A number of studies have attempted to measure the impact of online environments on student performance and achievement. The survey of international practice conducted by the Department of Education, Science and Technology (DEST) has found that a mixed picture of educational outcomes emerges from American and British (Kearns, 2001) studies. Bearing in mind that research carried out on behalf of the governments of those two countries has tended to concentrate on the impact of ICT?s on school students, it would appear that online technologies can transform the learning environment to one more student-centred and focused on the development of higher order thinking skills.
Barriers to this achievement include the continued use by teachers of methods which emphasise basic recall learning, and socio-economic factors associated with students? home access to technology. According to Kearns, the American CEO Forum on Education and Technology concluded in a report in 2001 that the definition of student achievement needed to be broadened to include the 21st Century skills required for them to thrive in the future. Initial data gathering by both the American and British approaches highlights the need for further long-term studies to trace the impact of ICT?s on student achievement (Kearns, 2002).
Nevertheless, some conclusions about the potential of online learning environments to enhance student learning are:
  • Optimal, online learning would be likely to occur when content is accurate, up-to-date, relevant to the objectives of the course and needs of the learners, and is presented in ways that optimise the technology

  • Learning tasks should be structured to promote deep learning approaches, and

  • Students can be encouraged to engage with the content through critical evaluation of the information contained in the materials and application of knowledge to new problems, tasks and situations.



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