Instructors face the same challenges with online learning and the use of technology in the classroom as they face with conventional instruction: getting students to read and think critically about the information with which they are presented. Moreover, instructors will be required to use distance learning technology more and more in the future. Some in politics and higher education are advocating expanding online course offerings, especially at public institutions of higher education, because it can “expand the supply of seats” and the number of students an institution can accept, thereby increasing a university’s tuition revenue. Clearly, if the politicians have their way, online learning will only increase in the future (Ruiz, 2011a).
Online instruction and learning is one of the most important pedagogies of the twenty-first century. Instructors should integrate the use of technology and online sources into all of their instruction so that students see that, whether in a conventional class or an online course, the amount of work is similar and just as important. Demonstrating to students that research and learning is hard work, work that technology can make “easier” if approached properly, will better prepare our students for advanced learning and their professional careers. Instructors must demonstrate to students that work in regular courses is not more arduous than in online courses and that technology and online sources are important components of all learning. Instructors can help students realize that the technology they use must be used for more than mere communication or entertainment—it can be used for learning about the world around them. Above all, instructors must also impress upon students that independent learning will be vital to their professional careers later on. Students should embrace these independent learning skills now, in the classroom, in whatever subject they are studying to be better prepared for the job market upon graduation. Online learning exposes students to the skills they will need long after they have left the campus.
Therefore, all students should be required to take at least one serious online course in their college career in order to learn how to master the process of information gathering and presentation, and to use the technology effectively. There is no easy way out of critical thinking, research, and learning, not even with today’s advanced technology. Instructors can prepare students effectively only when we clearly demonstrate to them the connection between technology and learning, and how vital this connection to their future careers. It is the most important pedagogy of the twenty-first century.