So what is elearning in 2017 in terms of a definition, but also what it means to learners, teachers and trainers looking to maximise education and training technology?
eLearning is any learning that is conducted through electronic means, which could be online via an Internet-connected, or offline using a desktop or laptop computer, mobile phone, tablet or other device.
So that’s the definition of elearning, but what does it mean to today’s learners or organisations looking to teach or train their students or staff in 2017 and beyond?
eLearning in 2017
Why bring your laptop to school, when you can bring your school to your laptop? eLearning is becoming big business and it’s not hard to see why. Almost 93 percent of universities now require some kind of eLearning for their students. Non-profit organisations like edX and Udacity offer eLearning to the masses for next to nothing. In the private sector, it’s expected that by the end of 2017, 28 percent of corporations will employ online classrooms.
What makes eLearning so popular? Let’s crack open our virtual textbooks and find out.
Customisation & Collaboration
Above all, eLearning is customisable to the student’s needs. Unlike a traditional classroom, where all students must follow the teacher’s method (regardless of whether it works for them or not), in an eLearning environment, a student can choose a learning style that’s right for them. That may include features such as gamification and social learning, or sprinting through exercises on the go, at their convenience.
It’s always a struggle staying motivated as a student, even if the material is interesting. With the capability to mix video, text and lecture together in a single lesson, eLearning can keep the brain fresh as well as cementing core concepts through different styles of presentation. The student can also work at their own pace if they’re having difficulty with the material.
This fluidity applies to the interactions and the students. eLearning students can collaborate on projects, learning from each other in the process. A teacher can respond to a student’s query instantly and provide targeted feedback.
If a student is struggling, they can find out exactly why and make the necessary changes to their eLearning experience or to their study habits. They don’t have to rely on their teacher or their own spreadsheets and calendar to track their development.
An LMS (learning management system) is the backbone of eLearning experiences, and the better it is, the more data it collects on the student’s progress. For example, test scores and previous feedback can point out areas of concern that the student may have missed the first time around.
Scalability = Opportunity
There’s a limit on the number of students a classroom can hold. Not so with eLearning. Online classes can and do accommodate upwards of 100,000 students.
Stratospheric enrollment means rock bottom prices. And rock bottom prices mean people who previously couldn’t afford higher education now have an opportunity to better their lives. This extends to the entire world. For the price of a coffee, a citizen in a developing country can feasibly take a course from an elite university. For many, this a lifelong dream come to pass.
Georgia Tech in the United States offers an Online Master of Science in Computer Science, which has accepted 3,000 students thus far. The programme has been so successful that they’re creating another one just like it.
Beyond Higher Education
With the rise of programming, software development, and similar fields, there is a need for credentials more precise than the standard Bachelor’s, Master’s, or PhD. While institutions of Higher Education are slow to respond to changing times, eLearning is there to pick up the slack.
The eLearning platform, Udacity, for instance, offers nanodegrees which are accepted by employers like Google and Amazon. As technology advances by leaps and bounds, retraining becomes an essential part of staying competitive. Here, too, eLearning holds the advantage over Higher Education. Instead of enrolling for an entire academic year, a student can sign up for as long or as short as they want.
What is elearning evolving into? As an agile, fast-changing platform, eLearning shows a remarkable potential for innovation. While some wearables like Google Glass are already in use, there are plenty more right around the corner. Take the Teslasuit for example, which will deliver interactivity at a level never before seen (or felt).
Imagine being a med student and using such a device as a way of building empathy for patients who are in pain; or a firefighter determining the exact level of heat their suit can withstand.
The internet has disrupted every one of our institutions, and education is no exception. While eLearning is perfectly suited for the rising complexity of our world, it will not replace in-person education completely. Not while we still have the chance to blend the dynamism, low-cost, and access of online learning with the power of face to face interaction.