Business Essay Corporate Citizenship and Environmental Hazards

Corporate Citizenship

The changing social and the economic terms have led to the rise of the idea of the corporate citizenship to be adopted by the well-known corporate brands across the globe. The corporate citizenship definition states the social and the economic responsibilities that are taken by the corporate organizations across the globe for improving the social and economic lives of their stakeholders and the society as a whole, slowness or damage to their growth both in terms of economy and reputation. It has been introduced with an ideology of improving the quality of living but at times it is seen that the corporates tend to maintain the same only over the papers while the reality speaks of some other truth, as well.

Qualities of Good Corporate Citizenship

The corporate establishments should not try to fool the customers and should provide them with the correct and accurate data about their products and facilities. They should not induce unfair means to reap more profit from their products and should comply with their social responsibilities.

They should donate to the social causes and should also try to organize cultural activities so as to improve the society as a whole.

The corporate organizations should try to donate their services and products to the needy and the deprived so that they can contribute to the social uplift. There are often many orphanages and the old age homes that are in need of proper funding that are at times becomes impossible for them to manage and often at the disposal of corporate funding. This will not only do value addition to the society but will also reflect their social attributes.

The corporates should not tend to deviate away from the promised quantity of the products and can even misguide the customers for their own marginal profits and which might hurt the customer sentiments towards the company, as well. Most of the consumers agree that while achieving business target, companies should do CSR at the same time (Epstein-Reeves, 2010).

Deviations from the Idea of Corporate Citizenship

They sometimes compromise with the quality and quantity of the products. Often they tend to provide their products to the customers with a reduced rate so as to keep at per with other rival market competitors. In this rat race, they often tend to compromise with the quality of their products, as well. This not only can impact the customer faith in their products but if found to be falsified can even lead to severe consequences and can draw severe penalizations, as well.

They at times exploit the customer sentiments and fool them with fake promises, as well. The at times comes up with schemes like promising of free assured prizes or coupons which in reality might not match with the promised items, as well. An environmental management system has a part in creating the image of a good corporate citizen (Sonja Petrovic-Lazarevic, 2010).

The organizations at times axe the jobs of certain employees from their organization in the process they call as cost cutting not being considered as a step to reduce their losses but often related to the cause of increasing company profits and maintaining their growth. This in turn increases the unemployment factors.

Experts believe that the corporates with higher profit margins which tend to deviate them from the moral and social outlook which should be prohibited by the.

MBA Dissertation Topics Business Essay Corporate Citizenship and Environmental Hazards

MBA-Dissertation-Topics

Conclusion

All companies should pursue the governance structure that ensures the social values of the organization are aligned with those of the community; overall unique stakeholders’ understanding of a healthy working environment should support sustainability; equal implementation of occupational, health and safety regulations for each state ( Sonja Petrovic-Lazarevic,2010).

Environmental Hazards

Environmental hazards and issues are growing at an alarming rate on a daily basis due to the growing human activities that tend towards bending the delicate balance of nature. There are many factors that have led to the contribution of the environmental hazards but of them there are few for which concerns have been raised by the experts. We have tried to include some of them in this report and have tried to make a comparative analysis of the same for addressing such problems.

The four major environmental issues

Pollution: The growing problem of pollution is very disturbing in maintaining the proper ecological balance. Pollution in all the forms of air, water and land are becoming very problematic to handle each day. The non-availability of the waste lands and even the filling up off the wetlands for the different purposes are affecting the bio-diversity and are creating more biohazards. Pollution by air is becoming very difficult to control due to the emission of many unwanted and even poisonous gases by the various factories from the various industries like manufacturing and power. Even the water pollution has contributed much due to the dumping of the regular household and the daily waste in the mainstream rivers and oceans have made the problem of pollution very critical. “These undemocratic maneuvers do an end run around state legislators and should trouble advocates of open government.”(Organization Trends, April, 2008)

Non-biodegradable items: The uses of non-biodegradable items have been much of concern recently. Materials like plastic is considered to be nonbiodegradable and even the degradation rate are very high if considered to other similar items. The chemical combination of the compound makes it be very light weight and very easily available. Thus, plastic items are used for carrying out daily and regular tasks and also used in various sectors as often they are easily available and are pretty less priced compared to its other substitutes and counterparts. It comparatively reduces the price of the items, as well.

Global Warming: The global warming has much contributed to the hazard to the environment. Scientists and the experts have concluded that due to the rise in the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere, the depletion of the ozone layers in the upper atmospheres have resulted in the much depletion of the ozone layer. Sources of ground level ozone include; vehicles, factories, industrial solvents, gas stations, and farm equipment, to name a few. (EPA, 1992). Photographs and herbarium specimens as tools to document phonological changes in response to global warming. (Miller-Rushing, Primack, Primack, & Mukunda, 2006).

Toxic materials: The use of toxic materials that are produced as by products from the various industries are causing many damage to the environment leading to drastic climatic changes as the acid rain and others and even leading to many unknown diseases, as well.

Addressing the issues

Use of renewable source of energy: More and more use of the renewable source of energy like the solar panels is used in now day’s vehicles that ensure zero pollution. Though the technology is at nascent stage but still evolving. Use of recycling and waste management techniques are introduced for reducing land and water pollution as well.

Use of degradable items replacing the non-degradable items: Use of other cheap fabrics and degradable materials like jute and other organic synthetic materials have been introduces to tackle the problem. Though much progress is needed to replace their use in the other sectors like automobile with efficiency.

Plant more trees and reduce the carbon footprint: More plants should be planted as they are the only living elements capable of releasing oxygen by taking in carbon dioxide through the process of photosynthesis. College officials agree to cut greenhouse gases. (2007, June 13).

Conclusion

Proper care should be taken by every participant in the society to curb the growing problem of the environment issues so as to keep the proper environmental balance.

References

Gore, A. (2006). An inconvenient truth: The planetary emergency of global warming and what we can do about it. Emmaus, PA: Rodale.

Galley. K. E. (Ed.). (2004). Global climate change and wildlife in North America. Bethesda, MD: Wildlife Society.

Environmental resource handbook. (2001). Millerton, NY: Grey House.

Michaels, P. J., & Balling, R. C., Jr. (2000). The satanic gases: Clearing the air about global warming. Washington, DC: Cato Institute.

 Shamir, Ronen (2011) Socially Responsible Private Regulation: World Culture or World- Capitalism? Law and Society Review.

Knox, Simon, ″Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Decision Making″. InSpiritual Motivation: New Thinking for Business and Management (eds Ramsden, J.J., Aida, S. and Kakabadse, A.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (2007).

 Barney, J. (1991). “Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage”. Journal of Management.

Oppewal, H.; Alexander, A. and Sulliwan, P. (2006). “Consumer Perceptions of Corporate Social Responsibility in town shopping centres and their influence on shopping evaluations”.

MBA Dissertation Collection

MBA Leadership Project Lead and Manage a Team

Lead and Manage a Team

Explain organisational policies, procedures, values and expectations to team members

Before your team can begin to work, they have to know what the internal structure of their company is. The most effective teams are built on a strong foundation of knowledge comprised of the following elements:

Organisational Policies – No matter what organisation you work for, there will be behind-the-scenes policies in place to make sure that the company runs smoothly and that the actions of the company are both legally compliant and representative of the company’s attitude.  These policies may include things such as:

  • Hiring policies
  • Policies regarding accessibility for persons with disabilities
  • Policies regarding ecological impact reduction
  • Confidentiality policies
  • Community outreach and impact policies
  • Quality and service policies

By learning and teaching your company’s organisational policies, you can learn exactly what makes your company tick, and will be able to explain to your team what the rules are, and why you are directing them to make certain choices. Make sure these policies are available to all team members who may want to read them, and that you are available to answer any questions that they might have.

Procedures – No matter who you are, it is important that you follow your company’s procedures, and that you teach your team-mates and co-workers to do the same. Not only have these procedures been designed and refined to make the job work safely and effectively, they have also been crafted with the input of legal consultants, human resources advisors, and other people in different fields to ensure that everything works smoothly for all parties involved. When the opportunity to discuss specific procedures arises, make sure to supplement your explanation with information about why the procedures are set up the way they are.

Values – When working with a team, conveying to them your personal values, as well as the values of the company overall, is vital to keeping everyone on track towards the goal, and to encouraging a personal connection to the work. A clear system of values will include core concepts, such as:

  • Leadership
  • Diversity
  • Integrity
  • Humility
  • Simplicity
  • Success

Posting your list of values somewhere visible, or including these concepts in your daily talks, can ensure that everyone is focusing on what is really important in their work.

Expectations – A clear set of expectations is the most basic piece of structure that you can provide for members of your team. Knowing exactly what you are asking of them means that they can sort out their priorities and do their best work without being confused or feeling lost. Furthermore, opening the line of communication regarding projects and expectations can make team-members feel more comfortable initiating conversations about goals, techniques, and other details.

Communicate work objectives, priorities and plans in line with operational requirements

Once you have set down the most basic foundation of your team, you need to convey to them what actually needs to get done, and how important each task is. The easiest way to do this is to follow this structure:

  • Clarify the overarching goals of your company as it relates to this project. If your company is striving to increase its reach, emphasise how your team can affect this outcome.
  • Lay out your individual objectives as a team, clearly defining the steps that you will be taking together to achieve the goal. Let your team know which objectives are of the highest priority, and if there are stretch goals or incentives. Encourage them to meet the most important goals, and then go above and beyond.
  • Share your plan to reach your goals, and discuss the procedural requirements that will be involved in the process. Make sure your team knows how to go about the tasks you are asking of them, and why you are asking them to do things in a certain way.
  • If possible, invite discussion from your team. Do they have any ideas on how to best accomplish a certain task? Does anyone have a unique passion or skill-set that could be used to achieve a goal? Your team is composed of unique individuals, and acknowledging their personal strengths can help enhance work ethic and effectiveness.

Setting out a clear plan of action, as well as clarifying the goals of your team, is the best way to start out a strong when beginning a new project. Confidence comes from knowing what is coming next, and the team that knows what they have to do is much more likely to exceed expectations.

Explain the benefits of encouraging suggestions for improvements to work practices

Because your team members are working directly on projects, they may come up with clever improvements for work practices that could enhance the working experience for your team, and possibly for your company. Encouraging suggestions from your team means that you are actively working towards a better situation for your co-workers and team members, and employees will take more pride in their work if they know that they have a chance to make a real difference in the company.

Provide practical support to team members facing difficulties

If one or more of your team members is not meeting expectations, or needs to improve a certain aspect of their performance, it is important to let them know about these issues as soon as possible, and to share with them practical advice and support for improving.

Leadership Dissertations 300x213 MBA Leadership Project Lead and Manage a Team

Leadership Dissertations

Not all workers come by every task naturally, and some people need a little more coaching than others to achieve their potential. Once these workers overcome their issues, they often make the best team workers and future leaders, as they are experienced with overcoming the difficulties that lead to success, and they will remember their own errors and be able to help others with similar situations in the future.

Explain the use of leadership techniques in different circumstances

Not every circumstance calls for the same leadership techniques, and not every technique may work for you. Here are some examples of different techniques, and when they are most effective:

  • Democratic Leadership – In situations where you need your team to feel enthusiastic and connected to the project, asking questions such as, “What do you think?” and, “What are your ideas?” is a great way to lead the team by serving as the proctor for discussion. This fosters creativity and increases the flow of ideas, and will increase the likelihood of developing a new technique or approach to a situation.
  • Coaching Leadership – If your team members are new, or if they are learning a new skill, you may need to step in as the leader who can show them how things are done, and make suggestions as to how to improve. Providing positive feedback and constructive criticism may be time consuming, but it can also help to strengthen the team and show that you are involved.
  • Caring Leadership – Building a team and fostering the relationships among your team members is an important part of being a leader. If you have the time and the flexibility, being a leader who is involved and considerate can be a great way to build the team and create strong, lasting connections.
  • Pace-Setting Leadership – If the pressure is mounting, a great way to get the team moving is to take charge and set the pace. This leadership style involves stepping in front of the team and working at the task, saying, “Watch me and do what I do,” which is a great way to motivate team members, if you don’t have other commitments that would keep you from doing the work at the best of your abilities.
  • Authoritative Leadership – Taking authority without being demanding is important if you have other projects that you need to work on, but still want your team to follow your directions implicitly. Projecting an air of confidence when asking your team to trust you is vital to your success, and remember that this style of leadership will not work if you do not already have your team’s respect.
  • Commanding Leadership – For emergency situations or rush projects, you may have to bluntly tell your team what to do and expect them to meet your expectations. This technique will not be taken well by your team if it seems unnecessary, but if time is tight and tension is high, your team will appreciate clear and concise direction.

