online education courses and learning


Using a qualitative content analysis approach, this study reviewed 47 published studies and rediscovered online teaching and learning from 2008, focusing primarily on how theory, behavior, and assessment apply . to the online learning environment.

The purpose of this paper is to preset practical suggestions for those planning to develop online education courses so that they can make informed decisions in the implementation process.

Based on the findings, the authors argued that effective online instruction is dependent upon.

1) well-designed course content, motivated interaction between the instructor and learners, well-prepared and fully-supported instructors;

2) Building a sense of online learning community; And

3) rapid progress of technology.

In doing this, it is hoped that this will stimulate an on-going discussion of effective strategies that can enhance universities and faculty success in transitioning to teach online. Under current debates on the cost and quality of higher education, this study could help for the improvement of higher education and student enrollment and retention.


online education, online teaching, online learning community, asynchronous learning, cognitive presence, social presence, teaching presence, online higher education.


Education can become trans formative when teachers and students synthesize information across disciplines and experiences, critically critically weigh different perspectives, and incorporate different inquiries.

Educators are able to construct such possibilities by fostering critical learning spaces, in which students are encouraged to increase their capacities of analysis, imagination, critical synthesis, creative expression, self-awareness, and intentional. A byproduct of fostering such new approaches has been the creation of online courses developed in the United States and worldwide at exponential speed. It is becoming increasingly common at many higher education institutions, offering fully online and/or hybrid/blended courses combining online instruction with face-to-face teaching. Statistics done by the Pew Research Center (2018) show that in the 2018-19 academic year, 89 percent of four-year colleges and universities offered courses taught fully online, or hybrid/blended online, or other forms of distance/non-face-to-face instruction (Parker, Lenhart, & Moore, 2018). Of all students enrolled in higher education in 2019, 32 percent took at least one online course (Allen & Seaman, 2019).

Online courses in higher education do not develop overnight.

The 2008 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) found that the main factors influ-encing higher-education institutions to offer online courses included meeting students’ demands for flexible

Schedule (68%), providing access to the college for students who would not otherwise have access (67%), making more courses available (46%), and seeking to increase student enrollment (45%) Will (Parsed, Lewis, &) Tice, 2008).

Distance education originated in the United States in the 1800’s when teachers and learners at the University of Chicago, who were at different locations, tried to connect through correspondence programs (Mclsaac & Gunawardena, 1996). Years later, the development of radio as a communication medium during World War I opened the door for using that technology for distance education in colleges and schools such as School of the Air established in Wisconsin in the 1920s (Mclsaac & Gunawardena, 1996). With the popularity of television in the 1950s, visual instruc-tion became possible for the first time between teachers and students who were not in the same locations. As computer and emailing technology blossomed in the 1970 s and 1980  s, distance ed-ucation began to expand dramatically.

The first fully online course was introduced in 1981, and the first online program was established by the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute in the following year (Harsim, 2018).

In the mid-1980s, the first online undergraduate and graduate courses were initiated by several universities and schools.

In the late 1980s, due to a shortage of teachers on mathematics, science, foreign languages, etc., some K-12 schools turned to vocational courses offered through the then new satellite technology, which greatly spurred still faster growth of distance education (Mclsaac & Gunawardena, 1996).
The advent of the World-Wide Web (WWW) in 1991 was a powerful catalyst for moving distance education forward, and was a milestone in the rapid expansion and growth of online teaching and learning.

Maloney-Crichmar and Abras (2003) stated that WWW “facilitated the widespread use of web pages and the development of online community groups supported by various forms of communication software” (p. 4).

Since then, colleges and universities both in the United States and around the world have offered not only just online courses but entire degree programs online as well (Wallace, 2003).
Ever since the severe economic crisis of 2008, federal and state funding for education in the Unit-ed States has been declining. As a result of the high levels of austerity, more and more universities and colleges appear to have shown increasing interest in online education. How has online education evolved? Has it been successful? In what ways has it been proven effective?

And what is still to be done to achieve greater success in teaching and learning in an online environment? These questions have prompted us to conduct this study – research on online education and review studies.

