NRCLC PROJECT ON E-LEARNING AND ONLINE TUTOR COMPETENCIES

Vazi Okhandiar

Hirday Nath Pandit

 

INTRODUCTION

The recent evolution of the Internet and other technologies like the use of whiteboard, videoconferencing and multimedia have fuelled the growth of new opportunities in teaching and learning away from classroom-centered and textbook-based traditional learning environment. The Internet has helped to introduce new modes of delivering subject content and provided a creative learning environment, now known as ďe-learningĒ. According to the current research, the total market value of online education (e-learning) world wide is expected to grow to 21 billion US dollars by 2008. In India alone, the current market value of the online education industry is estimated to be at 200 million US dollars and within 3 years it is expected to grow to 1 billion US dollars. E-learning offers several advantages both to the students and the tutors in terms of time and space. They can access subject content at anytime from anywhere in the world. The interaction between the learner and the tutor can take place at times convenient to both of them. E-Learning offers various options for presenting educational material in a variety of formats (text, visual, sound). It helps to meet the needs of students with different learning abilities and allows them to choose the appropriate modes of learning suitable to them. Soon the learners will be able to use mobile devices to download educational materials from anywhere in the world and study them at anytime from any location.

 

NRCLC Project on E-Learning

The NR Computer Learning Center (www.nrclc.com), based in California, in 2002, developed an online education project to take advantage of the growing web based educational learning system. The aim of the project has been to explore and experiment with various modes of Internet based teaching-learning strategies and help students improve their understanding and achievement levels in the most cost-effective manner. The experiment consisted of providing e-learning opportunities to the boys and girls of Orange County, California from a multicultural environment with different social, cultural and economic backgrounds. The 5 years of experiment has helped the Center to develop appropriate teaching and learning environment for students at locations of their choice by utilizing the technology and high quality of teaching resources available in US and in India. These services are available to the students for 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. At the NRCLC, the subject content is provided over the Internet and consists of different formats like text, digital audio, digital video, animated images and virtual reality. With its speed and flexibility, the online education has enabled the learners to take advantage of a variety of technologies to facilitate their learning and also to interact with the tutors on a real-time basis. The NRCLC E-Learning project has following elements. Some of the experiences gained and major findings of the Center with respect to subject content, delivery systems, management style and technologies used during the past 5 years are summarized in this paper.

 

Modular Based Content

At NRCLC, the contents for English, Mathematics and Computer Science for students from age 5 to 18 are presented in a modular form. Each module is designed keeping in view the difficulty levels of individual students. The tutor can choose to develop individualised instruction/learning module by using the subject material bank on various aspects of the three subjects within the frameworks of the educational programme of California.

 

Modes of Learning

At NRCLC, students can choose to communicate with their tutor synchronously or asynchronously. The synchronous form of communication helps students to communicate with their tutors on a real-time basis. It includes chat rooms, whiteboard, videoconferencing and teleconferencing. Under the alternate arrangement of an asynchronous communication mode, students can email or post a question on a bulletin board and their responses are emailed to them within few hours. NRCLC also provide the Interactive environment with simulations and educational games to help student learn while they have fun.

 

Continuous Assessment of Studentís Achievements

NRCLC has developed several online self assessment tools to measure the studentís achievement level so that the tutors and the parents can identify the strength and weakness of the student. This way the tutors are able to modify the content and individualise the programme and delivery method to serve the needs of the individual student to help them overcome their weaknesses.

 

Tutor Competencies for Online Teaching

The experience at the Center has revealed that the online teaching cannot be organised in the same manner as classroom-based teaching. The tutor should possess variety of skills and experiences to make online teaching a success. The role of a tutor in online education is a very crucial, andthat before participating in an online teaching programme, a tutor should be equipped with following competencies:

 

Technical Skills

The technical skills include:

1Ability to use .search engines like google, yahoo, askJeeves, altaVisa etc to access additional learning materials on the Internet

2. Ability toupgrade the content consistently and be able to assist the students to different websites for more information;

2. Ability to use Online communication tools such as whiteboard, online chat, broadcast videoconferencing, teleconferencing to be able to demonstrateideas to the student;

3. Ability to undertake resolution of the technical/operational challenges faced due to failure in the communication system on a real-time basis;

4. Ability to use Word processor and†† basic typing†††† skills;

5. Ability to developmultimedia presentations with embedded audio and/or video to demonstrate his or her ideas to the students.

 

Management Skills

Management skills include ability to:

1. Establishthe rules of communication with the learners;

2. Develop a harmonious professional relationship with the learners;

3.Guide the learner by helping him/her to set challenging but achievable goals;

4. Provideencouragement to learners to sustain their interest on a continuous basis;

5. Developand monitoringthe learnerís plan to complete the learning material for the course;

6. Enforce controls to keep the learners on track.

 

Subject Content Specialisation Skills

Subject content specialisation skills include:

1. Adeep understanding of the subject, so that, he/she is able to generate content to supplement class-room materials, to fill in any gaps, and†† to clarify any misunderstandings.

2.Ability to supplement and act as a backup to content that is presented elsewhere.

 

Teaching Skills

Teaching skills includeability to :

1. Developcapacity in learners to solve problems, generate creative thinking and help in conducting research to avoidfrom becoming completely dependent on the online instructor;

2. Askthe right questions that stimulate learners to think for themselves, lead those to more powerful insights than could ever be obtained from regular teaching methods;

3. Helpthe learners achieve their learning goals by challenging, encouraging and providing constructive feedback;

4. Respond to questions received in email, chat sessions or the practical assignments based on multiple choice questions.

 

Communication Skills

Communication skills includeability to:

1. Handle children from different culture, accent, ethnic and religious backgrounds;

2. Be sensitiveto the linguistic background of students, under go accent neutralization process;

3. Initiate discussion topics and questions to get things going;

4. Control discussions so that students donít digress from the objectives of the course;

5. Encourage all members to participate in the discussion;

6. Bearticulate in responding to the question posed by students and deliver in the format acceptable by them;

7. Be a good listener and respond to the question asked by the students.

 

Assessment Skills

Assessment skills include ability to:

1. Assess the learning outcomes and ensure that the learners are able to master up to 90 per cent of the learning objectives of the course.

2. Provide the learner with objective and constructive feedback based on specifics and not based on his/her personal opinion or values.

 

CONCLUSION

The Center intends to conduct more and more research and experimentation with respect to material development, online-tutor training, choice of appropriate technologies for delivery system and interactive teaching-learning strategies so that online education becomes more interesting, creative, cost effective, functional and can be made available on a universal basis.