Knowing when and how to mix and match these techniques can be the difference between an unpleasant working relationship and a leader that makes a real difference for the team, so consider your approach carefully, and be sure to gauge the responses that you receive from your co-workers.

Give recognition for achievements, in line with organisation policies

Positive reinforcement is a psychological tool that has been used for over a century to encourage good behaviours through rewards and positive attention. As long as you aren’t infringing on your company’s policies, rewarding your workers for a going above and beyond is the best way to keep them working hard, and to encourage other workers to step up their game.

Explain different ways of motivating people to achieve business performance targets

Motivating your team to reach their business goals can be difficult. While some of your employees may self-motivate, you may need to use other methods to get your entire team working at their best. Techniques to motivate your employees include:

  • Perks and Rewards – Some people will be best motivated by rewards like bonus pay or extra time off, while others will be more enthusiastic about things like tickets to sports games or being taken out to lunch.
  • Public Recognition – For others, being promoted or publicly congratulated in front of their group can be a great motivation. This also serves to encourage other team members to perform better so that they, too, can receive recognition.
  • Increased Responsibility – Even if you don’t promote a team member for doing a good job, you can give them different or increased responsibilities that they might enjoy, and that will make them feel more ownership towards their work.
  • Consistent Feedback – Feedback as simple and heartfelt as a “well done” can really mean a lot to an employee, especially if they feel as though they work hard but may not be being appreciated. This kind of positive motivation is free and easy to give, and should be used liberally.
  • Personal Analysis – If your team member really seems to be struggling to get motivated, having a private and personal conversation with them can do wonders to help them sort out their goals. No matter how much an employee might say that they want to succeed at work, if their perceived cost is less than their perceived benefit, they will always struggle to focus. Figure out how to convince them that the results will be worth the effort, and they will be much more likely to work effectively.

If you’re not sure what will motivate a member of your team, there’s nothing wrong with asking him or her specifically. Each person has their own specific needs and desires, and figuring out the way each member of your team works is vital to being a good leader.

Managing Team Performance

Allocating responsibilities making best use of the expertise within the team

Your team is composed of unique workers, which means that you have access to an arsenal of different talents. Learning what these talents are and putting them to the best use can make all the difference when it comes to reaching your business goals, so you should look for employees who demonstrate:

  • Good Intrapersonal Skills – If you have a team member that is good with other people, make sure to put these skills to use. Let them out in the field, have them communicate with clients, and let them represent the group in meetings, if needed.
  • Creative or Critical Thinking – If you have workers who are better at problem solving and innovation, make sure that they are allowed to exercise these skills as much as possible. Putting all of the brain power that you have available to work solving problems and developing new ideas is important, and your team will be more successful as a result.
  • Detail-Oriented Nature – Workers who have a good grasp on details are just as important as the rest of their co-workers. Use these workers to filter the ideas and products developed by the team and make sure that no errors make it through to your customers.
  • Patience Under Pressure – For the worker who has the patience needed to repeat tedious tasks, even under the shadow of looming deadlines, the rest of the team should be infinitely grateful. This is the teammate who gets the work done, no matter how slow or arduous, and who is calm and steady enough to keep the team together in times of stress.
  • Specialised Knowledge – Some tasks require different expertise than others, so keep an eye on the skills and passions of all of your team members. It doesn’t matter if their knowledge has been learned through the pursuit of a hobby or an advanced degree program; there is a chance that this specific information will be useful in the future, and you will want to have the most experienced team member on the task.
  • Quick Learning Abilities – In the event that no one on your team is proficient in a certain task, you should know which of your workers is versatile and quick to learn. Knowing which of your team members can be put to any task can help you to quickly adjust and compensate for unusual situations, and can make your team more adaptable and fluid.

Consider the responsibilities of each position within your team, and think about how each of your workers fits into those roles. Fitting people to the right roles for them will increase your team’s productivity, and it will make your team happier in the long run.

Agree SMART objectives with team members in line with business needs

By spending time and effort to develop SMART objectives and sharing them with your team, you ensure that everyone involved with the project has the knowledge and understanding needed to contribute effectively and comfortably. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound goals allow the team to work toward one common goal, and give them the support they need to help your team to succeed.

Provide individuals with resources to achieve the agreed objectives

Of course, if your team doesn’t have the resources to achieve their goals, they will be unable to do what they need to do. It is your job as a team leader to ensure that everyone has the tools, information, and support that they need to meet their goals. Communicate frequently with your team and explicitly ask them if they need anything to increase productivity or meet their goals, and you may find that there are ways to speed up the working process that you have not yet addressed.

Monitoring individuals’ progress, providing support and feedback to help them achieve their objectives

A worker cannot make positive change if he or she does not know that there is a problem in the first place. It is your responsibility to make sure that every worker is taken care of and directed towards excellence by following these steps:

  • Monitor Individual Performance – The easiest way to make sure that a worker is not having issues is to watch them work and examine their success. If a worker is having issues, you will most likely be able to see them, and that is the first step to identifying any possible problems. We will discuss techniques for monitoring performance in the next section.
  • Listen to Comments from Co-workers – If a worker is having problems cooperating with other members of their team, or if they are slacking or falling behind, other members of the team may come forward to discuss this issue with you. Because this sort of information is hard to acquire from a management standpoint, you should strengthen this line of communication or arrange for peer reviews to foster feedback from your team.
  • Provide Feedback – Once you have identified a weakness in a worker, you should discuss this issue with them privately. Make sure to have clear examples of the problems, and to avoid an accusatory tone. If a member of the team feels attacked, they are less likely to improve, and distrust may form within the group.
  • Offer Support – After discussing the issue with your team member, make sure to offer continued support to them. Simply revealing the problem to them may not be enough to make them change it. Instead, provide more feedback and assistance as needed, helping them to improve and avoid backsliding.

As the leader of the team, your workers should look up to you for advice and instruction. It is important that you provide these things and encourage them to improve.

Explain techniques to monitor individuals’ performance

There are many strategies for monitoring your team’s performance, which is an important aspect of being a team leader. You can decide how intensive you want to be when monitoring your employees, as there is a wide range of techniques, including:

  • Physical Drop-Ins – The most basic of all monitoring techniques is simply getting up and checking in on your team members. Although anyone who has bad habits may stop as soon as they realise you are approaching, this method can be used to catch a majority of workplace issues.
  • Results Monitoring – Looking at the results of your team’s work, be they sales numbers or product reviews, can be an easy way to identify problem members. Anyone whose performance seems unusually low-quality should either be monitored further or called in for a discussion.
  • Video Surveillance – In some cases, video surveillance of the working area may be necessary. Employees’ actions can be directly viewed at any moment, and even the presence of the cameras can decrease the tendency to slack on shift. This, however, may come at the price of the trust of your team.
  • Call Monitoring – Especially for phone-based sales or customer service teams, call monitoring can be an invaluable tool for change. Recorded calls can be played back for training purposes, and can be used in the case of customer complaints.
  • Computer Monitoring – Similarly to call monitoring, computer monitoring can be used to track internet correspondence for sales and customer service teams. This can also curtail the use of business computers for personal reasons, such as internet browsing and social media.

When you are developing a monitoring system, you should be careful to consider your employees’ rights, and make sure that they are aware that they may be monitored.  You should also consider the legal rulings on monitoring and privacy in your area.

Report on team performance in line with organisational requirements

You should make frequent and detailed reports to your managers or other company officials regarding the performance of your team. Not only will this allow them to evaluate you as a team leader, but it will also provide them with important documentation on your team members, which will be invaluable if one of your team members is to be promoted, or needs to be subjected to disciplinary action. Make sure to use your company or organisation’s approved channels for making these reports so that the higher-ups can deal with them in the appropriate manner.

Be able to deal with problems within a team

Assess actual and potential problems and their consequences

To make sure that your team works smoothly and cooperatively as a group, you will need to be prepared to address inter-group problems. These problems, or the potential for problems, can present in many ways, such as:

  • In-office dating
  • Racial, sexual, religious, or other discrimination
  • Incompatible personality types or beliefs
  • Uneven distribution of effort
  • Fights
  • Harassment

If any of these situations arise, you will need to address the conflict as soon as possible. For things as simple as arguments or workers who are not pulling their weight, you will most likely be able to address the issues on your own. If deeper issues such as harassment, discrimination, or inappropriate relationships arise, however, you may have to report these problems to Human Resources or higher management.

Report problems beyond the limits of your own competence and authority to the right person

In the case of an issue that you feel you cannot address, you should compile a comprehensive report and bring it to your direct manager, or whichever authority is dictated by your organisational policies. Include details from your observations, as well as any observations from other employees or customers. If you have photo, video, or audio evidence, bring this along as well.

Bringing in the proper authorities at the earliest possible stage will help you to avoid further conflict and risk of lawsuit. There are people in your organisation who are specially trained to handle situations in a professional and legally secure manner, and trusting your team into their expert hands is the best recourse in situations where the security and comfort of the group has been violated.

Take action within own limits of authority to resolve or reduce conflict

If an issue arises that you do feel comfortable handling, you should take immediate action to isolate the conflict and address the issues with the parties involved.  Separate the parties and get their individual accounts of what is going wrong, and then work with them together to find the best solution for everyone.

In some cases, one or more parties may be unwilling to change or remedy the situation. If you find that you may need to use more drastic measures than simple mediation, be careful not to exceed your authority or make any firing decisions without consulting with your manager.

Adapt practices and processes as circumstances change

As your team grows and develops, your circumstances may change. It is necessary for you to keep up with this change by adapting your practices and processes to fit with the times, and to be open to change from both within and outside of your group. If a fight breaks out between two team members, be prepared to rearrange your teams to separate the two. If an important team member leaves, be willing to change your process to account for his or her absence.

An inability to change is the most damaging factor a team can face, and as the team leader, it is your responsibility to lead the group in adapting to your situation and improving yourselves. If you can succeed in evolving your team, you will be able to succeed in business.

If you enjoyed reading this post on leadership and managing a team, I would be very grateful if you could help spread this knowledge by emailing this post to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook. Thank you.

HRM Project Human Resource Management in the Workplace

The Role of Human Resource Management in the Workplace

Human Resource Management is a term used to describe how organizations acquire, manage and motivate employees. It also involves the processes and activities put in place to help establish good relations and avoid conflict between coworkers, as well as employee and management staff. A multifaceted discipline, it is consists of several elements that need to be coordinated in order to create a productive workplace.

Statement of the Problem

This paper aims to examine two important aspects of HRM, namely Employee Motivation, and Employee Development and Training. These aspects will be analyzed within the context of JCB UK, a construction equipment manufacturer. Employee motivation and staff development and training have been selected as the two under performing areas in this company. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory, John Stacy Adams’ Equity Theory and other need-based theories, the paper will discuss how the under performing elements influence motivation, conflict and overall job performance. Recommendations of possible solutions will also be provided.

Definitions

Motivation: According to Moorhead and Griffin, motivation refers to the factors that lead people to engage in a certain behavior rather than the alternative. In an organizational setting, it describes forces that encourage employees to work harder, set goals to increase profit, etc.

Conflict: The business dictionary defines conflict as “friction or opposition resulting from actual or perceived differences and incompatibilities”.

Conflict Resolution: Processes established within an organization that help to resolve conflict between employee and employee, and employee and management staff.

Needs: Something needed for individuals to survive and to be comfortable in life.

Equity: The Oxford dictionary refers to equity as “the quality of being fair and impartial”.

The Purpose of Human Resource Management in the Workplace

Human resource management focuses on the methods, processes and techniques that can be used by an organization to make the best of its workforce. HRM sees people as the company’s most valuable resource and aims to develop employee skills in order to achieve business goals. Human resource management requires management staff to coordinate several elements, some of which include communication, employee motivation, employee training and development, employee relations, remunerations and incentives, change management and other functional areas.

HRM Dissertation Topics 300x177 HRM Project Human Resource Management in the Workplace

HRM Dissertation Topics

Human resource management is not a standalone activity, but an ongoing process that is part and parcel of the general management of an organization. In other words, it is a small part of what managers need to do to run a successful enterprise. Improper or ineffective management of human resources ultimately leads to unmotivated staff members, lower job performance, misuse of physical resources and a decrease in profit.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory

Abraham Maslow’s theory has been one of the most popular human resource management theories since the 1940s. Maslow claims that individuals are motivated by the pursuit and/or fulfillment of certain needs. Needs follow a hierarchical structure, and when one level of needs is met, the individual then progresses to the next. According to the hypothesis, there are 5 levels or types of needs. These ranges from what human beings need for survival to achieving one’s full potential. For an organization to keep staff motivated, it has to fulfill these needs to a certain extent.

