As the Internet is rapidly becoming the new norm for everyone, many colleges and universities are scrambling to ensure their students can access the Web safely, without any of the risks associated with traditional academic courses.
But a new report by the American Council on Education (ACE) highlights a number of potential pitfalls for students and educators when trying to navigate this new environment.
While the report is designed to highlight some of the most common issues students are facing as they navigate their way through the world of the Internet, the most significant warning may not be in the details.
“The report is not about the exact problems students may be facing,” said Dr. Robert J. Pomerantz, the executive director of the ACE.
“It is a cautionary tale.”
Pomerants report outlines a number potential pitfalls students and teachers face when trying a Web-based learning environment, including: • Lack of clear information on what to expect • Lack or uncertainty about the content and accessibility of the information • No clear guidance on how to use the Web to learn and engage with the world • Not enough clear guidance about what resources are available for students to use.
For example, students are being taught a lot of new technologies like video-sharing and social networking, but these technologies are not readily available to them when they are in class.
Pombergants report also highlights the problem of students not being given the tools to understand the complexity of learning.
“While many students are learning with computers and their laptops, students still need to be given the opportunity to use those computers, but the technology is not being properly taught,” Pomerantes report states.
“There is not enough information in the instructional materials to provide students with a broad understanding of the technologies they are using and the concepts they need to know to become effective learners.”
What’s more, Pomerantes report also warns that the Internet has become a gateway to a variety of other forms of learning that are becoming increasingly difficult for students.
“For example, a large number of students who are transitioning from a traditional high school curriculum to the Internet may be not only missing out on critical learning opportunities but also losing the learning opportunity that high school provides,” Pombs report states, “in addition to the time and cost involved in acquiring and maintaining the appropriate computer equipment.”
Pombings report comes on the heels of a recent report by ACE that identified a number the top 10 problems students face as they try to navigate the Internet.
According to the report, “In addition to student confusion about the value of the Web and lack of clear guidelines about what to learn, the Internet also creates new challenges for students who may be unsure about their academic or career goals.”
The report notes that the vast majority of students do not have a clear idea of what they want to do when they graduate from high school.
“Some students who do have a solid understanding of their goals for the future may not realize that they have only a limited amount of time to make up their mind,” the report states in its summary.
“Other students who did have a concrete idea about their goals may not even have a sense of what it would mean to do that in order to succeed in college.”
As the ACe reports, “Students need clear guidance and direction from their educators, who need to provide clear guidance as to what resources to bring to their classrooms and what resources they need in order for students with specific goals to succeed.”
Pompers report also points out that the education of young people on the Internet “is at the forefront of a growing and complex landscape that will continue to affect students, faculty, and staff for decades to come.”
“Our recommendations highlight the need for educators to be more proactive in preparing students for the Internet,” Pompes report states of its recommendations for online learning.
Pomping students in the face of these issues, the ACD warns that it is important for educators, students, and their parents to understand that “there are no shortcuts.”
The American Council for Education recommends “a comprehensive education strategy for students, parents, and teachers” for dealing with the Internet as well as the challenges that students will face as their careers, lives, and communities evolve.
“We strongly recommend that we take a step back and review what we know so that we can make sure we are in the best position to provide our students with the skills they need,” Pomers report states as it concludes its recommendations.
“And that means having a plan for how we can meet our students’ needs so they can learn the things they want, while learning the things that are essential to them.”
The ACE’s report is available here.