Why E-Learning: Insights into the World of Online Learning and Development
The world today is rapidly progressing on the road to utilization, with the ever increasing number of technical applications that are used to communicate and pass on knowledge. In a traditional classroom, knowledge acquisition is limited to the information the instructor has and that which they can access. However, connecting students to the outside world enhances their ability to construct new knowledge.
E-learning is an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide variety of electronic ways that enable access to education, and the process in itself. These include: virtual classrooms, web-based learning, computer-based learning, digital collaboration, video and audio recordings, interactive TV and many more. Thus, e-learning is suited to flexible learning methods and distance learning. E-learning can however be coupled with face to face instruction, which is called blended learning.
Evolution of E-Learning
The last decade transformed e-learning radically. In the early days, courses offered for e-learning were typically custom created, by groups of programmers who were aided by software creating tools. Advancement in technology led to the creation of worldwide web, making the creation of e-learning courses a simpler task, that anyone without programming knowledge could complete.
Changes in technology brought new hardware like portable computers, which made it very easy for learners to access course material online. Today, many people are using tablets and smart-phones for online classes and web seminars or webinars.
Types of E-Learning
E-Learning can be classified by the ways in which it is shared from the instructor, to the student. An informal distribution form of e-learning is one in which the students are trusted to view the available course material, and are not tracked or tested, for completion.
In the formal distribution form of e-learning, instructors usually keep track and make recordings of learner progress and results. Most educational institutions that offer certifications for students have specific systems and standards for gauging the scores for students.
Learning Management Systems or LMS is used for tracking scores and to ensure that the students’ standards for each course are maintained. They are platforms that enable users to create good online courses; and also the students to be able to access these courses. These platforms are of different types and they have different capabilities. Some are free while others are offered at a fee.
Elements of E-Learning
When creating an online course, there are a number of criterion to be met. Setting a list of criterion ensures that students benefit fully from the course they signed up for.
Some common elements of e-Learning are as follows:
- The role played by the teacher/instructor is vital. He/she is necessary to offer necessary feedback to students. He/she is also sometimes responsible for keeping students’ progress or scores.
- A well-organized Learning Management System is necessary. It should be easily navigable by both the student and the instructor.
- The learning material is the key feature in e-learning. Usually, course material is formatted in a way that is simple and easily accessible for students.
- Communication is important for learning. To be able to access online coursework from the instructor, students have to use one or more of the many modes of communication or delivery methods.
There is a myriad of devices today that allow teachers and learners to share knowledge. The trainer connects to viewers or listeners interactively, using multimedia, voice communications, videos (live or prerecorded), presentations, product demonstrations and text chats, mostly over the internet.
Advantages of E-Learning
The impact of the rapidly evolving technological world on ways which learning is delivered is immense. Today, many institutions of higher learning are offering off-premise schooling since it has many advantages over on-campus learning. One of the major reasons for this is space. Through e-learning, schools can accommodate as many students as they wish for courses offered, since factors like accommodation space and classroom space are no longer limiting factors.
E-learning is very flexible as learners can access material at any time they want. Students who reside at places that are distant to the physical classrooms or those who do not have the time to be with the instructor, have the luxury of choosing a time of their convenience, to go through school coursework.
Wider variety of fields to choose from
There are thousands of school course-works, online degrees and certifications being offered online, today. E-Learning does not limit students’ access to fields of study that traditional face-to-face mode of learning did. It is now possible for a student in Africa to access and complete course work that is not offered in their school, but in a school that is located in a different continent. That is the power of E-learning.
E-learning alleviates the need for students and instructors to be located in a central place for learning to take place. This saves money that could be spent on travelling, accommodation and other uses that school-based learners cannot escape from. Time that would be spent commuting to class could be used for other duties too.
Better participation and individual instruction
Students are freer to interact with online tutors as opposed to a physical classroom meeting. This helps students to understand concepts they are getting trained on better. The instructor can offer complete attention, for a longer time, to a single student online, which is quite difficult in a conventional classroom.
Consistency in course delivered
Teaching in a classroom is different every day. Unlike online tutoring, teachers in a physical classroom present information to students in varied ways, every day. This results in differences in the input that the learner receives – it may be qualitative on some occasions and not so effective at other times. However, e-learning like a previously taped performance is delivered without varying every time and this provides a constant consistency in coursework.
In a school-based learning system, timetables are rigid. In a two-hour-class for example, students have to sit through the whole class. In e-learning, the students have the luxury of pausing halfway through the tutorial, and resume at a later time, or date.
Although e-learning is most widely used for school, it has found a variety of uses in the corporate world as well. Firms are increasingly turning to e-learning, to train their staff in skills that they may lack. This not only helps firms to educate their staff while cutting costs, but also helps save on time.
In a fast-pacing, technology-oriented world of today, people are adopting technology and finding new ways to integrate it in support of education. E-learning is leading the way, redefining ways in which knowledge is acquired.
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