Types of Needs

Please note that “needs” refer to individual or personal needs and not organizational goals. These two, however, are closely related. In other words, the fulfillment of an individual’s need will ultimately result in the person being motivated to meet organizational goals.

Physiological Needs

Physiological needs are the basic necessities of human life. These include the need for food, shelter, air and other survival requirements. The lack of these necessities makes it impossible to live.

Safety Needs

The need for security and protection against threats are a bit more complex than physiological needs. To fulfill these needs, employees require remuneration, access to health care and other life benefits.

Need to Belong

The next level of needs is centered on a person’s need to belong. Generally, this need manifests as a desire to be part of a family, group, organization or community. It is social in its orientation and a crucial motivating factor in the work place.

Esteem Needs

Individuals strive to be recognized, respected and valued in their place of work. Employees that are perceived to be important to the function of the organization tend to be more motivated and driven to achieve company goals.

Self-Actualization Needs

Self-actualization refers to the process where one realizes his or her potential and capabilities. To Maslow, it is the highest need and one that can cause employees to be increasingly productive when fulfilled.

The Equity Theory

In the early 1960s, John Stacy Adams pioneered a theory that focuses on the fair treatment of staff members. Dubbed The Equity Theory, it is a justice-oriented hypothesis and one that has been adopted in the legal framework of Human Resource Management systems and unions around the world. The basic premise of this theory is that management needs to be consistent in the reward or punishment of employee input and behavior.

Employees are likely to perform better in an organization that aims to treat same-level staff members equally and reward input appropriately. Same-level employees, for instance, are expected to earn the same salary. However, if one invests in working overtime, he or she should be entitled to more pay for performing additional work. Fairness should also be applied in conflict resolution. Employees want to be assured that conflict will be resolved fairly without the arbitrator extending favor to one party.

Employee Motivation: JCB UK Case Study

At the most basic level, motivation is the willingness of employees to do what is required and to invest extra effort into achieving organizational goals. In an article titled ‘Need-based Perspectives on Motivation’, Moorhead and Griffin maintain that there are three major factors that influence overall job performance: motivation, skills and having access to resources needed to get the job done.

As mentioned earlier, motivation is affected by the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of needs. In the case study of JCB UK, although employees’ physiological needs are met, the need for safety and security still persists. Because of the high rate of immediate dismissals and a company structure that does not support union laws, staff members cannot secure an ongoing, contractual income that guarantees financial safety. Without this proverbial safety net, most employees are not motivated to invest time and effort into work as employment might end abruptly and lay all their efforts to waste.

Because dismissals are mainly based on the employees’ inability to execute tasks related to the job positions, this indicates a vital flaw in the planning, recruitment and selection processes used to acquire staff. Hiring employees who are not adequately skilled to fulfill job requirements is cost effective to the company because specialized skills generally demand higher pay. As a result, JCB UK has resorted to a business model and strategy that involves hiring fewer specialists and more staff members with general skills in order to cut labor costs and increase the bottom line.

Rewarding Employees Dissertation HRM Project Human Resource Management in the Workplace

Rewarding-Employees-Dissertation

Untimely dismissals and minimal union acceptance also calls the fairness of the organization’s system into question. The rejection of union laws and support by the company further de-motivates employees because the terms of employment include forfeiting certain legal rights. By not being given the opportunity to contest unfair dismissals, staff members perceive a lack of protection from national laws and a higher threat to job security.

Uncontested dismissals also foster feelings of being disposable instead of valued. As seen earlier, individuals have a need to be valued members of the organization. When this need is encroached, it can cause a negative impact on motivation. Inequity in the workplace has many undesirable effects, some of which include unmotivated workers, conflict and a decline in job performance.

Employee Development and Training

The second under performing area of the analysis is the company’s willingness and ability to train and develop employees. Training and development refers to the opportunities provided by an organization that staff members can take advantage of, with the aim of acquiring new or improving existing skills. It also involves giving staff members resources and opportunities for career advancement.

The absence of advancement opportunities, resources and infrastructure is closely tied to the low level of employee motivation experienced by JCB staff. One of the purposes of Human Resource Management systems is develop employee potential and improve educational levels. As a result, employees learn to use non-human resources more efficiently to achieve the organization’s goals. Without the necessary infrastructure, employees are not only limited in the skills needed to perform tasks well, but they are also unable to progress in their careers to the stage of self-actualization.

Maslow’s theory can be applied effectively here. If a company’s structure does not permit employee needs of esteem and self-actualization to be fulfilled, much less pursued, it can have significant impact on staff motivation and consequently performance. Victor H. Vroom proposed The Expectancy Theory, which argues that employees are less likely to be motivated when they cannot perceive the rewards they can obtain through excellent performance. In other words, if staff members are required to improve their performance without much possibility of promotion, incentives and rewards, the desire to excel diminishes.

Recommendations to Director

Job security is a high-level priority for employees. If staff members feel they can lose their jobs at any point, motivation to accomplish organizational goals decreases. To remedy this situation, the director should consider rendering immediate dismissals illegal and opt to adopt union laws that can provide better safety and security for employees.

The director should also consider amending screening and recruiting methods to avoid hiring employees that do not possess the appropriate skills for the job. Although cheaper labor might be appealing to the company’s bottom line, it will hurt the profit margin in the long run. Human resources can take up most of the organization’s budget and hiring unskilled employees can result in a waste of valuable resources that can be invested in candidates with specialized skills instead.

It is the responsibility of the employer to device fair processes and methods of dismissal. The danger of uncontested dismissals is that they can induce fear and uncertainty in not just the employees dismissed, but the remaining staff. Fearful and uncertain employees tend to perform poorer than those who know that errors can be corrected without resulting in job loss.

There is much truth in Maslow and Adams’ theories about the type of needs and expectations that employees have about the company they work for. When employees fulfill basic needs, such as earning an income, they progress to the more complex needs of esteem and self-actualization. It is recommended, therefore, that the company invest in infrastructure, resources and opportunities that offer career advancement. Rewarding hard workers with incentives and decision-making positions is an effective way to motivate those who have strong needs for power, influence and affiliation.

The director should strive to increase employee educational levels and invest in skill training. Developing human resources is important because they are responsible for allocating and using non-human resources as efficiently as possible. Also, advancements in technology require modern employees to be tech-savvy in order to keep up with a constantly changing world. Without appropriate education and training, employees will be unable to adapt to new ways of doing business and lack the creativity to give the organization an innovative edge.

Conclusion

Human resource management highlights the value of motivated employees to organizations. There are several factors that keep staff motivated and driven to accomplish organizational goals, such as skill training, job security and opportunities for career advancement. Without these factors, employees’ extrinsic and intrinsic needs cannot be met. When needs are not met, it results in lack of motivation and poor job performance. This vicious cycle is best broken by an effective human resource management system. Organizations need to come to a realization that, by developing, educating and striving to fulfill employee needs, employers can create a productive, efficient and willing workforce in return.

References

Kreitner R. (1986), ‘Motivating Job Performance’. In Kreitner R. , ‘Management’, (3rd edn), Houghton Mifflin Company: USA

Moorhead G. & Griffin R. (1998), ‘Need-Based Perspectives on Motivation’. Houghton Mifflin

Company, USA.

Oxford English Dictionary. (2005), ‘Equity’, 7th Edition.

Vroom V.H, 1964, Work and Motivation, Wiley

 Mabey C, Salaman G, 1995, Strategic Human Resource Management, Blackwell

 Buchanan, D, Huczynski, A, 1997, Organizational behaviour, Third Edition.

Energy Theory and Barrier Analysis

Barrier Analysis as a Safety Tool

Barrier Analysis is the technique used for identifying the harmful or hazardous effects associated with the harmful sources of energy. Barrier Analysis provides an equipment to study the unwanted flow of energy sources to the potential targets, people or objects, through the assessment of various barriers in order to prevent the dangerous energy flow.

Barrier analysis is an effective and efficient system safety tool used to identifying the risks associated with the defined sources of energy. The successively organized paradigm of this analysis provides reliable, rationally reasoned and independent findings about various hazards and barrier controls as compared to many other methods available for the analysis purpose.

Barrier analysis came into the picture to help experts analyze accidents and risks. Talking in general terms, the main use of a barrier is to prevent an action from happening or in other words provide a shield to the people that are a part of that environment, from the consequences. This report will highlight the relation between accidents and the barrier analysis by providing a technique to thoroughly search or investigate the accidents and safety programs. An accident can be described as the set of barriers that have failed, although the reason of failure will be mostly not included in the list of suspected causes. A barrier, in this respect, can be a hindrance, an obstruction or a hurdle that prevents an action to take place or reduces the impact of the harmful consequences. Barriers are important to be analyzed for understanding and prevention of accidents in two ways –

  • The fact that accident has occurred implies that one, or more, of the defined barriers failed. This can be either because they were dysfunctional (Polet, 2002) or they did not serve the purpose properly. The search of such barriers is therefore considered an important part in understand the cause of the accident
  • Once the anatomy of the accident has been analyzed and casual ways have been identified, the defined barriers can be used in order to prevent similar kinds of accidents that take place in the future. For this, the pattern needs to be determined.

Hence, the barrier analysis provides an effective way to consider the events that are related to the failure of a safety system (Livingston et al., 2001). However, it is not a system that is comprehensive enough to act as the sole safety analysis of the system as it may miss a few points due to system failures or human errors (Reason, 1992) while producing the results.

According to the Energy Theory or the Barrier Analysis, whenever there is a chance that the person or an object is approaching the energy flow or trying to come in contact with the environment state that can cause harm to the person or the object, it is required to isolate such environmental state or the energy flow.

Renewable Electricity Dissertation 300x199 Energy Theory and Barrier Analysis

Renewable Electricity Dissertation

As the Barrier Analysis technique is quite different from others, with a limit scope of analysis, it doesn’t fulfill all the requirements completely. But at the same time the technique is most often used to provide support to the system design hazard analysis type, preliminary design hazard analysis type or detailed design hazard analysis type. The technique is also known as the Energy Trace and Barrier Analysis or sometimes the Energy Trace Analysis.

Quite often it is seen that even if the source of energy is harmful, it cannot be removed from the system as it is an essential element of that designed system. Now here comes the role of barrier analysis. The purpose of the barrier analysis here is to identify these sources of energy and evaluate if the potential harms in the designed system can be considerably reduced with the use of relevant energy barriers. The analysis provides a simple tool to separate the energy source from the target to prevent it from the hazards. It acts as a powerful tool in the game of accident analysis and prevention. It should be known at the time of evaluation of the system that the undesirable source of energy coming from a single source is capable of affecting multiple targets. In such cases, there might be a requirement to use multiple barriers to save these multiple potential targets from dangers and provide them optimal safety.

The Barrier Analysis technique is executed by evaluating the source of energy, the energy flow paths that may be harmful for the system, and then identifying and creating the right barriers that must be placed in order to prevent the flow of energy from harming the person or the target equipment (here the target can be objects or people). In general, there are various types and ways of energy barriers that can be used in a designed system. The commonly known barriers are – procedural barrier, physical barrier or a time barrier. These barriers are created with a purpose to counteract the harmful effects of the energy paths in order to reduce the likelihood and severity of system/object damage or a personnel injury.

The type of analysis is generally used for all the types of systems with a goal that it is created to ensure consistent, effective, disciplined and efficient methods for the identification of hazards in the provided system. It is often used during the investigation of accidents in order to help understand the root cause of the incident and to study the damage conditions to ensure they do not occur in the future. The Barrier Analysis has fully devoted itself to overview the types of energy sources in the system, their attributes to understand if they are harmful; it is a tool to guide the discovery for the risks due to the energy sources that need more detailed analysis.

This tool is capable of fabricating detailed analysis report of risks in existing as well as new systems. By correctly and rationally identifying the energy flows into and out of the system, the Barrier analysis enables the growth of each of the sources of energy used in the system. A thorough knowledge and understanding of the sources of energy used in the system is important to get a clear picture of the complete system design and its behavior. The tool is pretty simple and easy to learn.

Barrier Analysis History

Although the concept was introduced more than 20 years ago, they have been only a few instances where the barrier concept was actually used. Haddon introduced the concept that the harmful effects of the flow of energy can be controlled by one of the provided barriers (Haddon, William Jr. 1973). The barriers can be listed as below:

  • Prevention of energy manufacturing or production
  • Reduction in the amount of energy like fuel storage, voltage
  • Preventing the release
  • Manipulating the rate of release, for example slow down the burning rate
  • Isolate in time or space, for example make the electric line go out of the reach
  • Strengthen the defined target, for example create earthquake proof buildings
  • Reorient persons and objects
  • Limit the extent of the damage caused, for example use of sprinklers

The barrier analysis is grounded on the concepts introduced by Haddon; these concepts were understood, adopted and improved by various other experts until the time this technique was used to give birth to a useful tool for the purpose of safety analysis.

