Electronic learning refers to computer enhanced learning. It is closely associated with the area of advanced learning technology (ALT), which specializes with technologies and associated methodologies in learning using networked and multimedia technologies.
According to Derek Stockley, 2003, e-learning is the delivery of a learning, training or education program by electronic means. It involves the use of a computer or electronic device to provide training, educational or learning materials. E-learning can involve variety of equipment. The term is used to give a wider perspective than ‘online’ training or education. Since ‘online’ as the name implies only involves using the internet. It can be noted that CD-ROM and DVD can also be used to provide learning materials. (http://derekstockley.com.au/elearning)
Historically, the need for Distance education provided the base for e-learning’s development. It offered a solution to overcome timing attendance and travel difficulties. Distance learning can therefore be equated to e-learning. The two terms can be used to refer to the same idea. Distance learning is a formalized teaching and learning system that is designed to be performed using electronic communication. It is not limited in any way by geographic considerations and therefore it is less expensive. It offers opportunities in cases where traditional education has a difficulty in operation or functioning. Distance or e-learning therefore is more flexible in terms of time and can be delivered anywhere.
E-learning uses various technologies that are developed to facilitate transfer of knowledge. These include
1. Voice-centered technology such as CD or Mp3 recordings or Web Casts.
2. Computer centered technology delivered over the internet or corporate intranet.
3. Video technology, such as instructional videos, DVD’s and interactive video conferencing.
Distance learning or e-learning therefore can also be as effective as the traditional classroom format of learning when appropriate methods are used to the teaching tasks. There is teacher-student interaction and teachers provide students with the necessary timely feedback. (http://searchcio-midmarket.techtarget.com)
E-learning services have developed since computers were first introduced for use in education. There is a trend to move towards more improved learning services, where computer-based activities are integrated with practical or classroom-based situations. E-learning lessons are designed to guide learners through information so as to undertake specified tasks. Communication technologies such as blogs and discussion boards can also be used to enhance the learning processes. They enable learners to engage in exchange of ideas and information with each other throughout the world.
The development of the E-learning and its use arose from a number of other educational revolutions. According to Billings & Moursund (1988), these revolutions include
Invention of reading and writing
The emergence of the teacher/scholar profession
Development of print technology
Development of electronic technology.
The developments of technologies such as calculators, VCRS, radio and bulletin board systems (BBS) contributed ideas in the development of E-learning systems. Computer Assisted Learning Projects began in the late 1950’s. Research showed that computers were an important addition al facility to traditional education.
Since 1994 to 1999, training providers explored ways on how new technology could be used to improve training. The advent of email, web browsers, HTML, Java and others began changing the face of e-learning. These technologies have been improved and advanced. Today, live instructor-led training (ILT) via the web can be combined with real-time mentoring, improved learners services, and multi-dimensional learning environment. These advanced training solutions provide even greater cost savings, and higher quality learning experiences. (www.knowledgenet.com/corporateinformation/ourhistory/history.jsp).
By 2006 over 3 million students were participating in on-line learning at institutions of higher learning in the United States. Many higher education for-profit institutions, now offer on-line classes. However, only about half of private, non-profit schools offer these classes. In the past many institutions especially private institutions could not be able to institute e-learning system. This was due to the cost involved. There was also few competent trained staff in the use of computers and the internet. However online education is rapidly increasing and online doctoral programs have even developed at leading research universities.
Developments have increased competition in higher education. These has hence created a wider educational market. Various companies from hardware and software industries, the media industry and professional training institutions are trying to access the market with corporate or virtual universities with computer-based training and e-learning. (Gerhard, 2002). Many universities have entered the e-learning market hence creating a stiff competition for e-learning providers.
Currently there is a great increase in the online enrollment. Many students have registered in online courses. There are expectations that these trend will increase in the upcoming years. Many institutions of higher learning have recorded an increase in the distance learning enrollment since it was introduced. By 2006 over 3 million students were taking part in online learning taking at least one course. The increase was rated at around 10% when compared to the year 2005. In America, around 20% of higher education students were involved in online education. It has been viewed that all institutions are currently competing intensively in online education. The growth of e-learning has created a bright future in the academics of most institutions. Even Associate institutions have recorded a substantial growth in e-learning over the few past years. (Abram, 2007).
