E-Learning is the imparting of knowledge via electronic means. A transfer of skills and expertise enabled by computers and networks. Though e-learning pioneer Bernard Luskin argues ‘the “e” in e-learning means much more than “electronic” when applied to e-learning — think instead of a big “E” for “exciting, energetic, engaging, extended” learning.’
The term e-learning covers a broad scope of electronic assisted teaching. It can refer to classroom aids, making PowerPoint presentations accessible for students away from the classroom and the use of laptops by learners in class. Hybrid learning is where traditional face-to-face teaching is supplemented with online elements. E-learning is also naturally suited to education where teaching is fully online with no classroom elements. Many education establishments create Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) whereby courses and content can be managed through an institutional wide consistent user interface. Through these VLEs students can manage many aspects of their course and gain quick and easy access to course content from anywhere with Internet access.
The flexibility offered by e-learning is one of its key strengths. It is also an extremely cost effective way of delivering content to learners. Increasing numbers of businesses are seeing the benefits of training its staff without them having to travel or spend exorbitant amounts of time away from their desks. E-learning can also reach large numbers of the workforce that would be impossible to train simultaneously using tradtional teaching methods.
The benefits of e-learning are not just for employers and education establishments the learners themselves can also profit greatly from from e-learning methods. The content is accessed at the user’s initiative, allowing them to learn at their own pace rather than that set by the instructor. This ‘self pacing’ ensures they have fully absorbed the content before they move on. Newer methods of e-learning such as ‘screencasting’ highlight these benefits. In a screencast the presenter can create and upload a video which imitates the classroom and lecture experience. This benefits the user as they can directly see his flow of thought and process information that may appear overly complex when presented as plain text. The screencast offers the learner benefits over the traditional lecture, they can pause and rewind the content and self pace their learning experience.
Instead of teaching being slowed down by this ‘self pacing’ e-learning may in fact be faster than traditional courses. Users are easily able to skip or skim content they are comfortable with and move directly and quickly onto the elements of the course they need to learn. E-learning also presents a consistent message to the user, instructor interpretation is eliminated and all users access the same content. E-learning is not location nor time specific. Users can gain access to content at a time and place to suit them.
E-learning also allows the teacher to quickly and easily update the course content. This ensures courses should never become outdated or irrelevant as the teacher can regularly update and amend the course content. Tutors can also more easily track the progress and results of their students allowing them to identify both students who need support and course elements that need modification.
Due to its electronic nature it can integrate and adapt to the latest technological advances ensuring schools, universities, businesses, students and teachers are appropriately and effectively served. E-learning is a modern, efficient and constantly evolving way of learning in the digital age.