In recent years, the world has increasingly witnessed a surge in the number of students taking part time educational programs. Part of the reason for this increase is the increased cost of education at a time when governments across the world commit less financial aid to full time students. In addition, most students in the universities and colleges double up as employees and parents who have to balance between school, work and family. In view of the foregoing, and in an attempt to tap into the growing market, most institutions have developed distinct learning programs offered through the online platform. It is this method of learning through information technology that is referred to as e-learning or online learning. Today, the concept of e-learning is gaining ground in the agenda list of most of the institutions and particularly those offering higher education. Even when the concept is largely being integrated in education programs, opinions remain divided as to the advantages and long run potential of the same.
Indeed, one cannot assume the fact that e-learning provides better opportunities of access to education to a wider group of persons. Perhaps the most visible is the disabled groups who have previously been denied the chance to pursue higher education. Moreover, there are people who are limited by geographical location but can still access formal higher education through e-learning today. On the other hand, there are people that feel that online learning is not fully a blessing since it restricts the level of interaction between the teacher and the student. Sociologists have also floated the notion that e-learning is a hindrance to social progress as it inhibits the interactions among different students leading to among other things poor communication skills. While the threat of isolation is true through e-learning, it cannot entirely be attributed to the incidence of the concept. Regardless, e-learning proves to be more of a blessing than a curse to the education sector.
It is true that technology can be a blessing and a curse depending on the kind of use it is used to facilitate. Indeed, several researchers have raised concern regarding the dependence on technology in studying. In addition, the use of technology in studying imposes limitations that are not within the reach of some of the students such as the acquisition of requisite mobile gadgets or the internet. That notwithstanding, technology, and specifically e-learning, can help education in countless aspects. In ascertaining the real worth of technology in education, it is imperative that a consideration of the key changes that have occurred over time in the education sector be made. Today, institutions have adopted a business like approach in their provision of education to students who take a more customer like image. In a bid to align the institutions to be more customer-focused, managers of these institutions have caved in to student demands and employed e-learning in their programs.
One of the key advantages realized through online learning is the provision of greater opportunities to the students. Distance learning proffers more educational chances to people that would have otherwise not been able to attend traditional classroom settings. These people range from the disabled persons to those living in remote and rural areas where commuting to their universities on a daily basis is a big challenge. Most importantly, however, is the nature of flexibility that e-learning provides to students such that they are not restricted to be in classrooms at specific times of the day. Through e-learning, the students can attend to other commitments as they wish and commit their study time to periods of the day when they are most available. It is true that today’s students have work or family responsibilities besides the task of studying. Overall, therefore, students are able to choose their time of study, place of convenience as well as the pace of study they admire.
There are suggestions that online learning is much more effective in the improvement of performance for the different students partaking in the same. In truth, the traditional classroom setting provides a level of intimidation for shy students thus resulting in very little learning even when the interaction is high. In fact, most of these students shy away from asking questions or contributing to the learning discussions in the classrooms. E-learning provides anonymity at least at the personal level where students and teachers do not have to meet face to face thus reducing the awkwardness attributed to such meetings. The chat rooms available in the e-learning concept provide students with alternative communication channels that are less intimidating thus improving their confidence levels. It is clear that online learning offers greater flexibility of learning to a larger population of people facing different situations.
The incidence of e-learning provides people with new choices and an increased flexibility in terms of their personal development and learning. Today, people can choose the time of their studies as well as the pace with which they undertake their studies among other important aspects of studying. Traditionally, formal education was only attained through the attendance to full time programs where teachers taught students physically. This arrangement where the education was only offered on site was highly limiting to the students and especially those with special needs. In contrast, the internet has continually allowed educational institutions to increase their reach through the provision of courses and programs on a virtual or partially virtual basis.
In addition to the advantages of learning, there are fewer resources required for institutions to provide such programs to the student with most of the costs being eaten up by internet connectivity. The use of e-learning therefore presents a more efficient revenue stream where the paid courses provide excellent value to the institutions. Students can also benefit more through greater access to education and unlimited views on the courses being taught. For instance, students can refer back to notes shared through the online platform without having to write the notes manually. In addition, the presentation of the notes in an electronic format means that they can be stored for a longer period of time without the risk of losing the materials. While the institutions of learning benefit from higher revenue, the students can celebrate in having greater flexibility in learning. The students can in turn get qualifications even when they are committed to other equally important responsibilities such as family and employment.
While flexibility is often cited as the most important benefit of e-learning, educational access is equally important. Even more appealing is the fact that internet penetration and access is increasing in the developing countries where internet access ahs for a long time been low. The developed countries have even more internet access thus improving on the efficiency of the online learning concept even further. Today, online courses have increased their awareness on the needs of people from disadvantaged background that yearn for a chance to access the programs. The realization of the great potential posed by the growing disadvantaged and special groups is part of the reason for the growth in the number of programs that are offered over the online platform today. In addition, online learning offers a greater deal of exposure in terms of general information. Concurrently, people from special and disadvantaged backgrounds are better poised to progress in learning than they previously did.