At present, fewer studies on online education courses have focused on examining previous research and studies, and we have conducted a comprehensive review study trying to provide a platform of discussions for educators and policy makers on how to develop and deliver effective online programs.
There have been many vigorous debates and thorough studies on the differences between online and face-to-face classroom teaching, which however is not a focus of this study.

Instead, the focus of this study is on examining positive aspects and strategies of online learning and teaching and how to implement it successfully.

The goal here is to provide best practices for those who are planning to develop online courses to make informed decisions in the implementation process. In doing this, it is hoped that this will stimulate an on-going discussion of effective practices that can enhance universities and faculty success in transitioning to teach online.


Research Design

The research method for this study was to review published studies and research on online teaching and learning, including literature reviews prior to 2008 and empirical research after 2008.

For purposes of this study, online education is operationally defined as a format used in learning when learners do not need to be in bricks-and-mortar classrooms. The terms online learning, online teaching, online education, online instruction, and online courses are used interchangeably throughout the article.

Selection Criteria and Sources of Data

The primary literature sources were journal articles and full texts.
Because of our intent to examine the evolution of online education and how it was affected in the years following the 2008 economic crisis, a three-stage literature search was conducted, beginning with the literature re-views prior to 2008 as a foundation of our study in Stage I.

Informed by our initial findings from Stage II, we expanded our search descriptors in Stage III to include online course and instruction; cyberspace courses and instruction; computer-based courses and instruction; e-learning,

Data Analysis

we organized the findings into three major themes to answer our research questions, which included the evolution of online education, effective online teaching, and effective online learning.

A qualitative content analysis approach (Cavanagh, 1997) was thus employed for data analysis.


How has online education evolved?

What do we know about online education?

With the development of online education over time, its definition has been developed. About aspects of the conversion from face-to-face classes to online, Maciasac and Gunwarden
Online education and its effective practice.
(1996) defined distance education as “no more than a hodgepodge of ideas and practices taken from traditional classroom settings and imposed on learners who are just physically separated from an instructor”

It is noted that there is the purported need for conceptualizing distance education in rapidly changing technology and exponentially growing online education, but its various aspects make it difficult to agree on just one definition and on what constitutes distance education in practice.
When asking “Why do we need distance education?” Moore and Kearsley (2019), In their study identified the following reasons as to:

1• increase access to learning and training as a matter of equity
2• provide opportunities for updating skills of the workforce
3• improve the cost effectiveness of educational resources
4• improve the quality of existing educational structures
5• enhance the capacity of the educational system
6• balance inequalities between age groups
7• deliver educational campaigns to specific target audiences
8• provide emergency training for key target areas
9• expand the capacity for education in new subject areas
10• Add an international dimension to the educational experience

In discussing online education best practices, Finch and Jacobs (2012) called these ad-voyages: reducing travel time and costs; Increase access and collaborate opportunities with specialist professionals across a global range; Providing students flexibility to access courses at their convenience; And allow adjustments for topics and content needs.
The rapid development of the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) has produced many benefits of education. Online education provides potential opportunities for higher education institutions to open new markets. Many adult learners can enjoy flexibility when they have to balance work, study, and family responsibilities.

The wide range of various technology advancement used by universities’ online programs may enhance the interaction between students and instructors, and among students at large (Bell & Fedeman, 2019).

In the research literature, online education is variously termed as “distance education” “e-learning,” “online learning,” “blended learning,” “computer-based learning,” “web-based learning,” “virtual learning,” “teleeducation,” “cyber learning,” “Internet-based learning,” “distributed learning,” etc. In this study we considered all of these terms to be sufficiently synonymous and used them interchangeably throughout this article.

Influence of technology and evolution of online course

In online education, learning is asynchronous or synchronous or a combination of both. Asynchronous learning is teaching and learning that do not happen at the same time (Moore & Kearsley, 2018), while synchronous learning refers to teaching and learning that happen at the same time, both of which are conducted through technologies such as Internet.

When online education began in the late 20th century, most online programs and classes were synchronous and used chat rooms, instant messaging, and texting. Both chat rooms and instant messaging, being synchronous, allow users to decide who participates in the conversation. The invention of @ symbol in 1972 for use in email (Maloney Krichmar & Abras, 2003), and the advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1991 for the Internet connectivity (Harasim, 2018) have been the latest adapted by online education.