Barrier Analysis Theory

The Barrier Analysis is based on the concept that when harmful and hazardous sources are present with in the environment, they act as a serious threat to certain targets. According to this theory, by placing effective barriers between these hazardous energy sources and the targets there is a chance to lessen the threat to these targets. In other words, when there is no isolation or a barrier between the source of energy and the target, it leads to disasters whereas placing a barrier between the energy flow and the target leads to a safe exit.  In situations where there is no barrier placed, effective safety requirement should be created to launch and implement effective barriers.

To understand the theory of barriers, there was work done on the barriers subject called Management Oversight and Risk Tree (MORT) programme. The MORT approach (Knox & Eicher, 1983) defines a method for a complete investigation of accidents as well as a method to analyze safety programmes. This MORT barrier analysis (Trost & Nertney, 1985) is capable of discriminating between safety barriers and control barriers. The difference between the two types of barriers is that the control barriers are related to the wanted energy flow path and the safety barriers are related to the unwanted energy flow paths.

MORT even offers distinguishing between various types of barriers like: physical barriers, warning devices, design of equipment, procedures, and skills. Hence, it provides a more detailed distinction as compared to that given by Svenson (1991) and Kecklund et al. (1996) into human, organizational and technical barriers.

The process that revolves around this tool called barrier analysis is a thorough analysis of the energy sources that are involved in the system and the possible effect these sources have on the attributes present in the environment; these attributes can be any equipment or any personnel. Experts mainly carry out the barrier analysis using a worksheet or some sort of a form to provide documentation, structure and nature of the analysis and the consistency. There is so specific format that is used by the experts as all that matters is the data contained in the worksheet.

Most of the times, the worksheets, that come with columns, are used to help maintain focus and structure in the analysis. The basic information that should be contained in these analysis worksheets should be as following:

  1. List of all the energy sources, present in the system, that provide a threat to the environment
  2. Targets that are a part of this system and are prone to damage, of any sort, from these energy sources
  3. Barriers, already in place, that are meant to control the energy sources to prevent targets from hazards
  4. Barriers, not there already, that should have been placed to control the energy risks
  5. Overall system risk for the energy sources – barrier risks.

While learning as a beginner to perform an analysis, following points should be considered in order to commit one or more problems:

  • Do not try to identify all the sources of energy present in the system
  • Do not evaluate the cascading outcome of the energy sources
  • Not understanding all the energy source paths
  • Not consider the entire system in one shot, rather take a narrow view of each of the energy paths.

Methodology

The main ingredients of an accident are: the energy flow that causes the harm, the people who are the victim of this harm caused due to energy flow, lack of the barriers of failure of barrier system that are created to keep the accidents apart and the events that lead to the final accident situation.  If all these mentioned ingredients are present in a place, accident has to happen; failure of one leads to prevention of accident.

Hence, the generic constituents of barrier analysis are the energy sources, the barriers and the targets. The forms the basis of the barrier analysis and each of these components must be clearly understood and inferred with reference to the context. The first step in the analysis is the identification of the energy sources. Once these sources have been found out, a problem analysis should be done to nail done the questions which help in understanding the hazardous elements in the design. Some of these questions can be like:

  • Have the hazardous sources of energy been identified?
  • What are the energy paths?
  • What are the potential targets?
  • What are the safety barriers?
  • Have the safety barriers been thoroughly identified?

The answers to these questions can be provided after acquiring the knowledge on the system design and its operation, knowledge on the system environmental variables and energy sources.  The analysis process studies and verifies the authenticity of the engineered and the administrative barriers. Here the created safety attributes are considered as the hard barriers and the administrative controls like warning signs, safety procedures and the controlling checks are termed as the soft barriers. As it is difficult to deal with the hard barriers as compared to the soft barriers, the hard barriers are preferred over the soft option. But it doesn’t mean that soft barriers are not used at all; these may be used in certain conditions. Barriers can be categorized under various heads based on their location, function or type.

Barrier analysis Process

The technique that was used in the analysis of Barrier concept was to identify various tasks around the energy sources and the steps taken to achieve the goal.

  1. Identifying the energy sources – in order to achieve this, it is required to study the system and identify all the possible harmful sources of energy. In this step, energy quantity and location should also be identified, whenever possible, to create the list of energy sources. To quote some examples, we have electromagnetic radiations, electricity, explosives and so on.
  2. Identification of energy paths – all the potential energy flow path leading to the target should be identified that can act as a harmful source of energy. Target can be any object, environment or people.
  3. Finding the multiple energy paths – there can be multiple energy flows, more than one dedicated energy flow, leading to the target that can cause a mishap. For an instance, electrical and mechanical functions of a fuse.
  4. Defining targets – for each of the existing energy source, study its flow from the starting point till the end to identify all the possible targets that are likely to be harmed by the harmful energy sources.
  5. Finding out the vulnerability of the defined targets – the vulnerability of the target should be identified. For an instance, faulty equipment might have very little impact on human but can damage another device say microprocessor.
  6. Identifying of the safety barriers – this is the most important step in taking safety measures. All the probable barriers in the energy path from an energy source to the target should be identified. Also, study the effectiveness of all such barriers, the impact of the sudden failure of these barriers, reliability of the existing ones.
  7. Evaluation of the system risk factor study the effect and the extent of harm caused to the target due to the energy flow, or multiple energy flows, to evaluate the risk factor. This analysis should be done with the potential barriers and without the barriers.
  8. Determine the corrective measures – analyze if the barriers provided are effective and adequate for safety of target, else recommend the barriers that should be provided to reduce the risk factor and ensure the safety of the target from the energy sources. Also determine if there is a need to analyze the situation using other techniques to understand completely all the hazards and factors leading to accidents
  9. Identify hazards – determine and track the hazards using a tracking tool
  10. Document all the steps involved in the analysis and the findings

Advantages and Disadvantages

Barrier Analysis has provided huge contribution towards analysis of various energy sources and as a tool in preventing hazards.

Advantages of Barrier Analysis

  • In accident investigation, the tool has proved to be very useful in providing unbiased details on what went wrong which includes not only the physical barrier failures but also the failures of administrative controls. It also provides a visibility on the absence of barriers that should have been in place to avoid the accident.
  • In the field of safety analysis, it offers a common point for humans reliability experts, designers, safety analysts, so that they can all focus on one common goal towards achieving the effectiveness and failure of predicted accidental steps.

Disadvantage of Barrier Analysis

The only drawback of this tool is that while doing a predictive analysis for future, they might assume more amenability with the barriers than actually tends to happen.

Examples

A useful example of how barrier analysis was used to save the target from the hazards:

At the French Cadarache nuclear power plant, barrier analysis was used to evaluate the events that led to the release of various water contaminants in the environment. Sequence of events can be described as mentioned below:

  • Somebody forgot to turn off the tap after using the water to rinse his/her eyes
  • After a certain amount of time, water overflowed from the basin and spilled into the tank used for storage.
  • Tank slowly got filled up but the overflow alarm of the storage tank failed to function
  • When the storage tank also overflowed, the low level radiation tank also overflowed but the alarm for this one also failed.
  • As a consequence, a great quantity of water spilled on the flour and flowed into the sump
  • The pump of the sump was unfortunately connected to the rainwater tank rather than the industrial waste tank so the contaminants flowed in the wrong place.

Analyzing the system for energy source path flows, the barriers and the target, it can be clearly seen that although there were two barriers provided in the system they both failed to function. The first step was the omission of an action, which led the energy source, water in this case, reaches the target. This seems to be a failure of a symbolic barrier that could have been the instructions for using the tap. Although there were no functional barriers involved in this step, use of one could have saved the target. To suggest one, a timer that automatically turns off the tap after a time could have done the task for us.

Perfect Research Energy Theory and Barrier Analysis

Perfect_Research

Although the next two steps involved functional barriers, both failed. These could have been replaced with alternative barriers like having difference types of fittings in the two tanks and so on. Likewise, there are many other applications and examples that used the Barrier Analysis to study the sources, the barriers and the targets in the provided system to ensure use of effective barriers.

Summary

The report contains an overview of the Barrier concept as applied by various experts and researchers. The aim of the report is to have an understanding of how the Barrier Analysis can be used to understand the various elements of a system to evaluate the nature of the barrier that is used or should have been use. By identifying the energy sources flow and the target, evaluation of barrier can be studied.

The process can be considered as the comprehensive hazard analysis and its effect on the various element of the environment like the objects and the personnel. The analysis is very simple and can be easily used to find out various threats to the system especially the targets that are at the receiving end. Barrier Analysis provides a pictorial view that helps many analysts and researchers to visualize the risk factor involved in the system. Moreover it is pretty inexperience, which makes it excel over other tools. Barrier analysis has the capability to easily recognize most of the energy sources and their flow path; to quote examples it can recognize sources like electricity, compressed gas and so on.

This combined with the accident analysis can be very helpful in learning the pattern of the accident which happened either because of failure of the existing barrier or because of the missing barrier. The retrospective analysis can be used as an effective tool for the predictive use so that the target can be prevented from the hazards.

References

Livingston A D, Jackson G and Priestley K; “Root causes analysis: Literature review. HSE Health & Safety Executive”, 2001

Polet P “Modélisation des Franchissements de Barrières pour l’Analyse des Risques des Systèmes Homme-Machine. Ph.D. thesis presented at Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis”, 2002

Reason, J. T. (1992). The identification of latent organisational failures in complex systems. In J. A. Wise, V. D. Hopkin & P. Stager (Eds.), Verification and validation of complex systems: Human factors issues. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Trost, W. A. & Nertney, R. J. (1985). Barrier analysis (DOE 76-45/29). Idaho Falls, Idaho: EG&G Idaho, Inc.

N. W. Knox and R. W. Eicher, MORT User’s Manual, ODE 76/45-4, SSDC-4 (Revision 2), May 1983

Haddon, William Jr.; “Energy Damage and the Ten Counter-Measure Strategies,” Human 2 Factors Journal, August 1973.

Kecklund, L. J., Edland, A, Wedin, P. & Svenson, O. (1996). Safety barrier function analysis in a process industry: A nuclear power application. Industrial Ergonomics, 17, 275-284

Svenson, O. (1991). The accident evolution and barrier function (AEB) model applied to incident analysis in the processing industries. Risk Analysis, 11(3), 499-507.

Dissertation Growth and Acceptance of Technology in Online Education

Growth and Acceptance of Technology in Online Education

Online education has become a common phenomenon in education since the advent of the internet and globalization. However, even though online education has a great potential to result in effective educational experiences, it will often be received with apprehension in order to ensure that the students receive it better. Unless there is a clear comprehension of online education from the perspective of the student, students will be more inclined to drop out of the learning platform as soon as they learn that they do not need to keep on with online education. This problem results in a general problem of not persisting with online education, which in turn leads to attrition (McMahon, 2013). This problem has been identified in most nations that have established online education, such as the Unites States.

The main component of online education is technology without which the idea would be nonexistent. Hence, understanding online education also means understanding how people interact with technology in an educational setting (Tirrel & Quick, 2012). The information society that has become the norm today requires that individuals go an extra mile to gain expertise on the technological front. In addition, the educational system has had to catch up with this recent trend by integrating services with technology. Since, as An and Reigeluth, (2011) suggest, traditional factory models of education are incompatible with the modified demands of the society and education.

One of the most unique qualities of technology is that it is an end in itself and it is also a means to an end. Hence, it is not just a change in the educational platform, but it also inspires changes in other sections of education. For instance, online learning has enabled distance learning which has in turn led to the enrollment of more adult learners. Because of socioeconomic qualities that are unique to this group, they face a unique set of challenges and therefore interact uniquely with technology in online learning.

Theoretical and conceptual Framework

In this new age of information, there have been great changes in the way things work around the world. Technology has become synonymous with almost every aspect of life, including work, education, and social life. The way people relate to each other has changed, and so has the thought processes used by people in decision making. These aspects of human life in turn affect the academic outcome and execution of academics. This is because it is the same individuals who are affected by technology who are charged with the task of developing education policies (McCarthy, 2010). In essence, it affects how people learn things. Learning is not just affected by policies, but also by the culture around which the individual who is learning grows within. Older generations that grew up at a different time have a slightly different way of looking at the world, and so does the younger generation. This will in turn affect the possible strategies that can be used to inspire their participation in online education. Online education has led to the development of a new learning method whose success is contingent on the features of the learner. Constructivism calls for the development of learner centered teaching it these features are to be used to the student’s advantage (Taber, 2011). The theories developed to explain these changing perceptions are critical in helping people understand more about teaching methods and student perceptions.

