, the authoring system has to contain tools for development of fairly sophisticated and interactive content. One the other hand, it is imperative to keep the tools very “user friendly”. This is a major challenge since most of the content developers (teachers) would not feel comfortable developing content using unfamiliar tools.

Use of interactive media makes teaching a fun, making it more interesting and easy to grasp. Further education over internet provides you immediate feedback of student’s performance and progress, so you can provide him study material as per his need using the highly flexible web based education. If you look at whole web based education system its whole success depends upon the quality of material developed by the course developer. A general course developer may be a good teacher but may not know the nuts and bolts of computers. So it always a challenge to develop quality study material, not because developers don’t have that much talent or they are short of ideas but as they lack the knowledge required to implement their ideas in digital form. Unavailability of such an easy tool to use is the main reason why web based education is not making its way into main stream. So what should be basic features of a tool to develop course material i.e. Authoring Tool. It should support drag and drop methodology, the most fantastic way to do the job . Other than that it should facilitate easy organization of course material.

Today’s business requirements have ensured that there must be provision for security of course material, so it should have a really strong authorization mechanism to prohibit misuse of software. The kind of material used to develop course material is of varying nature ranging from simple text to animations to complex higher dimensional charts to streaming video/audio. So their differing nature makes it necessary to separate each and every one in a separate tool. So authoring tool must provide plat from where each and every one of them can be used at their best.

Since a course for .WBE will consists of a set of related lessons, so the authoring system should be able to create a context graph of the lessons. This would aid in guiding the learner, through the course, in a meaningful way. A possible way of achieving this functionality is by

(1) generic nouns reflecting the roles of the objectives in the authoring process;

(2) generic verbs representing authoring activities over the objects;

(3) adjectives representing the modifications of the objects; and

(4) other authoring task specific concepts. Keeping the above views in mind, developing a successful authoring system is really a challenging task.

Essential Requirements for Web Based Education

The effective web based instruction depends on some important key features which are very essential requirements, such as :

  • Course tutor and students must be clear and well defined;
  • Quality Courseware (CW) designs and designers should be available;
  • There is a need or demand of web based courses for distance education and there should be a possibility to enhance the courses in adequate numbers;
  • Web server must be with adequate bandwidth and memory both at user end and host server;
  • Stable and reliable internet access must be available to the users;
  • Target group should be clearly defined and training programmers for course developers and tutors must be organized from time to time;
  • Proper guidance how to use internet to access the desired knowledge and contact programmers at study centers with tutors must be organized in required frequencies to sort out the complicated problems and queries of the students.

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Online Evaluation

One of the most challenging aspects of WBE is evaluating the learner online. This involves setting up the tests, performing the evaluation and declaring the results.

The first part of the problem is the creation of suitable question banks from which questions can be drawn at random and presented to the examinees. However, each question should remain well balanced in terms of the difficulty level and time requirement. Each question should have also have a correct/ model answer. The correctness of each question should be checked by some course expert before it is added to the banks. This question bank should contain a large number of questions.

Unfortunately, the type of tests used in most online evaluation systems consist of multiple choice or true-false type of questions. This severely limits the scope and depth of the tests. The real challenge lies in allowing the examiner to set questions that require a descriptive answer. Serious research is required using ‘Natural Language Processing techniques’ to evaluate the answers supplied by the examiners. Obviously the examiner will supply some model answer to the questions and the online system has to compare this model answer with the one given by the examinee. This is not easy since the same concept can be written in many different ways and all of them can be equally correct. Thus evaluation of descriptive questions is difficult.

Another problem with the online evaluation system pertains the security and confidentiality.  Suitable precautions have to be taken to stop unauthorized entry to the database of the questions and answers.

A slightly different technological problem relates to Low Bandwidth of Internet Connectivity. To maintain the confidentiality it is imperative to create question papers “on the fly” and deliver it online. However, inadequate bandwidth will delay the delivery of the questions, thus increasing the total time required for conduct of the examinations. These problems need to be solved for creating a good online evaluation system.

Limitations of Web Based Education

We understand that with the advancement of ‘Information Technology’ web education sounds very effective, however there are number of limitation which must be noted:

  • All types of learning cannot be delivered or obtained through web education e.g. psychomotor skills;
  • The eye contact with teacher/tutor as in actual classroom teaching is not possible, therefore, without verbal interaction, feedback cannot be provided to the students as given by the teacher in actual classroom based on gestures or reading the students’ facial reactions during teaching in the class.
  • Access facility through adequate bandwidth, cable modems, dial­ ups and emulated CD-ROM should be available to the students at economically viable rates and reliability should be of higher order
  • The peer group competition feeling, which motivates the students, cannot be generated through WBT;
  • User can be confused having the variety of structured and unstructured resources to access the desired knowledge;
  • Complicated problems cannot be solved by oneself;
  • Centers for server support, Internet access support, instruction/ evaluation support must be identified in adequate numbers and must be centrally located;
  • Enrolment procedure and mode of evaluate on of students achievement be well defined. Formative evaluation through web and summative evaluation through study centers needs to be phased out and time schedule should be decided in the beginning of the course session .

Conclusions

The process of designing and constructing WBE system is mainly handcrafting and very applications specific. Many of those knowledge-based systems share common architecture features, which allows us to specify a somewhat reference architecture for concept-based intelligent education systems. I n this way we can allow for more structured education systems. The division into a domain model, user model and instructional model provides a clear separation of concerns when developing Web-based Education Systems.

Looking at the enormous benefits that web based education can provide, one cannot run away from it for long. Online learners, like customers are satisfied when they receive timely responses, personalized services and support, along with high-quality learning. 

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