By the end of the XX century e-learning had become an accepted part of the education and training industry. Their popularity has preceded the expectations of many experts who earlier dismissed it as a passing phenomenon. E-learning is here to stay and therefore it is only useful to know the benefits and perils that it has to offer.
E-learning and edtech are huge buzzwords these days, propelled by the massive wave of internet and digital media that has swept over every home and business. From blogs to video lectures, from online chat sessions to full blown online courses, education has all gone electronic. Online courses have come a long way to become the most popular form of distance learning in higher education, providing opportunities to learn who would otherwise have limited access to education. Here are some of the other major benefits of e-learning:
E-learning has various tools such as virtual classrooms that are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can schedule the classroom session around your professional and personal life. You do not have to scrap up all your urgent commitments in lieu of attending a classroom session of a subject. Online conferencing programs use Asynchronous communication to participate in class discussions and learn at his pace. Whether it is day or night, the student has unbridled access to various resources that includes lectures, and course materials. One can reread a lecture as many times as he wants without worrying about the other person.
The biggest advantage that e-learning has is perhaps the leverage it offers to students in terms of location independence. Students can take classes and access various resources from any part of the world provided they have with them a computer and a working internet connection.
Education for all
Education moving to digital mediums has opened the opportunities to learn to thousands and millions of people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this basic right. Student from all ages, occupations and countries can participate in this online education movement. Now, it has also become very easy to get degree and diploma in professional course like MBA through online education.
Reputed institutions like Harvard and MIT where pursuing a course is a dream come true for everyone, offer free of cost video lectures and other course material through their online education program which can be joined by anyone, from anywhere. Such benefits would not have been possible prior to the creation of e-learning. Therefore, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that e-learning has played a great role in improving the overall literacy of the world.
The regular classroom education is seldom student centered as the teacher has a limited capacity and offering student centric solutions to his each of his audience would prolong the learning process unnecessarily. With strict time and other administrative constraints in place neither it is feasible to implement a student centered learning model.
This is where the online education model enjoys an upper hand. In an online discussion a student can voice his individual concern over course material to the teacher which is duly answered or can reply to a comment from other student over some topic relevant to both. Such small discussions keep on happening where student take the remote control of their learning experience to meet their specific needs.
With implementation of social media and various web 2.0 tools, online education has become more of a social activity where sharing of resources is possible at a click of a button. With internet one has the access to different resources that might have their physical location thousands of miles away from the student. Whether it is research papers, scholarly articles, video lectures, blogs or analysis, everything is available to everyone in the open mode of education.
While most people are unanimous in their view about the boost e-learning has provided to education there are critics who are not as enthusiastic about it. A minority, they still seem to have some valid points worth considering. Here are the purported drawbacks of e-learning:
A poor environment for learning
The biggest gripe that most critics of online mode of education have is the non-conducive environment of learning that it promotes. Without a proper classroom environment, learning becomes a solitary and lonely process, which can be said downright boring at the cost of being a little bigmouth. This is the reason that most e-learning courses experience high dropout rates. Without the buzz that surrounds a physical classroom discussion, innovation takes a backseat and new ideas are seldom generated.
To have an efficient and perfect virtual learning session, one needs a broadband Internet connection along with a computing device with good processing power. Most of the candidates who actually could benefit from e-learning lack the finances to have both of these.
Some well-funded educational institutions that have reported the maximum benefits of digital learning had the money to provide their students with iPad only lessons. However, schools which are in economically disadvantaged area fail to provide their students with similar leverage, leaving a huge vacuum to be filled.
Other than these, e-learning has particularly proved ineffective while imparting training of softer skills and leadership. Moreover, we still live in the age where students pursuing an online course are viewed as second class citizens. This bias is deeply rooted in various social and corporate circles and until we get better of such issues and those mentioned above, the true potential of e-learning would remain untapped.
About the Author:
Pursuing a career as an education counselor, Saurabh Tyagi provides freelance advice on various domains such as online education amongst others. His interest lies in social media and technology.