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Rhetorical Analysis

The demand for online learning in the 21st has immensely continued to increase at high rates in colleges and universities. Combes Barbara in the article “Cyber University: A Future for Online Education” sought to establish the benefits of using visuals and animations for the delivery of online studies. In this review, Combes determines the potential of using the virtual tools in online education to create social networks and academic communities (259). As Combes explains, this cyber model for creation of academic communities promotes sense of belonging and can be viewed as one of the possible ideas for the future of online education. Combes believes that the Cyber University, implemented through social media education can be quite effective in the delivery of online Education making online education an effective academic idea. Despite the fact that online education has been available for some time at most universities, research is only now generating evidence that this is a new and different schooling and learning pattern that has experienced mixed success. While some researchers believe advances in technology can overcome the separation between students and staff, other research indicates that this physical separation leads to disconnect between learners, their peers and the instructor (Combes 259).

In this proceeding, Combes combines a number of research studies from various authors such as Allen & Seaman, 2007; Wagner, 2006; Salimi, 2007; Kazmer & Haythornthwaite, 2005; Kim, Bonk, & Zeng, 2005 among others in persuading readers over the authenticity and effectiveness of the Cyber University. Professionals referred to in the study, such as Gulatee & Combes, (2008) reiterate that online education is more than just the academic websites or the linear drill and practice with computers. It includes a wide range of electronic potential of delivery modes such as videos, cameras, and whiteboards in lessons, chat as well as real time communications alongside asynchronous communication such as email and discussion forums (260).

Combes determines certain consequences of the online education system in the general society and the feelings of the students. As a result, students who study online experience frustrations, feelings of anxiety and frequently lack encouragements (Combes 259). Even when universities put in place a range of measures to facilitate the development of good online courses, attrition rates amongst online students is still twice as high as among campus students. These barriers to learning in the online environment are psychological rather than a set of physical challenges to overcome. The Cyber Classroom tool, which allows students to intermingle synchronously with their classmates and the lecturer as well as the online environment and their study materials, is a way teachers can create that sense of community that is a major part of the traditional classroom experience. On the other hand, in reference to historical account of initial data collection, the review reveals that even schools with long history and developed e-learning culture still had unusual attrition amongst students studying online (Combes 259).

Through in-depth research, Combes determines the perception of the students on the online classrooms. They explain that most online students are isolated, feel frustrated, and exhibit lower performance especially in the technical subjects. The same way, Combes also feels that online education is not a fair deal for individuals who are capable of accessing the traditional classroom education. The courses are so much more difficult if we do not attend the class, because we always have questions about issues and the lecturer is not there. Sending emails is not the best thing to do because of the time it takes to get an answer back, but developments in technology create new possibilities for online classrooms (259).

New methods of communication such as interactive social networking tools, online whiteboards, both synchronous and asynchronous tutorials, and chat room avatars provide students with opportunities to engage in a social community, which also provides a venue for collaborative learning, interactivity, and team-based, problem-solving activities. Using animated virtual world communications provides students with a virtual space that is familiar, as it resembles the physical classroom, and is a space where students can experience the social learning aspects that occur face-to-face. According to research by John, Lesley & Leonard, students reported a favorable reaction to the use of virtual world communications, which provided them with the facility to share ideas and work as a group such as occurs in a traditional classroom. By using practical worlds to study, they provide an immersive, convincing and very compromising learning environment. These environments reflect gaming software that is often familiar, helps to capture students’ imagination and are perceived as self-motivating by students (Combes 267).  

He advances his ideas through reference to other related studies from other individuals. For instance, research by Aldrich found that the provision of an interactive virtual environment could help students and reduce the social separation experienced during distance learning (57). The addition of practical environments in an online schoolroom provides impressions of certainty experienced in the traditional lecture halls. “These environments can capture and convey enough social cues, such as body language, interactive props, and the look and feel of ‘real’ surroundings to convince some part of the participants’ brains that they are physically in this other world” (Aldrich 34).

The determinations from Aldrich, Gulatee and others in the research literature, clearly demonstrate that the eLearning environment does indeed have a significant impact and is a major contributor to the social and physical separation experienced by staff and students. Using virtual worlds technologies in E-Learning environments provide possibilities to overcome the social obstructions and create cyberspaces where staff and students can engage and re-establish the teacher-learner dynamic online (Aldrich 34).

Another author Lim, Cher Ping, in support of the same idea, explains that, the spectacular development of information and communication technologies (ICT) through the Internet has provided opportunities for students to explore the virtual world of information. It offers them with the paraphernalia to point and click their way around the world, visiting different places, collecting information, experiencing visual and auditory stimulants, communicating with others anywhere and anytime, taking a peek into the future, and extending their intellectual world beyond the walls of the university/college grounds. Higher education institutions are expected to acquire and integrate these network technologies to socialize their students to be lifelong learners -to learn how to seek new information, think critically and show initiative to meet up with the challenges of the fast-changing world (Lim 331).

He advances this by stating that development of courses in an online environment requires a blending of course content and technology expertise. All the same, if a learning and management system (LMS) that is template based is adopted, module members still have the support of instructional designers who ease technically and pedagogically the online learning classes’ development. The cutback of scale will be formed once a module member has the understanding of online learning pedagogy and technology, begin using his/her skills to create successive courses. Scalability is principally noted in online learning development, whereby technologies are used to take over the ordinary responsibilities. For example, by using a LMS package, a faculty member can rely on the technology for grading of tests, reporting of grades, and group announcements (Lim 331). Moreover, as the number of online learning courses increases, software applications and efficiencies may become more notable. Nearly all software companies provide financial bonuses directly proportional to the number of licenses bought. There are also other efficiencies that may be due to increased faculty members’ and students’ experiences with online learning.

In sum, different individuals perceive online education differently. For a long time now, the efficiency for online studies has been an issue of discussion in many learning institutions. The analyzed author defines it using various strategies for persuading the readers to adopt her opinion of the online education. Combes identifies various factors supporting the effectiveness of online education using social websites as well as other weaknesses exhibited in this form of study. In her study, she incorporates a number of various other researchers to elaborate the intended idea creating a clearer view of the online education from both perspectives. Indeed online learning is a reliable and cheaper option for individuals who might not be able to afford the traditional schools. It is flexible and effective despite having numerous other challenges.

Works Cited

Aldrich, Cole. “Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction.” John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken. (2009): 34 – 56.

Combes, Barbara et al. “Supporting First Year E-Learners in Courses for the Information Professions”. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science (JELIS) (2006): 47(4), 259-276.

Lim, Cher Ping. “Online Learning in Higher Education: Necessary and Sufficient Conditions”  International Journal of Instructional Media32.4 (2005): 323-331.