Over the last few years there has been an increasing amount of self-paced online adult education courses and corporate training courses. Creating such courses is costly in terms of money and human resources, but once the break-even point is achieved, these courses are quick money-makers for organizations and institutions.
Clearly, these courses meet the needs of organizations, but do they meet the needs of the learners? In other words, are institutions creating courses with little regards for long-term student success?
Students have different needs, have had different learning experience, and have different expectation of learning experiences. Thus, a first year college student, who has enrolled in a self-paced online course, may adapt to the technology easily, but have difficulties because of not lack of interaction with fellow learners.
From first-hand experience I have witnessed student procrastinate until it is impossible for them to catch up. Even given the implications of failing a course, students tend to put off self-paced online courses in favour of the hard deadlines of attending classes and completing assignments for “real” teachers.
In corporate training, where time is money, a self-paced online course must be completed as quickly as possible. Usually the employee does not want to attend training and the organization wants the employee back to work as soon as possible. The concern here is that training courses are created as an “information dump.” The employee must absorb large quantities of information quickly, be expected to retain it, and also be expected to apply the information in the workplace.
The final results of self-paced online courses tend to favour organizational and institutional needs. Both feel as if the burden of learning is on the student, whereas the burden of teaching should be on organization and institution.
If organizations and institutions want successful learners (those who retain the information for a long period of time and understand how to apply the information) and insist on self-paced online components, then these components should be part of course.
Many more students will succeed if they are given hard deadlines through the course, have some form of human interaction during the learning process, and have time to reflect on material.
While self-paced online courses are a cash cow for organization and institution, they can be discouraging, impersonal, and unsuccessful ways of learning for the most important component of the education system – the learner.