The online learning platform has brought about a new concept of learning and information sharing. This is even more profound owing to the advancement and proliferation of the internet as a source of information. It is likely that those engaging in online education also have access to the internet (McCarthy, 2010). Even though the internet is a source of valuable information, its access should be managed effectively, as well. Rather than doing the managing for the students, the teacher should teach the students how to do the managing then let them do their own management. Constructivism calls for students to be taught how to deal with the problem, and others like it on their own (Tirrel & Quick, 2012). This section will explore constructivism, adult learning theories and the theory of diffusion, as they are applicable to online education. The theory of diffusion helps in understanding the adoption of technology in classrooms and in teaching.

Adult learning and online education

Hanover research (2012) examined research related to the different trends in online education within institutions of higher learning as well as undergraduate programs for adults and the pedagogical strategies used in adult online education. Online education offers adult learners an opportunity to fast track their courses and this is important for them. Hannover research (2012) found that adult learners preferred accelerated and fast tracked courses that they could complete in a timely basis. Parker et al (2011) therefore concluded that blended or online courses therefore attract adult learners because they conveniently allow them to attend to family obligations and work while at the same time completing their education. According to Andragogy, this helps them fulfill their need for self-concept in that they can direct their own learning experiences (Chou, 2012). The need to feel self directed is a result of the adult being in a different place mentally owing to their experiences and their constructed reality. Therefore, as Chou (2012) concludes, they have a need to be in charge of their own experiences. This is in tandem with the assumption of andragogy that the adult is an individual who has accumulated numerous life experiences that offer a rich resource for learning (Chou, 2012). Through their experiences, adults built their own realities and mental processes that they use in their educational processes.

Within the United States economy, training and education are critical to economic survival. There is a great variance in the results of the number of additional educational services to secure descent jobs (Parker et al, 2011). However, it is claimed that the present classroom programs cater only for between 3 to 5 % of the adult population in need (Seaman, 2011). Even though classroom capacity to handle these students has increased over the years, this does not meet the needs of adult learners as needed. Distance education is one of the ways that this need has been met. Online education has become popular among adult learner with more of them enrolling in this type of education. Based on the andragogy theory, the adult is motivated by internal rather than external factors (Chou, 2012)

The profile of today’s learners has revealed a trend that cannot be ignored by academic institutions. Half of the population in the world is aged below 20 years and about two billion teenagers live in developing nations (Parker et al, 2011). Most of the learners entering the higher education system are familiar with technology more so than previous generations. These learners will likely also demand that the pedagogies they are offered are e based and based on digital technologies (Seaman, 2011). These changes will in turn affect adult learners who have chosen to come back to the classroom and gain more skills and knowledge as demanded by the new technologically savvy era. Traditional learners in higher education institutions are now increasingly being joined by adult learners, especially on the online platform (Hanover Research, 2012). Hence, adult learners are pursuing adult learning as a transformative processes which is meant to make them better at what they do at work so that they can be a greater societal contribution. Transformative learning stipulates that adults have accumulated a number of experiences, perceptions and expectations that they therefore use in pursuing education.

Despite the potential that online education has, it also has its challenges and especially to adults. When the requirements for online learning are considered, including a computer connected to the internet, minimal competence in computer operation and knowledge on how to access information on the internet (Sitzmann et al, 2010). When the ratio of those who may use online education is weighed against those with the ability to meet the requirements, few adults can access online education. Some adult learners still use outdated computers that are yet to be connected to the internet (Sitzmann et al, 2010). These individuals may have refrained from updating their computers since they did not have a need to. Hence, adult learners are bound to incur additional costs of updating their computers.

According to Lee and Choi (2011), online courses are more attractive to adult students because they do not have additional restrictions, such as place and time. Chou (2012), concluded that self directed learning attracted more adult learners because it allows them to make their own rules. However, this is not always associated with success in online learning courses (Chou, 2012). With the rapid development of educational technology, online learning has grown significantly, and word of the possibilities of distance learning has become more appealing (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Adult learning has been adopted as part of online education, especially for individuals who may have opted for other choices rather than going to college immediately after high school. It should be noted that Lee and Choi (2011) found that high school students engaging in online education had the highest rates of online education. In order to reduce the rates at which adults drop out of online education, it is important to classify and codify the reasons why adult students drop out of online learning (Allen & Vince, 2011). Self directed learning gives the student a greater perception of control over their learning environment and their education which in turn appeals to their learning requirements (Chou, 2012).

However, this will not be enough to help in decreasing dropout rates, especially since attrition is a complex phenomenon that involves varying human behaviours (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). Attrition in adult learning has not yet been explored extensively, which leaves little evidence on which to base the practice of student retention (Hart, 2012). Online learning is especially beneficial to adult learners living in rural areas. Adult learners are a special group in online learning because they make up a majority of the students taking online courses. Keradima (2012) estimates that over 82 percent of students taking online courses are adults. In addition, they are mostly raking undergraduate courses. Other than that, about 33 percent of college students in the United States have taken at least one online course.

Theory of Diffusion

The theory of diffusion by Rodgers is applicable in this context, in that it explores the diffusion of innovation. The theory was employed as a framework for a study carried out by Jwaifell and Gasaymeh (2013) to explain the degree that English teachers adopt technology within modern schools in Jordan. Like with most other researchers, like Zhao (2011), Jwaifell and Gasaymeh (2013) also found that training workshops were necessary for the successful integration of technology into a teaching environment; hence, online education is only as successful as its implementation. According to Kervin, Varenikina, Wrona and Jones (2010), technology as an end in itself is not a remedy to an educational system, but it is perceived as useful relative to the needs it is meeting on academic. The success of the learning outcome is what will determine the success of technology in academia. Online education can, therefore, only be considered successful if it results in a successful outcome for students. Attrition and other negative perceptions of students indicate that there is a problem with the adoption of the new technology.

Jang and Tsai (2012) advocate that, effective technology is one that facilitates the teaching process, explicates complex concepts, increases operational interaction between teachers and students, and retains student’s attention. Technology will be successful if the technology’s diffusion is directed and efficacious. In this context, diffusion refers to the process that result in the communication of an innovation through particular channels and among individuals within a specific social system (Henson &  Kamal, 2010). The adoption of these new innovations begins with a small group of individuals, then spreads. Online education is itself an innovation, and it is also a source of other innovations. Once new methods are developed in online education, it spreads to other practitioners of online education, as well. Adoption as a decision process requires that the potential adopter collect adequate information about the technology and consider whether it gives one the upper hand in education. As a result, people explore new technologies and experience their effectiveness before they decide on whether or not to accept it (Jwaifell & Gasaymeh, 2013). The acceptance of online education contains some aspects of social change, and the theory of diffusion offers valuable insights into the processes of social change. Qualities such as relative advantage, compatibility, ease of use and simplicity, triability and observable results determine the level of attrition toward a technology.

Constructivism in Online Education

The constructivist approach to understand the nature of learning has been a part of traditional educational perspectives for a long time. However, the modern form (Taber, 2011) is based on how students make sense of their learning experiences. As a result, it’s not about the subject of what they learn, but about their entire learning experiences, including the process of gaining, retaining, revising, and assessing knowledge. According to Taber (2011), this shift in the comprehension of constructivism may be attributed to the changes in the location and meaning of the learning environment. Online education changes both the meaning and experiences of the learning environment, which in turn prompts a different understanding of the constructivist perception of learning. Jean Piaget was a proponent of constructivist ideas and suggested that learning should be a search for meanings (Ültanır, 2012)

The learning process is constrained and channeled by the nature of one’s cognitive processes and apparatus that already has built in biases; hence, if an individual already has a negative attitude toward technology, their use of online education will show attrition toward the learning method. As an individual develops, so does his ability and capability to understand and comprehend particular information. Piaget argues that the mind understands different things at different stages of development (Ültanır, 2012). According to Weegar and Pacis (2012), Piaget proposes that learning results in cognitive development which is a product of the mind; it is achieved through experimentation and observation. The online learning context gives an individual more elements to experiment and observe virtually which helps them learn. The learning process depends on the cognitive resources that are available for one to use in interpreting the information (Henson & Kamal, 2010). The major point from this is that learning is rarely about helping learners get knowledge from scratch. Instead, it is about building up to the conceptual and cognitive resources available to the student. As Piaget suggests students create their own mental processes and knowledge by interacting with different things in their environment which in turn modify their cognitive processes (Weegar & Pacis, 2012).

Teaching, therefore, involves activating the relevant ideas that are already available to students, which in turn helps them generate new knowledge. These students, therefore, need to be guided, or they will build their knowledge on incorrect, irrelevant, or particle existing knowledge. Online education is filled with a wealth of knowledge, which makes it important for students to be guided. However, it should be noted that the teachers will play a limited role, as argued by Piaget, with the student playing a bigger one (Ültanır, 2012). On the same breath, Tirrell and Quick (2012) found that constructivist learning theories are effective in developing instructional practices for online student engagement; it promotes increased engagement of students in online education. In their study Tirrell and Quick (2012) found that, higher scores in classes undertaking online education were adhering to principles that are common in traditional classrooms. On the other hand, lower scores were associated with strategies affiliated with non-traditional and more innovative principles, such as encouraging students to work together and encouraging them to participate in active learning within an online education environment. These results indicate that instructors and faculty within higher learning, academic institutions remain largely uncomfortable and unfamiliar with constructivist principles of learning that are meant to encourage the engagement and participation of students (Barrera, 2013). If effective learning is to be ensured, teachers should be made aware of these new and more effective teaching methods. In addition, online education should also include different learning styles and assessment methods to address the needs of varying learners. Students cannot understand information unless it is customized to what they know. Piaget suggests that people cannot understand raw information but transform the knowledge using what they already know (Ültanır, 2012). A computer is only a computer if the student already knows something about computers.

Creating a learner-centered classroom

An and Reigeluth (2012) suggest that technology integration in learning can be sued as a tool for creating learner centered classrooms. Online education should focus on creating problem based learning environment, which in turn promote the use of technology within learner centered contexts. In their findings, An and Reigeluth (2012) imply there is a need to support teachers – by extension, academic institutions – as they endeavor to create learner centered classrooms. This support is not just through the provision of resources, but also be availing and providing additional training (Barrera, 2013). Currently, most institutions focus their attention on training in technological knowledge and skills while overlooking the important relationship between content, technology, and pedagogy. Consequently, teachers gain new interesting knowledge, but fail in the application of the knowledge to practical learning situations.

As noted by McMahon (2013), open and effective communication is critical to the development of a learner centered approach of teaching, which is based on constructivism. There is a need for the tutor to get to know her students and be able to judge their technological competence (McMahon, 2013). The integration of technology into education requires that the individual be engaged in much more than getting technical skills. Teachers must be supported so that they have TPACK (technological, pedagogical and content knowledge) through providing them with technology integration ideas that are unique to specific subjects and content. In addition, they should be provided with the opportunities to explore the use of technology in authentic online teaching environments. In consequence, instructors should be capable of building technological skills within the context of developing and learner centered online learning activities.

Evidences have also indicated that teachers are mostly constructivist in philosophy rather than in practice (Jaggers, 2011). This underlines the need for further training in learner-centered instruction. There is incongruence between instructor’s beliefs and their actual practices. In essence, just because they are aware that they have an obligation to do something, it does not necessarily mean that they do; hence, the training programs that teachers got through need to be experiential. Rather than just telling teachers what they are supposed to do to develop and sustain a learner centered classroom, they should show how it happens (An & Reigeluth, 2012). Time for hands on practice should be allowed, and the training should be subject specific. In a traditional classroom, the needs of different subjects vary and this is similar in online education. Interaction, graphic user interfaces, software and hardware, may need to be customized for different subjects.

Enhancing a social environment

The creation and enhancement of an online social environment in online learning is a complex process that involves numerous mechanisms that can both be helpful to the student or harmful to them. Effort should be made to control some of the social-environmental features within the classroom (An & Reigeluth, 2012). On one hand, it is easier for people to make friends online because it takes away the added tension that comes with face to face communication. It is also impersonal in that the individual loses the connection just as first. In an online learning and teaching context, students will be able to communicate at their own pace without the pressure of being put on the spot; hence, even when asked questions by the instructor, they are likely to answer more truthfully. For instance, a learner in a face to face environment may be nervous about pointing out possible problem areas while an online environment may make students more comfortable.

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Internet-Education-Dissertation

Social sites have been used alongside online education to foster a social environment. Facebook is the most used site for this function because of its relatively higher popularity compared to other sites like MySpace, Flickr, and Friendster. In addition, the site has immense popularity, and it is likely that most of the students have already interacted with it and are familiar with how it works (Hart, 2012). It is likely that students will participate in online discussions if they are hosted by a website whose working they are already aware of. The millennial generation are the biggest users of ICT, while ICT is now synonymous with education and communicative abilities of teachers and students in the United States (McCarthy, 2010). The potential merits of online social networking in an academic framework have been noted in numerous studies, with the conclusion that the greatest levels of satisfaction with academic progress are witnessed amongst those with access to the widest range of academic and social context. Online education widens or broadens one academic context while social networking helps them meet students online with similar interests and problems.

