The Advantages of eLearning

Technology has revolutionized business; now it must revolutionize learning.

In the 21st century, people have to learn more than ever before. Especially for global organizations, live classroom-based training is becoming too costly and cumbersome. Even if employees had the time to attend all the courses and seminars and to read all the books and reports they should to remain up-to-date in their area of work, the cost of such learning would be prohibitive. The need to transform how organizations learn points to a more modern, efficient, and flexible alternative: eLearning. The mission of corporate eLearning is to supply the workforce with an up-to-date and cost-effective program that yields motivated, skilled, and loyal knowledge workers.

Anywhere, anytime, anyone.

The Internet can offer the logical solution for a company’s education and training objectives. Approximately 80% of the professional workforce already uses computers on the job. Technical obstacles, such as access, standards, infrastructure, and bandwidth, will not be an issue in a few years. The growth of the World Wide Web, high-capacity corporate networks, and high-speed desktop computers will make learning available to people 24 hours a day, seven days a week around the globe. This will enable businesses to distribute training and critical information to multiple locations easily and conveniently. Employees can then access training when it is convenient for them, at home or in the office.

Substantial cost savings due to elimination of travel expenses.

When delivered through technology based solutions, training is less expensive per end user due to scalable distribution and the elimination of high salaries for trainers and consultants. The biggest benefit of eLearning, however, is that it eliminates the expense and inconvenience of getting the instructor and students in the same place. According to Training Magazine, corporations save between 50-70% when replacing instructor-led training with electronic content delivery. Opting for eLearning also means that courses can be pared into shorter sessions and spread out over several days or weeks so that the business would not lose an employee for entire days at a time. Workers can also improve productivity and use their own time more efficiently, as they no longer need to travel or fight rush-hour traffic to get to a class.

Just-in-time access to timely information.

Web-based products allow instructors to update lessons and materials across the entire network instantly. This keeps content fresh and consistent and gives students immediate access to the most current data. Information can be retrieved just before it is required, rather than being learned once in a classroom and subsequently forgotten. Training Magazine reported that technology-based training has proven to have a 50-60% better consistency of learning than traditional classroom learning (c-learning).

Higher retention of content through personalized learning.

Technology-based solutions allow more room for individual differences in learning styles. They also provide a high level of simulation that can be tailored to the learner’s level of proficiency. With 24 x 7 access, people can learn at their own pace and review course material as often as needed. Since they can customize the learning material to their own needs, students have more control over their learning process and can better understand the material, leading to a 60% faster learning curve, compared to instructor-led training. The delivery of content in smaller units, called “chunks,” contributes further to a more lasting learning effect. Whereas the average content retention rate for an instructor-led class is only 58%, the more intensive eLearning experience enhances the retention rate by 25 – 60%.1 Higher retention of the material puts a higher value on every dollar spent on training.

Improved collaboration and interactivity among students.

In times when small instructor-led classes tend to be the exception, electronic learning solutions can offer more collaboration and interaction with experts and peers as well as a higher success rate than the live alternative. Teaching and communication techniques which create an interactive online environment include case studies, story-telling, demonstrations, role-playing, simulations, streamed videos, online references, personalized coaching and mentoring, discussion groups, project teams, chat rooms, e-mail, bulletin boards, tips, tutorials, FAQs, and wizards.

Distance education can be more stimulating and encourage more critical reasoning than a traditional large instructor-led class because it allows the kind of interaction that takes place most fully in small group settings. Studies have shown that students who take online courses are typically drawn into the subject matter of the class more deeply than in a traditional course because of the discussions they get involved in.2 This engagement is further facilitated by the fact that instructors do not monopolize attention in an online environment. Another study found that online students had more peer contact with others in the class, enjoyed it more, spent more time on class work, understood the material better, and performed, on average, 20% better than students who were taught in the traditional classroom.

Online training is less intimidating than instructor-led courses.

Students taking an online course enter a risk-free environment in which they can try new things and make mistakes without exposing themselves. This characteristic is particularly valuable when trying to learn soft skills, such as leadership and decision making. A good learning program shows the consequences of students’ actions and here/why they went wrong. After a failure, students can go back and try again. This type of learning experience eliminates the embarrassment of failure in front of a group.

