Study: Online learning needs common terms

April 5, 2011 at 10:40 PM
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COLOMBIA, Mo., April 5 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a lack of common definitions makes it difficult to determine effective strategies for e-learning, online learning and distance learning.

While the definitions of these terms might seem trivial, researchers at the University of Missouri say they are necessary to give students accurate previews of courses, as the new learning environments are presented in many different ways in schools, colleges and the business world, a UM release reported Wednesday.

Some online learning includes occasional face-to-face meetings, the researchers said, while some has synchronized video classrooms. Some courses might have instructors available to students through e-mail, while others are entirely self-directed by students.

"What we found is there is no common understanding, even across disciplines or locations," Joi Moore, a professor in the UM College of Education, said. "We found that many experts in the field didn't define what they were doing; they just said, 'this is what I use.'

"As education researchers, we don't get the true context of the instructional environment, and without that, it is impossible to compare learning results," Moore said.

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