What is elearning?
e-Learning is instruction that occurs when the instructor and the students are separated by time, by distance, or both. It can be divided into 2 major delivery methods:
- Synchronous learning
- Asynchronous learning
Synchronous e-Learning or training happens in real-time with an instructor facilitating the training. Most commonly this type of learning takes place over the Internet, using a “chat room” on specialized Web Sites. Each student logs in at a specific time and can communicate directly with the instructor and with each other. Synchronous e-Learning may also be accomplished through telephone or video conferencing or through two-way live television broadcasts between instructors and students in distant classrooms.
Asynchronous e-Learning or training is e-Learning in the more conventional sense of the word. Asynchronous e-Learning is usually CD or DVD-ROM-based, or can be Intranet or Internet based. Students generally work on an interactive “self-paced” program of study. This may include access to instructors or experts through online bulletin boards, discussion groups and e-mail. Programs may also be completely self-contained with links to various reference materials in place of an instructor. Asynchronous e-Learning allows the student to learn anywhere and usually at any time, as long as they have the proper equipment.
e-Learning uses technology to enhance and expand the learning experience. These technologies are used to create and deliver individualized, comprehensive, dynamic learning content that facilitates learning, anytime and anywhere. It is an innovative approach to communicating almost any type of instructional information. e-Learning can be delivered and supported using a variety of electronic media, but is also the perfect complement to a traditional education or training program.
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E-Learning Advantages to the Learner/student
Along with the increased retention, reduced learning time, and other aforementioned benefits to students, particular advantages of e-learning include:
- On-demand availability enables students to complete training conveniently at off-hours or from home.
- Self-pacing for slow or quick learners reduces stress and increases satisfaction.
- Interactivity engages users, pushing them rather than pulling them through training.
- Confidence that refresher or quick reference materials are available reduces burden of responsibility of mastery.
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eLearning advantages: Advantages of online or computer-based learning:
- Class work can be scheduled around work and family
- Reduces travel time and travel costs for off-campus students
- Students may have the option to select learning materials that meets their level of knowledge and interest
- Students can study anywhere they have access to a computer and Internet connection
- Self-paced learning modules allow students to work at their own pace
- Flexibility to join discussions in the bulletin board threaded discussion areas at any hour, or visit with classmates and instructors remotely in chat rooms
- Instructors and students both report eLearning fosters more interaction among students and instructors than in large lecture courses
- eLearning can accommodate different learning styles and facilitate learning through a variety of activities
- Develops knowledge of the Internet and computers skills that will help learners throughout their lives and careers
- Successfully completing online or computer-based courses builds self-knowledge and self-confidence and encourages students to take responsibility for their learning
- Learners can test out of or skim over materials already mastered and concentrate efforts in mastering areas containing new information and/or skills.
More eLearning advantages:
- It moves faster — According to an article by Jennifer Salopek in “Training and Development Magazine,” e-learning courses progress up to 50 percent faster than traditional courses. This is partly because the individualized approach allows learners to skip material they already know and understand and move onto the issues they need training on.
- It provides a consistent message — E-learning eliminates the problems associated with different instructors teaching slightly different material on the same subject. For company-based training, this is often critical.
- It can work from any location and any time – -E-learners can go through training sessions from anywhere, usually at anytime. This Just-In-Time (JIT) benefit can make learning possible for people who never would have been able to work it into their schedules prior to the development of e-learning. (If you manage a corporate learning program, however, be careful about requesting that workers learn on their own time from home.)
- It can be updated easily and quickly — Online e-learning sessions are especially easy to keep up-to-date because the updated materials are simply uploaded to a server. CD-ROM-based programs may be slightly more expensive to update and distribute, but still come out cheaper than reprinting manuals and retraining instructors.
- It can lead to increased retention and a stronger grasp on the subject — This is because of the many elements that are combined in e-learning to reinforce the message, such as video, audio, quizzes, interaction, etc. There is also the ability to revisit or replay sections of the training that might not have been clear the first time around. Try that in a crowded auditorium!
eLearning advantages: Is it environmentally better :
- Online learning is an effective way for organizations to reduce their carbon footprint.
- A study by the Open University, “Towards Sustainable Higher Education: Environmental Impacts of Campus-Based and Distance Higher Education Systems,” found that on average, the production and provision of distance learning courses consumed nearly 90 percent less energy and produced 85 percent fewer CO2 emissions per student than conventional campus-based university courses. The main savings were due to a reduction in the amount of student travel, economies of scale in the use of the campus site, and the elimination of much of the energy consumption of students’ housing. In other words, studying from home and using a home computer was far more energy efficient.
- The Open University study examined in detail energy costs associated with classroom learning in terms of CO2 emissions, and compared these to the costs of learning via a computer. Computers are no environmental saints: They burn energy at least 0.125 kwh per hour for a desktop PC, and can contain toxic materials such as lead, cadmium, and PCB’s that pose serious health and environmental hazards. Despite this, the CO2 emission levels associated with computer use were significantly less than those associated with more conventional instructional delivery methods, and much of the studying was done from home using computers that students already owned.
- E-learning can also save trees by saving paper. Many e-learning courses are entirely self-contained, presenting all learning content online, or providing alternatives to paper-based forms of communication through such tools as email, PDF manuals, synchronous classrooms, and other web-based tools.