Among the most rewarding consequences of online education is the interaction between local and international students. International students are especially keen about engaging with their colleagues to get their critiques, as opposed to being out on the spot in the classroom (An & Reigeluth, 2012). This is common with L2 learners as they are in an environment that they do not understand comprehensively. Language barriers and social awkwardness that are often the focus of attention when international students interact with others takes a back seat as they socialize in an online environment. Good communication is allowed between students and teachers and amongst students.

Promoting critical thinking

Teachers are not just expected to help students get the facts about particular issues in the curriculum, but also to inspire them to engage in critical thinking on their own. This is in line with constructivism, which calls for teaching students the skills they will need to find solutions in an ever changing world (McCarthy, 2010). Using the knowledge, they are expected to create their own reality, and from this reality, comes the solution. This is similar as the idea by Piaget that students construct knowledge from prior personal experiences thus creating their own realities (Weeger & Pacis, 2012). In addition, Hussein (2011) suggests that critical thinking is also an element of constructivism since teachers too are expected to use their cognitive skills to interpret the environment around them. Critical thinking refers to thought processes that are inclusive of reflective judgment or purposeful thinking (Vijayakumar, 2011). However, the definitions are too general to be effectively applicable in describing an academic context. The definition that has been adopted in education is that it is the type of thinking that seeks to explore issues about existing knowledge for problems that do not have clear cut answers or clear explanations.

Before a teacher can promote critical thinking in their students, they need to understand the skills that are needed for a student to be considered a critical thinker. One of the skills is interpreting, in that the student should be able to understand what data signifies so as to clarify its meaning (Dang, 2011). In addition, the student should be able to analyze information, which entails breaking down the information and reconstructing it in different ways. This is a major component is applicability of online education and is instrumental in paraphrasing ideas to avoid plagiarism. Reasoning is also a component of critical thinking, and it entails creating defending legal arguments using logical thought processes or steps (McCarthy, 2010). The final skill is evaluation, in that the student should be able to defend the credibility and judge the worth of pieces of information.

Students who develop critical thinking skills have several advantages over their counterparts, such as being able to achieve higher scores, being less dependent on the teacher to provide content and teachers in general, as well as text books, being able to generate knowledge and be able to change, challenge and evaluate the structure within the society. Critical thinking should be promoted in the online environment in reading and writing (Tirrell & Quick, 2012). This is the only possible way that a teacher of an online classroom can ensure that they can work independently even when the teacher is unavailable. Critical thinking will also help students make sense of the vast amount of information that they will see on the internet (Vijayakumar, 2011). Like with other effective teaching and learning strategies, teachers play a key role in fostering the development of critical thinking amongst students making use of online education.

With the availability of online presentation and discussion tools, teachers have the added advantage of engaging their students in additional activities, which results in intellectual growth. Online communication offers students the opportunity to collaborate, which yields better results of critical thinking (Dang, 2011). Just like discussion and online curriculum is monitored, so too should online discussions in order to develop a ‘classroom’ culture that supports students in their processes of online thinking (Vijayakumar, 2011). When going online, the student must understand the goal of their online interaction and the social skills necessary to achieve them. The teacher should, therefore, coach the student on asking the right questions, listening, taking turns, sharing work, understanding different points of view, empathizing, building on ideas, and asking for help.

Technology Challenges in Online Education

With the internet becoming a major component in education, educational institutions in the United States are increasingly turning to technologies in online education to deliver the curriculum at varying levels. This established trend has forced higher education institutions to pay closer attention to the most effective and efficient strategies of delivering online education. However, this is not without its challenges (Vijayakumar, 2011). Depending on the technological format used, online education will often create challenges that impact the quality of the service within the entire system. Technological challenges do not only affect institutions but individuals, as well (Hart, 2012). The increasing number of online courses changes the learning experiences of students and instructors within the United States. These two groups must evolve as the support processes in institutions evolve, as well. The instructors and the student may have to learn how a new software works, which in turn generates new challenges for instructors and students to overcome (Vijayakumar, 2011). Other challenges emerge owing to accessibility, such as lacking the resources required for comprehensive school reform and functionality through online education. This part of the paper will review the literature discussing these technological challenges under the broad categories of computer literacy, challenges faced in institutions, and accessibility issues.

Computer Literacy

Various studies have found computer literacy to be a significant challenge in online education. Barrera (2013) found that education has taken a technological turn since the modern workforce relies on standardized literacy levels and significant computer literacy skills for students enrolled in online education. The differences in computer skills amongst adult business students are attributed to differences in interactions with computers and the intended use by the learner (Barrera, 2013). An individual’s interaction with computers is determined by computer literacy levels. Students from industrialized nations have better interaction with online education while those from less industrialized nations face greater challenges with computer literacy. This is because students from industrialized nations have access to the latest technological innovation, and according to Barrera (2013), this increases their exposure from technology, subsequently increasing their computer literacy.

In a similar breath, Zhao (2011) concluded that the online education platform is a completely new experience that brings a new learning model that does not only entail transferring knowledge, but also the know-how of transferring traditional forms of knowledge into databases that are then used as the new forms of storage. There is a significant lack of knowledge as regards to the division of learning content, as well as a re-alignment of research and learning methods. Computer literacy is, therefore, not only required for students, but also for teachers. According to the computer literacy survey of 2010, this has a special relevance because testing and assessment methods have evolved to include computer technology. Much as the internet and technology have been around for more than three decades, online education is still in its development stages, which implies that the application models have yet to be adopted in different platforms (Vijayakumar, 2011). This poses the additional challenge of synchronizing and standardizing expected levels of computer literacy, which Henson and Kamal (2010) vie to be a significant challenge to online education because of the globalization and the impact of information systems on curriculum. Different universities in the United States use different methods of online education; as such, there are differing forms of online education. Teachers who transfer will have to learn new instruction methods.

Challenges Institutions face

There are numerous institutional challenges that in turn affect the technology, such as space allocations, infrastructure, student preparedness, faculty training, academic honesty, and faculty workload. Developing and sustaining the necessary infrastructure for use in online teaching requires commitment of resources that may pose a great challenge to institutions. This involves the necessary hardware and software for academics, as well as computer bandwidth necessary to keep online education consistent (Hart, 2012). These infrastructures will need to be operated by faculty, which in turn highlights the need for faculty support and the provision of multiple training opportunities. This task is neither simple nor inexpensive, making it a challenge for all those involved. Being that the resources are expensive, online education too is expensive for the students. Universities have to be able to get a significant amount of support from external donors, as well as the government, if they are to be able to afford the infrastructure for online education.

Zhao (2011) found that most instructors perceive online education as a positive contribution to education. However, they also acknowledge the fact that they are not equipped to deal with online education as it presents itself. The Millennial generation is mostly taught by generation x, most of whom have not been trained to deliver education on an online platform. For that reason, teachers need extra training if they are to successfully deliver this form of education. With the technological difficulties facing students and instructors, the reception of online education dwindles.

As explicated by Zhao (2010) and Henson and Kamal (2010), computer literacy is also affected by institutional challenges. Academic institutions have a challenge of meeting the needs of the online education. There is a general lack of software standards and course prototypes within a course development platform. Studies have also identified additional technical challenges in course management software. This is, in addition to the fact that, distance education creates an extra workload for the faculty. Several authors such as Henson and Kamal (2010), Zhao (2010), Cook-Wallace (2012), Hart (2012) and McMahon (2013) have concluded that web based courses need more effort and time on the part of the faculty compared to classroom courses of a similar credit, size, and content. Regardless of the mode of teaching, a larger classroom calls for the use of more resources. An increase in a classroom from 18 to 49 will increase the workload form 47 hours to 116 hours (Hart, 2012). Faculty employing online teaching will have a larger workload since it requires more one on one interaction.

Lack of preparedness has been reported as a great concern for teachers who found that certain groups of students, especially traditional undergraduates, were ill prepared to deal with the responsibility and autonomy of online education (Gidley et al, 2010). There is very little in education that as prepared for older Millennials to deal with the challenges of online education. Consequently, instructors have an additional responsibility of ensuring that their students are accessible. Another major problem that has faced online education since its inception is the difficulty of establishing academic honesty. The internet has a wealth of information, which students are ready to copy and paste. Universities have had to establish software that can be used to identify plagiarized work (Hart, 2012). The instructor, therefore, has an additional role of developing a syllabus to help students avoid academic dishonesty. This challenge is similar to that of using copyrighted material from the internet.

Accessibility (Internet access)

In a study carried out by Cook-Wallace (2012), the policies of online education were examined in terms of the challenges that arise from their not being implemented effectively in academic institutions. These issues include copyright, accessibility, technologies and quality assurance. Cook-Wallace (2012) found that technical support was one of the most essential components of online education and that about 20% of educators lack access to technical support. Studies have also found accessibility is affected by different parameters, including the ability or disability of the learner. Software used for online learning is not always configured for people with disability, which in turn excludes them from online education. The internet can be accessed by a greater percentage of students in the United States, but the user interface is yet to be customized effectively for special education students; consequently, there are problems with internet access for this group of students. Cited in Barrera (2013), Brock and Thompsen in their 1992 study suggested that access to a computer, which in turn gives one access to the internet, influences one’s familiarity computer technology, and by extension, their computer literacy skills.

Student role in online education

The introduction of extensive technologies for use in education has resulted in the phenomena of online education, this has in turn affected the perceptions of teachers and students as to what their roles in ‘classrooms’ are. Results from research such as that carried out by Hussein (2011) reports that different student cohorts have differing perceptions about their roles in an online classroom. Similarly, they also have different expectations of the roles that their fellow students and their teachers will have. These different perceptions and expectations are resultant of their interaction with instructors online as well as their mode of learning.

Advanced technology use in online education has made syllabi – that required students to gain knowledge of, understand and apply what they have learnt – an out of date learning method (Gidley et al, 2010). Consequently, students have additional roles to play in that they have to concentrate on learning higher levels of skills that involve more activity of the cognitive domain. Accordingly, students need to develop sets of sophisticated abilities in making judgments, collaboration with others, problem solving, critical thinking and analysis (Dang, 2011). It is important to note that these roles do not come automatically, but that they need coaching from their teachers to learn these new roles.

If students are to be successful in online learning, they have to take an active role in learning. This means that their roles should include being actively involved in discussions, working effectively with minimal guidelines and supervision and speaking out (Dang, 2011). Students in an online environment also need to be self-directed learners in order to understand the content of their subjects which in turn helps them develop a positive attitude to their studies (Gidley et al, 2010). By a great percentage, online students are their own motivators.

Students have an additional role of motivating their instructors. Instructors get numerous motivations from students to teach online courses. They respond to the need that students have to study online. This teaching also helps instructors get additional income and gives them pedagogical advantages stemming from experiential advantages (Kinuthia et al, 2010). This will in turn help in their personal and professional growth. Students dictate the agenda of online learning, as well as the agenda for the future of technology (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Based on the usability of technologies, service providers modify their technologies to meet the needs of students and instructors within an online environment.

The online environment is inclusive of a multifaceted set of roles, each of which needs to be fulfilled at different levels by the actors involved in different contexts.  The student needs to have operational competence in that they should be able to efficiently use ICT tools for communicating, self-direction, learning, and collaborating (Allen & Vince, 2011). However, just because students have a higher proficiency in tools, it does not necessarily mean that they will have higher scores in online education courses (Yuan & Kim, 2014). Students also have an additional role of having cognitive competence, such that they are efficient in the application of curse content, application of knowledge, and asking for help if need be.

Online environments are facilitated by collaboration and cooperation, and the student needs to have collaborative competence, as well (Beck & Milligan, 2014). They should be efficient in their collaboration and communication with teachers and classmates within an online learning environment (Yuan & Kim, 2014). Rather than just concentrating on what they are doing within the online learning context, students are also in charge of their own learning, and as such, they need to have self-directing competence, which involves efficient self-monitoring and self-appraisal. Another role that should be present in both an online and traditional classroom is course specific competency that the students should possess, as it will help them assimilate appropriate use of content and terminologies that are instrumental in their coursework (Kinuthia et al, 2010).