With all of these advantages of taking classes online, it is hard to imagine why anyone would opt to sit in a lecture to learn new information. There are online classes available free on a multitude of topics, just start surfing, find one to your liking, and start learning!

ENDNOTES

1 Jack E. Bowsher, “Revolutionizing Workforce Performance: A Systems Approach to Mastery,” 1998; D. Peoples, Presentations Plus, 1992; Training Magazine, 1998.

2 Greg Kearsley, A Guide to Online Education, 1997; Dennis A. Trinkle, “Distance Education: a Means to an End, No More, No Less,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1999; Colin McCormack and David Jones, “Building a Web-based Education System,” 1997.

Future Trends of E-learning

The future of E-learning is very bright, indeed. This concept has been expanding at a very rapid rate as more and more uses for the computer in education have been discovered and attempted. On the traditional college campus, there is a trend toward the development of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE concept integrates the full range of electronic enhancements into the classroom setting. Under the VLE idea, the instructor is not replaced by the computer but rather uses the computer to reach more students and to reach them more effectively.

Distance education is becoming more popular as more and more households obtain personal computers. Many schools have developed the idea of the virtual classroom to a high degree. One instructor located at a central location and using video equipment can teach simultaneous classes in several satellite locations. There is no limit to the distance these satellite locations can be from the instructor. Computer based training can be done in much the same way. Such things as emails and chat rooms are being used as part of the E-learning arsenal.

Distance education is becoming more popular as more and more households obtain personal computers. Many schools have developed the idea of the virtual classroom to a high degree. One instructor located at a central location and using video equipment can teach simultaneous classes in several satellite locations. There is no limit to the distance these satellite locations can be from the instructor. Computer based training can be done in much the same way. Such things as emails and chat rooms are being used as part of the E-learning arsenal.

One major trend in Elearning is the spread of distance education from traditional subjects to all areas of knowledge. Trade and vocational schools are entering into the E-learning field. Such things as .net training videos have allowed the computer to be used for teaching any subject that can be imagined. Do it yourself manuals have entered the computer age. Informational websites can conduct practical training in any subject using videos that are accessible on the website to illustrate proper techniques. This trend has spread to include everything from dog training to basket weaving.

The past decade has been a time of rapid change as E-learning has replaced traditional learning methods. It can be expected that we have not peaked out and the future is going to bring innovations that can hardly be anticipated. The internet access of cell phones, and the wide spread use of palm pilots and lap top computers is opening new opportunities for education and learning.

A Brief History of E-learning and Distance Education

E-learning is a very broad term. It is used to describe any type of learning environment that is computer enhanced. There are multiple technologies that can be employed in E-learning. It has become one of those types of words that are so general as to have lost some of its meaning. Distance learning is something that has evolved from Elearning. It is used to describe a learning environment that takes place away from the actual traditional classroom and campus.

E-learning began at just about the same time that a computer was developed that was practical for personal use. In fact, the concept and practice of distance learning predates the computer area by almost 100 years. In England, in 1840, shorthand classes were being offered by correspondence courses through the mail. The improvements to the postal service made this method of distance learning popular in the early part of the last century. This led to a large number of “through the mail” type of educational programs. The computer only made distance learning easy and better. Television, video recorders, and even radio have all made a contribution to distance learning.

E-learning and distance learning are not quite the same thing. The basic thing that distinguishes distance education is the physical separation of the student from the instructor and the class room. E-learning, however, became part of the classroom environment from the beginning. The early use of computers was geared to help the classroom instructor. Gradually, as more and more personal computers became available, the idea of online classes was explored by some pioneering Colleges and Universities. The early attempts at distance education were hampered by resistance from traditionalist within the education field.

Some invoked what they called the philosophy of education to demonstrate that the teacher was essential to the educational process. This resistance led to the early online degrees being considered inferior to traditionally obtained degrees. This prejudice extended to the personal departments of major employers. When choosing between two otherwise equally qualified applicants, preference was shown to the person holding the traditional degree. In recent years this has changed drastically. The improvements in E-learning technology and the ability to create virtual classrooms and a virtual learning environment (VLE) has gradually broken down the resistance. This process has been helped by the emergence of a new generation that was weaned on the computer. It would not be surprising if within another generation, the pendulum shifts completely and the online degree is the one that is respected and coveted.