This was an interesting topic for me and one that I have been looking at over the past few years. We often hear that students who take online courses need to be self-motivated and have time management skills. Because of this requirement, we often look at online courses as “not for everyone”, when in fact as educators these are skills that all students need to have to be successful in the 21st century in any field. Employers in the U.S. are screaming for employees that exhibit these skills.
Online learning within a school or outside of a school is an excellent way for students to develop these skills. Not only can we move into more authentic learning, but we can also use this as an opportunity to teach students time management and self motivation. The teacher as a facilitator can work with students struggling in these areas to help them develop these highly needed skills, so that they are better prepared for the work place. Online learning is not an environment for some, but rather an environment for all.
Like the traditional classroom, students learn study skills, which is the same in an online environment. The only way for students to develop these tools is to put them into a situation in which they are able to learn and develop them. Online learning teaches students how to communicate and work collaboratively and prepares them for the workplace.
Schools across the nation are just realizing the value and need for online learning. Not all online learning needs to be self contained. Many of the skills students need can be taught in a regular classroom using technology within a traditional setting. This will allow students to develop these skills.
The workplace today is moving to an online environment for communication and collaboration. This web 2.0 environment is not going away, and teachers need to help their students develop the skills needed to function in this environment. Students who spend time in an online environment will develop skills needed to compete and function in the 21st century workplace. Until schools begin to realize this, the concept of the digital divide will change to those that have the skills to function in the 21st century and those who cannot.