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Technology & Education : Discover The Benefits Of Online Education


Online education has come a long way since the advent of the Internet. Gone are the days of completing an assignment online and then printing it off and mailing it to the professor via snail mail. Also gone are the days of communicating online with professors solely through slow email programs. Nowadays, online education is much more streamlined. From interactive video conferencing to podcasts, instructors and students have access to numerous technologies that speed up and enhance their online communication.


Blackboard is the program used by most colleges and universities for their online courses. Once registered for Blackboard, each student will be given a personal account that they can log into. From the home page the student can access his or her courses and his or her instructor's contact information. Each online course has a dedicated page where students can access the syllabus, homework assignments, and lecture notes.
Instructor can upload links to the course's page that will connect students to helpful articles or videos. Assignments may also be submitted through Blackboard, and the program even has a built-in calendar system that helps students keep track of when assignments are due.


Some online courses offer an online forum where students can discuss the course with each other or post questions to the class as a whole. Many of these forums are open for discussion 24/7 to all of the students in the course. Instructors may also schedule times similar to office hours where they will log onto the forum and answer questions directly from students.


Webcams have given rise to new forms of online education; interactive video conferencing is one such form. With interactive video conferencing, instructors schedule times where students can log on and watch the lecture or chat with the professor with the use of a webcam. With this technology students can ask questions in real time as well as watch a lecture just as though they were sitting in the classroom.
One note: if a student plans on participating in interactive video conferencing from home, he must make sure that the computer he plans on using has a microphone—otherwise, he will not be able to communicate with the professor.


Instructional television is similar to interactive video conferencing in that students are able to watch the instructor's lecture just like they would in a classroom setting. The difference is that students cannot communicate with the instructor in real time with instructional television. These lectures are sometimes broadcast during an in-class session, so students who are watching the class online can hear the instructor's response to questions from students that are physically attending the class. Because this type of lecture is often broadcast live, distance learning students will have a set schedule similar to those of on-campus students.


PowerPoint is a tool often utilized by online instructors. A PowerPoint lecture can be posted on a program like Blackboard for students to view, or the PowerPoint lecture can be emailed to the class as a whole.


One very modern tool used by some instructors is the podcast. Many times, instructors will record lectures as a podcast, that way students can download the lecture and listen to it on their iPods whenever they have time.


Some online courses still use DVDs as a way to provide supplemental course material. These DVDs may include lectures from the instructor that are meant to coincide with assignments found online. However, because of the advances in interactive video conferencing and streaming online video, this practice is being phased out of most online education programs.


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