Potential Students’ Perceptions on Online Learning as Innovation
The study was conducted in consideration of increasing African education institutions’ interest to offer online learning. The interest has been triggered by the great opportunities available with online education provision and contemporary global trends in such provision. An understanding of potential online students’ perceptions on undertaking online studies was deemed an imperative towards institutional determination for prerequisite preparations for effective online education. Twenty potential online students in Dar-essalaam were randomly selected to participate. Responses of five interviewees were written down during individual interviews; the rest were tape recorded and transcribed for easy interpretation. The interview also involved a focused group discussion session. Findings revealed that all interviewees agree to the claim that online studies are innovations in technology development in Open and Distance Learning (ODL). They were aware of online learning and considered it a viable means for studying despite their varied interpretations of what online learning means. Findings showed online learning as an opportunity clustered under six categories: as reducer of cost, reducer of stress, enhancer for speedy completion of programmes, a platform for collaborative learning and exchange of ideas, provider of flexibility, and an empowerment agent for development. Moreover each interviewee showed some concerns regarding studying through online. The researcher categorized the indentified concerns as challenges falling under the following categories: extending social classifications; disrupting family life and learners’ health; increasing cost of life; challenge to the government and other stake holders; challenge to academicians and researchers. On the basis of these findings, the researcher identifies some institutional implications and advices that for any institution intending to initiate online education programmes there should be adequate preparations including but not limited to the provision of online learning awareness programmes to potential learners. Institutions should also prepare and circulate clear and comprehensive information about online learning processes and procedures for individuals who apply and get admitted into online programmes. The institutions intending to initiate online programmes should lobby and mobilize for community online centers where learners can access internet services at affordable rates. They should also encourage learners with financial capability to purchase online learning tools for educational purposes. The researcher suggests intentional programmes that expose existing and potentials learners to online learning and concludes with the implications of the findings to the learners, instructors, institutions and governments. She finally recommends further research into this contemporary area of interest.
Keywords: Students’ Perception, Online Learning, Innovations, Community Online Centers