Attrition trends for First Time Online Learners

McMahon (2013) studied the cause of attrition amongst a sample of adults who were taking a full time online training course. Research has shown that dyslexia occurs in about 10% of the adult population in the US (Jaggers, 2011). Being that it is a learning disability that is yet to be understood, most individuals with dyslexia often find themselves having to take additional classes and training in order to catch up with others in the work force. The United States has one of the most advanced educational systems in terms of acknowledging and developing curriculum for individuals with dyslexia. However, this is a recent trend and most adults with dyslexia have not benefited from these efforts. Results from different studies show that attrition levels vary, indicating that other factors, such as subject area, mode of delivery and age of students, may contribute to the rates of attrition witnessed. Hart (2012) found that no academic causes of attrition could be deterred by the presence of strong social connections and a strong support system. Cited in McMahon (2013), Frankola (2001) supported this view and expressed that lack of motivation is likely to cause attrition. The source of motivation includes both the instructor and the student’s support system. Frankola adds that attrition can also be caused by inexperienced and substandard instructor, poorly designed courses, problems with technology, lack of student support, and lack of time (McMahon, 2013).

First time learners are particularly vulnerable to experiencing attrition owing external issues, such as problems with resources and infrastructure, as well as internal issues, such as lack of social support. Instructors should, therefore, be aware of the fact that their students will include first time learners who are vulnerable and others who are not (Gidley et al, 2010). The method of instruction should consider both groups and work toward helping them sustain their studies. This may pose a challenge since it is an online classroom. If possible, teachers should install software logs that allow them to track the progress of the student throughout the lesson. This will tell them whether the individual was participating in the lesson or not, and possibly point out the problem areas (Hart, 2012).

Student attrition should not be perceived as a function of online courses, but as a paradigm of education (Tirrell & Quick, 2012). Online course, consequently, requires a different approach in design, learning, and instruction that will engage students actively. For that reason, there is a call for greater collaboration and communication, significantly more than is required in classroom delivered course. In an online environment, the instructor has to meet the challenge of sustaining the attention of the students all the time since they are not physically present.

First time users of online learning face additional distractions, which may result in attrition. One of the major causes of attrition is when an interruption occurs in the learner’s external environment, as it takes their attention away from what they need to be doing within an online environment (Sitzman & Ely, 2010). This impedes their progress with their primary tasks. In addition, technical difficulties have been cited as among the most popular difficulties facing online learners. Technical difficulties are a source of attrition for online learners (Allen & Vince, 2011). This can occur repeatedly because technology evolves almost every day. A learner could have used online learning before and opted to use it later, only to find that it has changed or has been modified.

Allen and Vince (2011) concluded that the pre – training motivation is a predictor of attrition as it relates to other causes of difficulty, such as technical issues and access (Allen & Vince, 2011). As such, students will not likely drop out if they encounter technical difficulties, only if they also have higher motivation rates (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). When the motivation to learn the course content is present, it will likely deter other causes of attrition form taking route (Ellis, 2013).

Factors related to drop out in first time online learners

According to Milheim (2012), research continues to support the idea that students taking online courses experience consistent dissatisfaction for a number of reasons. Research on distance education continues to be among the major sources of guidance on how instructors operate with their students within this context (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). The more knowledge people get that pertains to distance learning, the better equipped instructors will be (DeWitt et al, 2014). This is because research yields information on the most effective assessment methods, student preferences and instructional strategies, which are essential in improving the online experience for students (Allen & Vince, 2011). Despite all these efforts that have been made to improve the effectiveness and growth of online education, there is still skepticism about the effectiveness of the learning method.

One of the major issues that has been associated with drop outs of learners in online learning is that educators have, thus far, failed to reproduce the numerous elements of live classrooms within the online environment (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Human nature dictates that people will be more open to technologies and strategies that they have been familiar with before. Being that people are used to live classrooms, they transfer these expectations to online classrooms, and these expectations are often not met (Kinuthia et al, 2010). There is little understanding about how live classroom qualities can be replicated in online environments.

Another major concern that has been cited in literature is that there is reduced interaction among students and instructors within an online environment, or the interaction is unlike what students re regularly used to (Milheim, 2012). Other than this, instructors are sometimes left with the burden of ensuring that their students retain interest despite the inappropriateness of content for delivery in an online environment (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). The content is not just faulted over delivery, but also because students do not have additional tools that are essential in helping them understand course content (DeWitt et al, 2014). The online environment has a high level absence of strong, supportive and collaborative learning environment (Yuan & Kim, 2014). The courses have been developed in such a way that the transmission of information is by the dumping or distribution, which is an additional reason for dissatisfaction.

In addition, there is low students’ familiarity with technology or the course they are taking, which adds to their uncertainty about taking the online course. All these result in lower motivation for the student. Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to investigate student satisfaction and motivation, Milheim (2012) found that if the needs are not fulfilled, then the student would experience dissatisfaction. In order for students to get to level 5 of Maslow’s model, which is self-actualization, the previous levels must be reached first. For that reason, without access to basic materials, such as access to the computer, the students will be ill equipped to continue with the course.

Yet another cause of students dropping out of their courses is that they do not get appropriate preliminary training sessions on course format and content, as well as failing to clarify the nature of expectations and assignments to them (Kinuthia et al, 2010). Students also need to be supported by the instructors in establishing collaborative forums (Hachey et al., 2012). In an environment where face to face interaction is absent, there is a need for the instructor to help students collaborate in establishing learning communities (Hall, 2010). Instructors within this context also have an additional motivational role to play of anticipating students’ needs and having appropriate and timely responses for them. This will boost their confidence (Kinuthia et al, 2010). When this lacks, students lose faith in themselves and deteriorate in the efforts toward education.

Without feeling valued and respected, students will also fail to stay committed to online learning, especially if it is their first time (Kinuthia et al, 2010). Within a traditional classroom setting, students tend to feel greater appreciation because they can interact with their instructors and colleagues face to face (Lindquist & Long, 2011). Teachers can give reassuring comments and students can clap, which in turn helps the student in feeling appreciated (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014). This is a greater challenge within an online environment since the instructor and the students do not meet. In addition, the student does not meet his colleagues (Hachey et al., 2012). It is important to note that students in classes are different and so are their needs (Seiver & Troja, 2014). Seiver and Troja (2014) demonstrate that students with the highest need for affiliation are likely to drop out as first time online learners.

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Online-Education-Dissertation

Tools for online education

According to He et al (2012), online resources play a critical role in helping undergraduate students accomplish academic tasks. However, the authors also acknowledge that there is a contrast in that some of the most popular online resources do not play a role in academic tasks of undergraduates (He et al, 2012). Social networking is popular in the daily lives of undergraduates, but they are not ranked high in accomplishing academic tasks. Musawi and Sharaf (2011) suggest that technology has three major roles in online education, which are hinged on its ICT (information, communication and technology) capabilities. There are three main roles that technology plays in online education, including being a resource/medium, being a delivery form, as well as being a tool that can be used for the management of information within the online context (Hachey et al, 2012). The authors stress that these three roles – when combined – provide the best possible chance for a technology to be successful in the online environment.

Musawi and Sharaf (2011) reiterate other researchers’ ideas, which is that technology not only changes how teachers teach, but also how students learn. The technologies are there to complement the human learning experience; they present more opportunities for students and campuses (DeWitt et al, 2014). If technology is to be perceived as having an essential role in education, research documenting its effectiveness should be carried out clearly. Musawi and Sharaf (2011) claim that technology helps in learning, in that it is computational, it is influential, and it is experiential.

Owing to lower retention rates, students taking online classes should be exposed to more positive experiences with online learning tools as it increases retention rates in online learning (Mbuva, 2011). When the instructor gives students a positive experience with technology, barriers to their learning are decreased. This information is important because it allows teachers to focus their attention on students who reveal that they have failed previous courses they have taken online.

Blackboard

According to Steenkamp and Rudman (2013) educational technologies have brought about new learning methods, which have in turn highlighted the significance of audio-visual learning methods. Research has found that blackboards are mostly used by students as management systems for essay-type assignments including short answers, essays and computer programs. The characteristic program of Blackboard, WebCT and Moodle are examples of learning management systems (LMS) that provide basic support pertaining to the management of academic assignments. Among the most appealing qualities of the blackboard for institutions is that it is cheaper to maintain and set up compared to other online learning tools.

Not only does the Blackboard offer a forum for setting up assignments, it also allows students to submit their completed assignments and for the instructor to access and post the marked assignments. Without the opportunity to have a face to face interaction with the student, the instructor can let them know about what is needed for their assignments as well as the due dates. Hence, it is a platform for sharing content as well; which is one of the most critical functions in online learning. According to Hachey, Wlaids and Conway (2012) it is likely that students who have had prior success with online learning will be likely support online learning tool. The blackboard offers the student a chance to customize their information. It consolidates the most frequented information sources and functions across sites relevant to the course. This increases the usage of online tools and student satisfaction as it offers a vital component of ease of use form a home base. This in turn increases retention rates (Mbuva, 2011).

Desire2learn

The educational technologies that are supported by the Desire2learn platform allow for an increase in mobility, so that students can communicate, collaborate and access learning materials at any time and in any place, as long as they have the tools they need to access the internet (Steenkamp & Rudman, 2013). Students are naturally drawn to image rich environments, which makes online learning appealing to them. In order for these sites to sustain their effectiveness, the activities and designs in each course need to be redesigned in order to prevent them from being added on to available content without having relevant educational benefits.

Despite these sites being available for use by students, it is still challenging for educational institutions to motivate students to engage in online learning (Hachey et al., 2012). Only about 30 percent of students use social networking sites for academic purposes (Lindquist & Long, 2011). Even less students make use of e-books and look for podcasts that have been captured on videos (Smith & Caruso, 2010). Students are yet to see the online environments as a great contribution to their academic purposes. Students also participate more in courses that include online teaching and learning.

Some of the sites that are under the desire2learn umbrella also include simulations and games, which are important as they let people participate in their new online worlds (Lindquist & Long, 2011). These simulations allow the students to think, act and talk as they engage in academic tasks and activities in a manner that interests them and remains relevant to their social contexts. These tools are essential in incorporating functionalities that faculty and students themselves have identified as valuable and essential in facilitating the goals of teaching and accommodating preferences in learning (DeWitt et al, 2014).

The tools used in desire2learn are instrumental in helping individuals customize their learning environments. Online learning is likely a greater challenge for adult learners because it comes at a time when most have or will soon have other obligations in their lives (Beck & Milligan, 2014). Undergraduate students have numerous other interests and obligations, including financial and family obligations (Ellis, 2013). Consequently, they need a greater variety of learning options (DeWitt et al, 2014). There is more than one site using the desire2learn platform to inform their online learning strategies, and this in turn gives them an even wider variety of choices on the sites they will use to facilitate their education.

Web 2.0

In their study of the interaction of students with online resources, He et al (2012) found that undergraduate students reviewed the importance of online resources based on differences in their academic tasks. This is consistent with the available literature. Morris and Teevan (2010) concluded that students used different communication technologies and tools shared and exchanged information on an online platform depending on their academic goals, which in turn affects their desire to collaborate (Yuan & Kim, 2014). When looking for definitions, undergraduate students made most use of Wikipedia, even more than they used other online encyclopedias (He et al, 2012). Consequently, He et al (2012) concluded that this trend demonstrates a wide acceptance of Web 2.0 tools, such as Wikipedia, by students, even though there is high level uncertainty about this resource within the academic community. Students perceive that Web 2.0 tools, such as Wikipedia, as good enough to help them accomplish academic tasks.

While this points to a positive attitude toward the use of Web 2.0 tools as academic resources, it also indicates that there is a need to educate undergraduate students on the limitations that accompany these tools (Ellis, 2013). He et al (2012) stress that, this uncertainty exists because the accuracy of this information is difficult to guarantee. Students utilize search engines and they regard them as among the most essential resources in performing academic tasks since they are gateways to other resources on the internet. They use these not only for assignments, but also for revising for exams and tests

In another study, Steenkamp and Rudman (2013) found that more than half of their respondents perform most of their activities on web 2.0 tools for viewing other users. Following this, they would amend and submit the information respectively. Social networking is one of the most popular web 2.0 tools that is used by students (DeWitt et al, 2014).

Asynchronous technology tools

Hu et al (2012) observes that most of the asynchronous technology tools are used by undergraduate students when collaborating in accomplishing academic tasks. Undergraduate students taking online courses are likely to use asynchronous technology tools when carrying out collaborative tasks (Ellis, 2013). Collaboration may involve co-authoring research papers and group projects, both of which have different goals involving efficiently and effectively exchanging ideas and information (Yuan & Kim, 2014). However, the importance that each task elicits of the resources is the same. The use of asynchronous technology tools in online education is affected by the choice made by the student which may be affected by the communication tools they use regularly. This, Hu et al (2012) speculate could be the reason why instant messaging and e-mail are among the most relevant tools. Asynchronous technology tools used in online education are expected to meet the demand of the exchange of documents, as well as ease of sharing.