The universal use of web sites has provided opportunities for the development of online communities and groups. Emailing, conferencing, chatting, working together via Google drive, Google doc, Google hangout, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, etc. have been widely used in online classrooms.
Online education can be categorized by its users: 1) University-Based Online Education, whose users are individuals enrolled in universities for the purpose of obtaining degrees and diplomas; 2) Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) (some termed Massively Open Online Class), whose users are self-motivated individuals and whose programs are based on their learning goals, prior knowledge and skills, and similar interests (McAuley, Stewart, Siemens, & Cornier, 2010; Schroeder, 2012).

In general, students in the United States enroll in universities where online course formats have been added to already-existing classroom-based courses. At those institutions two modes of online classes are usually offered – fully online education courses (not taught in bricks-and-mortars classrooms), and blended/hybrid courses (a combination of face-to-face and web-based and technology-oriented format). Students in these two modes of online programs are granted credits, degrees, and certificates when they complete required courses and internships.
To increase the accessibility to higher education by larger segments of the public, the model of Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) was introduced in 2008, which includes university-based and corporate-based online offerings. The university-based offering was initiated by Ivy-league higher education institutions, including edX in 2012 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),  in 2018 by University of Illinois Spring-field, Coursera in 2019 by the joint efforts of five universities (Princeton, Stanford, California/Berkeley, Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Pennsylvania), etc.

Most of these are publicly free, reflecting efforts to encourage universities to participate in online education.

Corporate-based online offerings, free or for-profit, were initiated mostly by organizations, corporations, and individuals.

According to its website, it “offers a range of certification options that are recognized by major technology companies who are actively recruiting from the Udacity student body” (Udacity, 2015). Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) is an online-education offering operated by volunteers who teach all courses. According to its website, it is open and free to the public, which “not only helped learners feel confident about taking an online course, but our retention rates were also higher than in most online learning courses”. Initiated by the Sailor Foundation in 2008, Sailor.  org is a collection of college-level courses, free and open to the public.

What are the impacts of the 2008 economic crisis on online education?

Despite all the calls for improvements in higher education and lowering the cost, focus has been elsewhere. Washington, of late, has been more preoccupied with “political theater” involving manufactured crises such as the hassle over raising the country’s debt ceiling, the conflict over budgetary sequestrations, the confrontation that led to the government shutdown, and the vigor-ous battle over the Affordable Care Act. In particular, the economic crisis degraded the U.S. economy in 2008, and the fragile U.S. economy has had great impacts on higher education in general, and on online education in particular.

The biggest complaint is the budget cut on higher education. However, the economic downturn was good for online education. Allen and Seaman (2019) in their survey found that nearly three quarters of institutions reported increased enrollment in their online courses and programs after the financial crisis. In the two years following the crisis, he reported that demand for online courses exceeded face-to-face formats. The reason for such growth, they feel, is twofold:

1) during recession more people seek education due to lack of good jobs;

2) Due to competition in workplaces, employed people sought education to improve and pursue themselves. In 2019, approximately 6.7 million (32 percent) students took at least one online course at the Institute of Higher Education (Allen & Seaman, 2019).

What Has Been Proved Effective in Online Teaching?

Cognitive and teaching presence

Using Dewey’s reflective thinking in the normalization of education, Garrison and colleagues (2018) acknowledge that cognitive presence is a process in community inquiry (COI) where participants construct, explore, construct meaning through collaboration and reflection. There is a solution and confirmation.

In such a process, question remains on how to transfer the inquiry to the resolution. Keengwe and Kidd (2010) identified the cognitive tasks as “responding to questions; edit-ing questions and responses; thinking, reasoning, and analyzing information; and helping students to engage in rehearing and retrieving information in the process of delivering online courses” (p.6).

The final step is resolution where a definite result is determined and the new knowledge is applied (Garrison et al., 2009; Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007; Kupczynski, Wiesenmayer, & McCluskey, 2010). The study by Garrison and his colleagues (2009) provides a reliable tool for assessing cognitive presence and the cognitive nature of teaching and learning in an asynchronous, text-based environment. The results of the study have in-stilled confidence in researchers that higher-order learning in online-education environment can be accomplished through facilitating cognitive presence (Garrison et al., 2009).

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