From the inception of the Internet to this day, debates have been taking place regarding whether the latter has more of a positive or negative impact on its users, especially the youth. However, regardless of one’s stance on the matter, it is objectively agreed-upon that, for better or for worse, the Internet has been making heaps of information more readily available to the masses. One of the more beneficial results of this is the advent of e-learning.
The term “e-learning” – of which the use started spreading in the 1990’s – is rather wide, as it encompasses any kind of learning that can be done online. The European Commission, for instance, defines it as “the use of new multimedia technologies and the Internet to improve the quality of learning by facilitating access to resources and services as well as remote exchanges and collaboration”.
To make it easier for understanding, the Pro-Papers experts have compiled a list to classify the various types of e-learning:
- Educational websites, which are websites that grant constant access to educational material that learners may consult at any time. This is something that not only benefits active students, but also anyone with access to the Internet and time on their hands. It makes it easy for anyone to have access to an incredible array of information on just about any subject matter imaginable;
- Long-distance learning, which encompasses courses that are made available online so that students who cannot be physically present in a certain educational establishment may access them from their place of residence. This is ideal for those who are not satisfied with the selection of traditional educational resources available near them, and would like to branch out to something that would otherwise be geographically unavailable to them;
- E-training, which, rather than simply dispensing information, helps train employees so that they may learn and get better at certain tasks. This can be used in a variety of professional fields and, while it does not entirely replace hands-on training, it can still save companies vast amounts of time, energy, and other resources.
E-learning can also be divided into either 100% e-learning or blended learning. In the case of the former, the learner may proceed with the entirety of their education from a distance. In the case of the latter, however, e-learning and learning in the live presence of an instructor are combined. Either technique can be used depending on which one best suits the needs of the learner.
Regardless of which shape it may take, e-learning always presents the advantage of allowing access to educative resources without the necessity of the live presence of an instructor.
Another advantage of e-learning is that an incredibly wide array of online resources is available. Thus, learners may choose whichever style of education suits them best, without the need for physical displacement.
Furthermore, e-learning often uses a variety of techniques that may help different learners study in ways that fit them better than traditional learning. These include:
- Active learning, which strives to turn students into active participants of the learning process as opposed to just passive listeners. This method encourages learners to read, write, discuss, or otherwise be engaged with the educational material;
- Metacognition, which is, simply put, thinking about how one thinks. This allows learners to understand how their respective minds function, and thus makes them aware of which educational methods may best suit their needs;
- Learning through problem-solving, games, conflict resolution, or whichever other methods may engage the learners further with the content at hand.
One could even argue that e-learning is more ecologically friendly than its alternatives, as it reduces learners’ need for transportation, thus reducing their respective carbon footprints. Simply put, the advantages of e-learning are numerous and the possibilities to which it opens the doors may seem endless.
However, e-learning is not perfect, and is most definitely not aiming towards completely replacing traditional learning methods. One of the main drawbacks of e-learning is that, if no instructor is physically present to monitor the learner, it is impossible to tell how much they have actually been learning. This can be especially problematic in the case of e-training: if companies rely solely on online educational resources to train their employees, there might be oversights regarding the latter’s actual competences. This may even prove dangerous in times of crisis, as insufficiently trained workers might not be able to perform properly if pressured.
So, in order to remedy this issue, e-learning should be somehow monitored by an instructor, tutor or coach.
In addition, e-learning necessarily requires access to the Internet. Unfortunately, continuous access to a stable Internet connection tends to be limited to wealthier areas. This means that more impoverished areas, which would often greatly benefit from better access to education, may not be able to enjoy the advantages of e-learning. Other solutions must be found in order to make access to a decent education available to all.
In conclusion, e-learning may not be the end-all solution to global education. However, by allowing a larger number of learners access to more varied (and often cheaper) educational resources (as opposed to traditional learning), it is definitely a step forward when it comes to education. It is also one of the things that can make us grateful for the inception and expansion of the World Wide Web.