E-learning refers to the use of technology in teaching and learning, with electronic media and Information Communication Technology facilitating it (Blinco, Mason and McLean, 2011). It includes many types of media such as audio-visual tapes, local intranet/extranet and internet based learning. E-learning is a flexible method of imparting knowledge, and thus can suit distance and long distance learning.
Significant Developments in E-learning:
Mobile technologies have been developed to provide learning solutions and services (Brodsky, 2012). This has made learning mobile and can be accessed even in the most remote of areas. The incorporation of the internet in mobile devices has made E-learning even more possible. Educational material has been made available on the internet in PDF formats that can be downloaded, viewed and manipulated on mobile devices.
Simulations in E-learning
Virtual representations of real life activities and events have been used to train in aviation, combat and also in military training. This makes it possible to train a larger number of individuals than if training were to be done manually. Macromedia flash, for example is a computer technology that has made learning through simulation possible. Through simulation, errors can be easily corrected and learning becomes a continuous process. The learner is able to learn at their pace, and is able to determine what is adequate for them.
Adaptive Learning Environments
Just like tailor-made products, learning can be made to suit the needs of a certain users. Learning environments are now capable of monitoring and interpreting the activities of its users, and the available information makes it possible to facilitate the process of learning. Adaptive learning environments have provided a wide platform on which users can accommodate their learning needs. This diversity also makes learning more comfortable and material easy to access.
This refers to a combination of e-learning and other conventional learning methods (Paramythis and Loidl-Reisinger, 2012). This mix aims to increase the level of effectiveness in the learning process since the use of either method is not sufficient to handle all the needs that arise in the training process. This preserves the necessary considerations of how people learn while at the same time offering learning options. Blended learning helps the users to get the best hands-on conventional training methods, and at the same time enjoy the diversity and flexibility that comes with e-learning.
The advent of e-learning has improved the way business is conducted. It has revolutionized the business world. Product information has been made easily accessible on various media, making it easy for consumers to find products that suit their needs. With transactions being made on-line, the purchase of goods can now be done with the click of a button. The sellers need not meet with potential buyers. This virtual trading platform has widened market share for companies and has actualized the concept of globalization.
Online training has proved valuable in ensuring continuous learning and productivity. Many benefits can be associated with e-learning.
As individuals try to strike a balance between demands at the workplace, home and even individual demands, online training makes learning easy for them (Pulichino, 2010). With these challenges, e-learning has created convenience for learners on the globe, making it possible for them to create personal schedules. When relevant course content is made available to the user from the large quantity of related material online, convenience is achieved.
Using the internet, e-learning is able to begin immediately with the click of a button. This assures learners of content availability always, which reduce worries in the event of emergencies. It has an edge over conventional learning methods such as books, which cannot accommodate the same volume of information as the internet.
E-learning is affordable to both companies and individuals. There are numerous cost savings due to elimination of expenses that are associated with physical presence during training. These include travel expenses, accommodation allowances, and meals. Its ease of use has also helped cut down on training expenses. Users only need to open a browser and access e-learning facilities.
Reasons for Not Offering Full Online Courses and Programs
Despite the many advantages associated with online training, some entities still remain hesitant in adopting it fully. This could be attributed to various reasons. To start with, lack of face-to-face interaction between the learner and the trainer may result in delays in transmitting information. Consequently, misunderstandings in the process of deciphering information may arise. The lack of a personal touch in training may under-value the information, and the personal interpretation of information attained could be wrong. This could end up being reflected on poor test scores.
The waiver of being physically present for learning sessions may leave inadequate time being allocation to school work. In most cases, very little time is allocated to assignments, which end up not being completed through proper research. Consequently, the benefits of research are foregone. Schools, therefore accommodate traditional learning methods to improve efficiency and effectiveness in imparting knowledge.
Employers are often less willing to accept degrees and other certifications obtained via online programs. This is due to the belief that physical training breeds more polished human resources. Though the acceptance of online training is growing, it is hard to gain confidence in its quality compared to hands-on training.
Extent of E-Learning Replacing Face-To-Face Learning
The extent to which e-learning will replace face-to-face learning cannot be predicted with complete accuracy. It is, however, almost certain that the conventional methods will not become obsolete (Waight, Willging and Wentling, 2008). There are some kinds of training that make it difficult if not impossible to conduct. In fields like medicine, engineering and military training that needs a comprehensive analysis of the actual situation; online training cannot be fully adopted. The virtual world can only be similar to, but never the same as real life situations. The real world is very dynamic, changing every second in unpredictable ways which cannot all be captured in a virtual setting. Unlike online training, face-to-face learning gives one the actual feel of the real learning experience.
Technology Support and E-Learning
E-learning is highly dependent on technology. With the growing needs of online learners, technology needs to be diversified in order to adequately accommodate each user. This should make individuals comfortable in signing up for e-learning.
Also, with more fields and professions switching over to online training, innovative technology is necessary to enable incorporate that which could not be carried out online. This means better simulation, connectivity and better online interaction between learners and trainers.
In addition, technology is required in ensuring a large enough space is available to accommodate the bulky data transmitted electronically. This is in a bid to ensure systems do not crash and can efficiently serve all users.
E-learning has completely changed how we obtain knowledge, undergo training and transmit material. It has great potential in becoming a good learning platform compared to the conventional method. However, in a vastly changing world bringing with it new ways of doing things, only time will tell the extent to which we can fully rely on e-learning.