The improved internet knowledge and access among many people especially a student has enabled many institutions to engage in online education where they are able to offer more courses to the willing learners. Many learners are able to complete their degrees in time. It has been realized that online instruction currently appeals to many learners as compared to the traditional modern of classroom instruction.
Much development in e-learning currently can be attributed to the fact that many new and old institutions are now able to enter the online education field comfortably. As the competition had stiffened so has the quality of the online education. Still many institutions have great expectations that with the increased population all over the world and the advancement of technology. Many learners will be able to access e-learning from different parts of the world. (http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/)
The future prospects of e-learning are extremely bright. E-learning has widely been recognized and accepted as one of the methods that enable people to access knowledge easily. Many institutions, colleges and schools have currently embraced the idea of distant learning via the electronic media. Many institutions competing to offer online education have increased so much and the number is expected to rise even more in the coming years. Many institutions are expected to increase their scope over the next several years because of the increased access and need for distant learning. Many institutions are now not only working on the ways of the offering distant education but also on ways of improving the quality of the education offered. (http://www.corollis.com/article_future.htm)
E-learning therefore is highly expected to establish itself even more. The technology is also expected to develop further in the future. This is because of the scientific researches that are taking place which lead to new innovations. Wireless technology for example has been established in many electronic devices. The number of those using the wireless internet is expected to improve also. The improved technology will enable access in learning without need for physical connection. This will be beneficial to learners as they will be able to learn from anywhere. (http://www.corollis.com). In this manner the future looks bright and rich.
With intensive learning competition, it is possible to have a free content revolution in the future. Some institutions that offer internet facilities and contents have shown the willingness to make available their contents freely. This is expected to totally revolutionalize the industry and strengthen the electronic knowledge base of many learners.
Just like any technology, e-learning has evolved much in several years and is expected to change a lot in the future. Many universities and other institutions amounting to about two-thirds of the total institutions in USA are currently offering e-learning. Many will grow even more in the future due to e-learning. For example the growth of the University of Phoenix, a for-profit institution into a huge and profitable entity can be accounted to e-learning. (http://thejournal.com/article/). Other universities that expected to grow even further include University of Michigan, Indiana University, Stanford University and many more. There has been a growing market for e-learning which signals to a massive growth in the future.
Analysts see e-learning’s market value rising in the future to over 20 billion dollars. It is a good way of supplementing traditional education organizations; universities based seminars, school classrooms and others. With this trend, e-learning will overlap the traditional systems of learning. This will be of great advantage especially because there will be reduced expenses in traveling, increased sizes of particular classes and a demand from learners for more training. ( http://www.corollis.com/article_future.htm)
Many will be able to access education all over the world. E-learning will enable lifelong learning and people of all ages will be able to access it and engage in complete courses. This is because it enables learners to adapt their learning to fit circumstances or current situations. The expansion of e-learning allows many learners to get exposure to a variety of educational resources. Learners can then expand their knowledge enabling a richer academic environment which can improve lifestyles of many through creativity and innovation. (http://rubble.heppell.net/orange/future.html)
The next generation of learners will be more computer literate knowing how to perform duties with the computer. This is a great leap in achieving education. The revolution that comes with e-learning is so intense with time; the role of teachers will have to change since learners will do the learning on their own without supervision in classes. Learners will have to practice personal responsibility working on their own place and from their places of choice. Teaching will then become an entirely new profession. Teachers will be more of learning managers and not classroom teachers. This might mean a revolution in the training of teachers too.
The changes will also mean a lot even in business. Many jobs that demand human labor are now automated. These means there will be no need for offices, warehouses and many more physical facilities. These are serious implications that arise from e-learning. Educational institutions are therefore expected to make a complete shift from print to digital medium for learning purposes (Spender, 2002)
E-learning has developed over the past years and has reached a tremendous level. It has enabled a lot of transformation to take place in almost all sectors of world economies. It is expected to grow into greater levels in the future. As institutions compete in offering e-learning, many people will be able to access a more qualitative content from various institutions who seek to outdo each other. E-learning therefore expected to grow even more strongly.
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Billings & Moursund. (1988). Computer in education: an historical perspective.
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