Most of these tools are Web 1.0 resources, including emails, online book search engines, and instant messaging. Most students engaging in collaborative academic tasks only use Web 1.0 resources (Yuan & Kim, 2014). Email is an important technology in learning experiences as they are one of the few channels that students can use to communicate with their instructors when turning in assignments, getting additional instructions, or getting feedback from their instructors (Ellis, 2013). Students can also use web sites to upload video assignments that their colleagues can comment on. This will in turn increase their interaction and allow students to assess the work done from their peers (Lindquist & Long, 2011).

File and information sharing on the internet is among the most essential components of online learning. The internet is a web of connections and web 1.0 resources are essential in ensuring that this part of online learning remains relevant (Carr, 2014). Asynchronous technology tools used in online education have both advantages and disadvantages (Ellis, 2013). Because they are used outside real time correspondence, they impact immediate feedback that the student may need in order to gain confidence in their work. On the other hand, they have a positive impact since they allow the instructor enough time to go over material that they have been presented with before they give the students feedback.

Asynchronous learning tools are among the most common tools used in online learning. Research has shown that asynchronous technology tools are most effective when they are used along with synchronous tools (DeWitt et al, 2014). Within an online environment, the learning activities and the expectations on the instructors and students are similar to those that are found within traditional classrooms. However, asynchronous learning environments are characteristic of the online environment because it is impossible for the instructor to meet the students. This environment gives students an opportunity to participate in their own learning and create their own realities, as proposed by the constructivist approach to teaching (Carr, 2014). In addition, they also get opportunities to interact with their peers and reflect on the status of their personal learning (Lindquist & Long, 2011). There are numerous learning activities and tasks that require their students to generate, synthesize, explicate and apply the content they have acquired from numerous sources.

Future of technology in online education

According to Milheim (2012), it is important to ensure that the future of technology in online learning is informed by gaps that have been pointed out in literature and other studies. He suggests that technologies used in online learning should be geared toward ensuring that the students’ achieve satisfaction in their course (Milheim, 2012). Technologies should be customized for different course content to ensure that students are able to achieve all that they need to within an online environment. Technologies in the future should also be dedicated to establishing and generating innovative ways that students can engage in online learning.

Hu et al (2012) suggests that technology in the future should seek to incorporate academic tasks and provisions in social networking tools. The potential they have to reach such a wide audience also means that they have the potential to inspire more involvement, participation and retention in online learning. In addition, Seiver and Troja (2014) suggest that the technology tools used in online learning should permit the instructor to develop different tests and assessments for the students online. Although these assignments should be alternative, they should also be equal (Seiver & Troja, 2014).

Future technologies will focus on ensuring that there is a cost effective effort toward online education. According to Keramidas (2012), online courses can be offered at more flexible times, which make them more appealing. In addition, the technology does not necessitate the presence of a traditional live classroom space. It is likely that future technology used in online education will be geared toward meeting the challenges that current online learning students are facing; hence, future technology should be geared toward reducing the rates of attrition in online students (DeWitt et al, 2014). Online education has also been instrumental in helping institutions of higher learning to offer more courses at a given time (Carr, 2014). The timetable of lessons in most universities is created in terms of the space available for classrooms. However, with technology and online education, lessons can be offered to more students, even if no classroom is available for use at that particular time (Ellis, 2013).

Educational technology will also be consistently modified toward ensuring that it is more time conscious and user friendly, graphic user interfaces will likely be modified so that they are more appealing to clients and so that they give the client ease of use, along with greater interest (Ellis, 2013). This should allow users to customize their own pages and interfaces depending on the course they are pursuing and their interests (Keramidas, 2012). For instance, rather than starting from scratch every time they go online, the students will have a page that shows them their most frequented sites, and includes suggestions for other sites where they could get academic information (Carr, 2014) . This will increase the use of the technologies and improve the retention rates (Mbuva, 2011). For instance, podcasts are rarely used, but if they are a default on the homepage of the student, they will likely look at them even for a little time.

Studies have estimated that online courses take at least twice to thrice as much time to prepare to teach compared to traditional face to face courses. Some of this time is attributed to the time and resources needed to develop and upload materials (Keramidas, 2012). This indicates that future educational technology will also be aimed at ensuring that there is better user interface and ease of use for instructors who have to prepare students for these courses. In addition, these instructors will have to be trained on technological prowess so that they learn how to work faster and more efficiently (Carr, 2014).

Summary and implications

Online education has slowly developed into a common learning strategy in higher learning institutions to meet the new societal demands of education since traditional education models have become incompatible (An & Reigeluth, (2011). Despite the vast use of technology in education and daily life, students are still susceptible to dropping out for numerous reasons, including technical, personal, psychological, and transferred problems (McMahon, 2013). Adult learners are, by a large percentage, the most users of online learning as it offers them an opportunity to fast track their education and get educated from locations that may have otherwise been impossible to get to. Battling attrition in online learning requires understanding the adult students demographic and incorporating their needs in technology (Tirrel & Quick, 2012). Adults are found to prefer accelerated courses, indicating that they will likely choose to take such curses, as opposed to taking more gradual ones that take longer to complete (Hanover research, 2012). Online education is also appealing because it allows learners to attend to most of their other obligations, as well.

Understanding online learners means subscribing to particular theoretical frameworks such as diffusion of innovation and constructivism. Before innovations, such as technology, are adopted in other contexts, they are transmitted to different users through diffusion (Jwaifell & Gasaymeh, 2013). Diffusion happens amongst both the students, as well as among teachers. Technology will diffuse as fast as it is successful to those who use it. Education technology will only be adopted in more contexts if it is successful in previous contexts. The diffusion of educational technology is experiential (Zhao, 2011). Diffusion is the process where innovations are communicated through specific channels amongst individuals in a particular social system. The system will only respond if the innovation proves successful to them (Kervin et al, 2010). Despite the fact that online learning has faced numerous challenges, including attrition on the part of the students, its potential within academic institutions is too vast to be ignored.

This means that the theories adopted to teach students in this context should be informed by evidence based practice. Constructivism calls for students to make sense of their own learning experiences and get the most positive results that they can get from this context (Henson & Kamal, 2010). Online education has instructors who help students, but a major part of this method of acquiring knowledge is that the students manage themselves (Taber, 2011). The learning experience is not just about the facts they acquire, but about all their experiences within the online environment. The location and meaning of education have been changed by online learning experiences (McCarthy, 2010). Constructivism is critical in the development of instructional strategies that are focused on training the students to help themselves.

The online classroom should, therefore, be learner centered. Technologies in online learning should be used to create problem based learning contexts, which in turn create learner centred classrooms (An & Reigeluth, 2012). Gaining knowledge on the use of technology is not enough; instructors also need to know how to effectively apply this knowledge in practical situations (Barrera, 2013). Communication is essential in developing a learner centred environment. This should also include providing teachers with opportunities to practically test their online communication strategies so that they are not only constructivist in philosophy, but in practice, as well (McMahon, 2013).

eLearning Dissertation 300x187 Dissertation Growth and Acceptance of Technology in Online Education

eLearning-Dissertation

Hands on activities should inform the teacher so that they are aware of what their students feel and learn in an online environment. This will help the instructor in enhancing a social environment, which should monitored and controlled by the instructor. This will allow students to communicate effectively without feeling the pressure of communicating at a faster pace. Learner centered online classes are more effective in that the student will be more truthful in their answers, and this allows the instructor to learn more about the student and establish tools for creating a learner centred environment, as well as an appropriate social environment (Jaggers, 2011). Creating a social environment involves the instructor working together with students within the online community. These environments help students develop critical thinking skills (An & Reigeluth, 2012). Learning institutions also face additional challenges, such as not having enough financial backing to support the purchase of technological innovations.

Online learning does not only require institutional support but also skills from the students such as critical thinking, which will help them discern the most appropriate sources of information (Hussein, 2011). This will prevent distraction from irrelevant and inaccurate sources. Online discussion groups and presentations are instrumental in critical thinking (Vijayakumar, 2011). Despite the many potential benefits that online instruction has, there are numerous drawbacks that are also linked to online learning. These drawbacks result in attrition among online education students, with most of them failing to finish their online courses. Computer literacy is a major problem since if students are unaware of how to operate within an online environment (Hart, 2012). A nation that has access to more technological innovations will have a greater population that is computer literate, and this increases the exposure that online students have to new technology, which in turn increases computer literacy (Dang, 2011).

Institutions also have additional commitments, such as offering additional and continuous training to teachers (Barrera, 2013). This is more complicated because it requires the cooperation of the governments, academic institutions, and other relevant parties. Technological updates also have to be made to ensure that the technologies being used change with the changing time. (Grau-Valldosera & Minguillon, 2014) Even with these present, access is also harder for most users of online learning since not every person who wishes to be an online student is able to do so. Accessibility also influences one’s computer literacy skills.

The role of technology in education cannot be ignored in the academic arena. Traditional education can now be stretched to reach more individuals (Zhao, 2011). Technology has become a part of people’s daily life and is used for different activities each day. It is not enough that technology used in education is only described as a medium; it has evolved to be more than a medium to be a teaching/delivery mode, a resource, and a management tool (DeWitt et al, 2014). Traditional technological services that are used in education need to transform into digital and be available to more students online to ensure that students have access to some of the live classroom features that they are used to (Henson & Kamal, 2010). One of the greatest challenges that are facing educational technology is transforming online classrooms into environments that are as close to live classrooms as possible (Gidley et al, 2010).

Students have various roles in these online classrooms, including having a complex set of cognitive abilities that involve problem solving, collaboration with others, making judgments, and critical analysis which help in transforming the online learning environment (Hussein, 2011). Despite having these abilities, it is still important to ensure that students are motivated from an outside source, as well (Kinuthia et al, 2010). Additional issues, such as the subject area, the nature of the content being learnt, the mode of delivery for the online courses, students’ age and disabilities, may result in higher rates of attrition. Attrition is a paradigm if education and solutions should also be explored from this perspective.

Even though technology has become a major part of life in this era, it is yet to be used in education, in a way that enhances online learning. Most undergraduate students will not choose to take online courses (Milheim, 2012). Students are not accustomed to online learning and expected live classroom instruction. The future of technology will also be directed toward ensuring that there is more cooperation between students, which would include incorporating social networking and other social sites, which will help in creating and cooperative online learning environment (Beck & Milligan., 2014).

Implications

The various issues discussed in this paper have a number of the major implications about how technology should be used to successfully facilitate learning and teaching using digital resources. Based on the constructivist theory, the instructor has a duty to help learners develop the capacity they require to manage their learning within the online environment (Hachey et al, 2014). For that reason, teaching strategies and curriculum should be developed in a way that helps students build their cognitive and conceptual resources to create their own realities using available resources to generate knowledge that is relevant to their educational standards (Hall, 2010). Guidance is essential in educating students or they may come to inaccurate conclusions.

In order to develop learner centered classrooms, instructors need not only focus on the training of technological skills, but also in explicating and teaching the nexus between pedagogy, content, and technology. This will allow for the development of customized content that is augmented by the technology used to deliver it, which in turn helps in increasing retention of students (Mbuva, 2011).

Discussion forums can be utilized as part of learning, especially since they are instrumental in the development of superior cognitive processes. The different interactions that occur in online environments during online communication are instrumental not only in the generation of new knowledge, but also in encouraging learners to be self-expressive to a greater extent (Hall, 2010). Hence, instructors can use it as a strategy for motivating shy students and turning them into experienced users of online learning platforms (Ogude, Kilfoil & du Plessis, 2012). Discussion forums are among the most essential learning tools within an online learning environment as it brings the students as close to having classmates and people to share information with as they can get.

These strategies used should allow for and encourage sharing of ideas and the tasks developed should also authentic and meaningful as demanded by the subject of discussion (DeWitt et al, 2014). The instructional materials used, including the interactions, materials and activities, should be designed within an online environment in order to optimize learning processes (Hachey et al., 2014). Not surprisingly, among the most important features that these technologies should have is ease of use for both the instructor and the student. The second most important is that the technology should save them time, or it is likely that they will opt for using traditional sources of information, such as going to libraries. Educational technology should also provide students with opportunities to contextualize their sources with the aim of enhancing learning and facilitating pedagogical goals.

Success in the retention of students in online education cannot be accomplished without the involvement of different stakeholders (Mbuva, 2011). There is a need for cooperation between universities, community colleges, the government, stakeholders and other academic institutions offering online education to help support the availability of infrastructure that supports educational technology (Hall, 2010). These partnerships will increase the rates of retention by increasing cost effectiveness to save money and time, developing retention programs, and effective pedagogies (Ogude et al, 2012). Future research should focus on studying the differences between the successes of a single course being taken online and when a student pursues an entire degree course online.

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