The most advanced argument against e-learning is based on the assumption that online learning offers courses that or a much lower quality than offered by traditional courses. In fact, the quality of the courses has been the subject of debate regarding whether or not employers should consider such qualifications in their appraisals. In addition, other quarters have raised concern over the inability of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access the basic components of e-learning. This development falls in the backdrop of key improvements in online learning achieved over several years and which the disadvantaged individuals benefit from. Evidence from some studies point to the notion that disadvantaged students do not enjoy all the benefits of e-learning relative to the other students. Some people have also gone further to suggest that promoters of online learning are exaggerating the benefits of e-learning and that it does not offer the exact same benefits to the disadvantaged students.
Currently, the expansion of education is gaining momentum with many initiatives, campaigns and organizations working together to achieve the goal. The high participation is testament to the value of education and the growing gap that is left behind by traditional education provision. In view of the same, it is right to suggest that e-learning is not a substitute of traditional learning but one that compliments the conventional process of learning. It should not therefore be considered as an alternative to overhauling the conventional method of learning. In fact, it is only a matter of time before the entire benefits of online learning are achieved after the streamlining of the international online infrastructure.
One of the greatest advantages of online learning is the convenience with which the concept serves its clients. In fact, both the students and the teachers are bound to benefit from the convenience of the e-learning concept in unique ways. The use of e-learning requires little resources on both parts of the student and the lecturer. The users of e-learning only need to have a computer and a complimentary internet connection to access the contents shared via the platform. In addition, the location of the users does not matter as long as one has the login credentials to access the shared material. In fact, students in countries as far as Kenya can efficiently enroll for courses in offer in different universities in the US or the Middle East. The information shared via online learning platforms can be accessed irrespective of one’s location or time. Today, distance does not act as a barrier to the process of learning regardless of the level or nature of the education provided the concept of e-learning is in use. Even in the corporate world, online learning has provided for a chance to reach a large number of employees instantly and in different locations.
The use of online learning has ensured that learning and training is much more cost effective because fewer resources are used. Lecturers can reach all the students instantly regardless of the location and still feed them with the right information about certain topics. The fact that students can learn from the comfort of their homes or offices is impressive as it cuts on the costs of travelling and accommodation. Traditional methods of learning do not provide for the option of saving money that is used for transport and accommodation services. In contrast, however, e-learning cuts on the money used for daily commuting by the students by ensuring that they attain all the information they would have attained by travelling. Besides educational information, online learning is important in saving costs for the corporate world by minimizing the cost of expenses, accommodation and reusable online content. Online learning is the best training option for companies that are geared towards cutting costs and maintaining a training budget.
Online learning platforms provide an avenue through which students can interact with their lecturers and fellow students. The enhancement of such interactions is important in the progress of social development among students as well as the promotion of discussions built around topics taught in class. Similarly, online learning provides for the same opportunities to employees of companies that partake in the concept when offering training modules. The social aspects of employees are enhanced through the different chat rooms available through online learning. Ultimately, the communication skills of these employees are sharpened by the incidence of interactions among the employees. Moreover, online learning provides for better and efficient feedback mechanisms for both employer and employees. In the end, the company benefits most from the enhanced communication as employees can communicate more ideas to the management as well as raise awareness on certain topics.
Another benefit of using e-learning is based on the fact that it can be tailored to meet different needs of the users. Indeed, different people have different preferences regarding the best ways of learning and e-learning provides for this opportunity. The designers and professionals that create online content strive to create courses that meet almost all learning behaviors while accommodating the learning preferences of a majority of the users. In this respect, therefore, online learning can be customized to meet the different needs of the users and to reflect the unique preferences of the users. In the provision of online content, all the needs of all the different kinds of people are considered in coming up with the most representative modules. In addition, the nature of the content being taught also dictates the customization of the online learning experience. There is a variety of tools and learning methods that can be incorporated in support of the learning process depending on the specific needs of the users.
The fact that e-learning is an instant process is in itself a benefit as users are able to see their results immediately they begin to use the concept. In fact, the results do not depend on whether the studies are self-paced or instructor-led but provides a range of ways of presenting constructive feedback to the users. In addition, the online learning platform offers a chance for the instant access of more additional resources to the users. Additionally, the opportunity for immediate updates makes e-learning an ideal bet in the provision of education to the users. In fact, today’s online learning experience is better than the one offered in yester years due to adoption of newer updates. The provision of various online tools to compliment the online learning experience through regular updates makes it more effective. Moreover, an update of the e-learning course presents immediate access for the audience to access the updated version.
In addition to the benefits of e-learning, the concept provides for certain disadvantages as laid out by different researchers. One such argument is much more profound and is therefore very difficult to dispel. The response of different students to the online learning concept based on socio political and economic factors is one that should not be avoided. Past studies have found that certain groups of students are more inclined to benefit from online learning compared to others. Indeed, the findings of this study are the subject of debate since other students do not equally benefit from the concept of e-learning. The results have sparked controversy as policy makers and stakeholders in the education sector grapple with an explanation of the discrepancy that result in poor grades among some students. Moreover, some of the students are new to the concept and may be intimidated by the nature of online learning leading to lower performances. Evidently, students must attain high levels of motivation and discipline to achieve effective learning at their private learning environment.
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