A variety of technologies are currently being used to deliver education on the Internet. These technologies include the use of the World Wide Web (WWW) for online lecture notes, newsgroups for collaborative discussions and class announcements, e-mail correspondence between students and instructors, interactive video over the Internet for remote participation in classes and discussions, and virtual reality for exploring three dimensional scenes. Multimedia is increasingly being used in online education to enhance the learning process. A critical question that needs to be asked is ``how effective are Internet-based learning methods?''. This paper reviews existing Internet-based technologies and implementations for education. The paper describes current examples of Internet-based learning and analyses the benefits and limitations to the student and the institution. Individual learning styles are described with examples of appropriate Internet technologies to support each style of learning. A summary of evaluations of these technologies is then given. The paper concludes with suggestions on how to choose appropriate technologies for Internet-based education.
What is the Internet?
According to Rwambiwa ((2001), Internet is a large, international computer network linking users around the world. A network consists of two or more computers that are connected to share data. The Internet uses a combination of phone lines, coax cables, fibre-optic cables, satellites and other telecommunications media. Internet is used by many people for sending and receiving electronic mail or to obtain information on almost any subject.
Education on the Internet
Open universities (ZOU, UNISA, and many others) have thousands of people studying for both undergraduate level courses and postgraduate degrees. These universities and other professional institutes like the Institute of People Management (IPMZ). Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) among others, offer professional development programmes in management, education, health and social welfare, manufacturing and computer applications. Courses are delivered to the students in their own homes or places of work by computer, the Internet, surface mail, and via national broadcasts.
While traditional resources such as textbooks are used, students also draw on the extensive resources already available on the Internet (Reinhardt, 1995). Class material and assignments are posted on the World Wide Web at a site open only to those students taking the course. Students submit assignments that can be posted to the Web for others in the class to view. For example, International University College (IUC) offers a Master of Arts in Business Communication Programme. The primary way students communicate with teaching faculty, administrative staff, and other students, is through e-mail. IUC uses mailing list managers (listservs) to enable course discussions, and these listserv discussions are an important portion of the course grade. Students submit written assignments to teaching faculty through e-mail, and assignments are returned with comments and suggestions in the same fashion. Listservs allow students to discuss group projects with other members of the class, and to send questions or comments to teaching faculty or classmates.
The University of Paisley Online Education WWW Server provides degree courses from accredited universities aimed at working professionals. The courses can lead to degrees such as a B.Sc. in Health Studies, M.B.A. in Marketing, M.Sc. in Computer Aided Engineering and M.B.A. in Total Quality Management. Each online education student is supplied with an advanced personal computer, a high-speed modem and a printer, which are delivered and set up in the student's home. Students interact with tutors by connecting to the Electronic Campus on Internet....