Technology has currently changed the way people live in that it has made living and communicating easier for them. One of the most significant contributions that technology has given is the Internet. It has allowed people from all over the globe to communicate without the use of wires and without having to exert too much effort. More importantly, it has improved the way academic institutions provide education to their students.
The Internet has given way for “virtual universities,” which “exists in the digital reality of the Internet, although it would also need to have extensions in physical reality for assessment purposes, which could provide optional experiences in situated learning” (Tiffin & Rajasingham, 2003, p. 136). There are numerous ways on how students and instructors communicate to make distance-learning work. These would include electronic mail, instant messaging, live teleconferencing, specific platforms designed for educational purposes, and discussion boards.
Tools like these make it possible for students and teachers to exchange information even if they are miles apart. It gives them the capability to be flexible in terms of their schedule and workload. It also lessens the cost that they have to shoulder for their education compared to that of traditional education because they do not have to spend money on commuting to and from the university’s campus. “The promise of the Internet for education was the interactivity of the medium that allowed the students to interact and actively participate in any learning process” (Shimojo, Ischii, Ling, & Song, 2005, p.
87). As mentioned earlier, one of the tools that virtual classrooms use is the discussion board, which is an “asynchronous communication tool that allows one individual to post a comment or question online. Other individuals who are members of the same discussion board may read that comment/question, and respond with their own remarks over time” (Virginia Tech, n. d. ). Only students and their instructors have access to this site.
Instructors may create the discussion boards for their overall course or for a certain topic so that the students are able to communicate and share information in a place where posts are organized and can be tracked and monitored. Discussion boards are beneficial to both students and teachers because it allows them to discuss topics more extensively through the aid of the Internet. It would also extend and maximize the time that they need to talk about their lessons and other concerns, as class time is sometimes not enough to cover everything.
Discussion boards provide the opportunity for every student to participate actively in the discussion with the chance of receiving comment and feedbacks not only from the instructor but also from the other students. Most of all, discussion boards can be constantly accessed and has the ability to store conversations as is, unless it is deleted by the moderator or instructor who controls the board most of the time. However, because discussion boards are powered by the Internet and technology, it also has its limitations.
Although this rarely happens nowadays, power failure can limit the students and teachers’ capabilities of interacting through the discussion board. Also, students who do not own a personal computer of their own might find it difficult to join in the discussion on a regular basis. There are also those who are afraid of using technology and will rather communicate personally than use the Internet. Students may also fear miscommunication and misunderstanding, which would lead to conflicts either with other students or with their instructors.
“Misinterpretations may go unresolved or may take several communications before they are resolved” (French, French, Hale, Johnson, & Farr, 1999, p. 145). As such, students might not fully appreciate discussion boards and will ultimately have a negative effect on their learning. If students choose other Internet-based educational tools over the discussion board, they may not be able to maximize the full potential that virtual classrooms or universities can offer.
Although they would still be able to communicate and interact through other means, they would not have the comfort of having their messages and posts arranged chronologically and stored in a safe place over a period of time. Not participating in a discussion board would also mean that the students and teachers would have to wait for the class to virtually meet again to discuss their concerns further. However, this would take up the actual class time and some instructors would choose to teach than discuss concerns, which means that students may not be able to talk about other things and interact with each other.
Active participation and support for discussion boards, therefore, are needed for virtual classrooms to be effective. They can be encouraged through incentives like a reward for having the best post or comment in the discussion. Instructors should also think of interesting topics to discuss so that the students do not get bored and opt to stay out of the interaction. Also, instructors should require their students to regularly post content and comment on other people’s work. Indeed, technology has proven to be one of best innovation that man has ever seen.
This is especially appreciated in the field of education because it has allowed people to receive education even at the comfort of their homes. It has allowed people from different countries of different backgrounds to share information and knowledge with each other. Classes are not limited to their schedules because students can still discuss their concerns over the Internet even after class hours. Different tools are provided to students to maximize their learning process. Discussion boards should be supported and used because it is one of the best Internet-based educational tools that they can use in virtual classrooms.
References French, D. , French, H. , Hale, C. , Johnson, C. , & Farr, G. (1999). Internet Based Learning. Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC. Shimojo, S. , Ischii, S. , Ling, T. W. , & Song, K. (2005). Web and Communication Technologies and Internet-Related Social Issues. New York: Birkhauser. Tiffin, J. & Rajasingham, L. (2003). The Global Virtual University. New York: RoutledgeFalmer. Virginia Tech. (n. d. ). Discussion Boards. Retrieved February 17, 2009, from http://www. edtech. vt. edu/edtech/id/ocs/discuss. html