Today, learners are proliferating, but the instructor population is struggling to match learner growth rates. Learners are in every city, town and village. And, all yearn for quality education. But the quality education givers are few and far between. So how do education planners and implementers reconcile with this mismatch?
The New Learning Environment – What is different about e-learning?
Distance learning was thought to be the answer. Indeed, it still is. But there is a difference today in the deliverance because of technology and Internet. The quality gap between face-to-face learning has been bridged as has the distance gap been virtually bridged.
Learner Centric Education
The way we learn has evolved. Users have truly become the center of the learning process. Often times the learners identify the appropriate material and way they want to learn. The time available for learning courses has been telescoped for want of time. The good news is that the time period for online learning is shorter and learners apply the learning directly to their work situation to remain competitive. The opportunities for learning are expanding. Technology provides access to new ways to learn both formally and informally. The younger generation grew up with technology — and demands online access to information, research, processes, and new skills. Step in e-learning.
What is different about e-learning?
e-learning helps learners to reach predicated levels of competency faster. e-learning allows learners to assimilate content at their own speed. If they understand material, they can skim; if it’s new material, they can spend time on the unfamiliar content. Contrast it with the classroom; instruction moves at the will of the instructor, who gears the class pace to meet needs of the majority of learners, not the needs of individual learners.
Learners can engage in learning anytime, anywhere, and from any location. Learners control when and where they want to do their learning. Some choose to learn from home while others take a “learning break” that breaks the monotony of the workday. Some even access learning from their mobile devices as they travel. This freedom to learn based on personal preference makes for happier, more engaged learners who find it easier to stay up-to-date on their knowledge and skills.
Consistency of eLearning delivers uniform content to all learners. No matter where the learners are located, they receive the same content, eliminating content variance that is often present with instructor-led learning.
Travel savings are significant. e-learning eliminates a significant amount of air, train and auto travel.
But what of the quality of e-learning, vis-à-vis face-to-face learning?
Classroom And Online Self-Study Prove Equally Effective.Outside of subject areas where face-to-face interaction is inescapable – for example, say a medical student is doing the rounds of the ward with her instructor – recent research indicates that no significant differences exist in the effectiveness of learning through classroom, online, or self-study. This is because of the following:
Meticulously crafted graphics and visuals help explain new concepts. Visuals, graphics, simple simulations, and even short videos contribute to a more visual approach to understanding concepts. This, combined with instructor’s audio help, ensure good learning. In fact, some animated sequences in eLearning would be difficult to duplicate in the classroom.
Responses through blogs, wikis, and discussion boards help learners see other points of view. The danger of isolation of online learners is mitigated by a plethora of interactive tools used to reinforce the learning.
Content is available to review multiple times. The opportunity to access specific sections of the learning content as many times as necessary to grasp key concepts provides for a better overall understanding of the topic. Also, choosing the best time to learn puts the learner in a better frame of mind to learn.
The end note therefore is that while e-learning maps easily with fast forward learning, the learner has the power to press the pause button at her will. Clearly, e-learning has arrived.