In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking into some new techniques and emerging trends that are generating excitement in the field of online learning.
But before then, we’ll step back a little to review some of the reasons why this form of education is such a worthwhile endeavour.
Let’s begin with a question.
What is eLearning?
Electronic learning or eLearning (variously denoted as e-learning, elearning, or e learning) is a form of education which uses digital / electronic technology and media with online methods of delivery, to supplement or replace traditional training methods. It’s also referred to as online training or online learning.
eLearning courses are typically conducted in modules, which are short sessions that cover a specific topic or aspect of a larger body of information. These modules may contain images, text, audio, video, questionnaires, quizzes, and reference documents or links to relevant resources on the Web.
With applications for corporate training and the rise in popularity of Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs, eLearning has become a practical alternative to more traditional forms of education. There are several reasons for its growing appeal.
1. Learning All the Time
With educational resources hosted on the Internet or on company intranets, learners have access to training materials at any time of day. So long as there’s a connection to the relevant network, learners can take course modules in the office, at home, or on the road, using a range of devices – and from any location across the globe.
After a course or module has been completed, students still have access to it, plus any supplementary materials and resources. So they can review what they’ve learned, or delve into related subjects.
This has become especially relevant, with the rise in the working population of Millennials. This group, comprising individuals born in the years between 1976 and 2000 is expected to make up around 46% of the labour force in the US, by 2020. And in surveys, these people consistently voice a preference for continued learning opportunities, as a contributor to job satisfaction.
2. A Personal Experience
With multimedia and the latest software, course designers can use multiple methods of delivery, to communicate the course content. And with the use of learning analytics tools and continuous assessment exercises, it’s possible for courses to be intelligently tailored, to suit an individual learner’s needs.
So not only do learners have access to eLearning materials at their own convenience, the materials themselves may be presented in a way unique to each learner, as they progress through a course. Based on a learner’s past performance, new exercises may be suggested to help them improve in areas where they may be lacking. Or the system might point them in the direction of resources and tools that could help in subsequent modules.
Adaptability like this ensures that each learner’s journey through a course will be a unique, self-paced, and personal one.
3. Collaboration and Debate
An eLearning course may be a personal journey, but there are other individuals taking it, as well. And a well-designed programme will take this into account, by providing forums and outlets for trainees to give commentary and feedback on the material they’ve learned, work on team or group projects, and interact with tutors, course facilitators, and other students.
This interaction can be a benefit to all concerned. As well as necessary human contact during the online training experience, learners can trade ideas, discuss issues, and gauge their performance against that of their peers. For course designers and facilitators, the personal communication with those taking the course can be an aid in drawing up assessments, and the feedback they receive can throw up flaws or glitches in the system and suggest improvements to be made for future training programmes.
4. Engagement, Retention, and Consistency
Common sense and scientific evidence suggest that we learn new facts and methods more quickly and retain that knowledge for longer, if we’re invested in what we learn. Knowledge presented in an engaging, interactive, and innovative way is key to this – and eLearning systems are ideal for delivering this kind of content.
Videos, podcasting, image-based exercises and group activities are some of the methods available, but gamification is the buzzword in this sector. Here, the training modules are wrapped up in the imagery and methodology of interactive games – with points-scoring, awards, merit badges, leader-boards, and all the trimmings. These elements help promote learning and knowledge retention by increasing the learner’s involvement in the course, lightening the mood, and reducing stress.
5. Lower Costs and Less Environmental Impact
Traditional training methods typically involve the employment of a live instructor, and the fitting out or hiring of a specialised venue. The provision of printed handouts and / or power outlets for audio-visual equipment and the charging of student laptops and mobile phones may be another factor.
All these things cost money, consume physical resources, and add to an organisation’s level of carbon dioxide emissions.
By contrast, eLearning is a paperless medium – and one which doesn’t require the physical presence of an instructor. All the course materials, supplementary resources, and communication links to real live tutors and facilitators may be hosted on an online platform. This keeps costs down, and reduces the carbon footprint of the education process, as a whole.
As you can see, eLearning is a sound financial proposition, and an effective medium for providing education to potentially limitless numbers of people.