Walled Classrooms: Will eLearning Be The End Of Them?
History has taught us many things. Throughout history we have seen small concepts turn big and revolutionize the world. When the term eLearning was first used in a seminar in Los Angeles, little did anyone realize that this would challenge the very roots of conventional education. Having grown exponentially in the past few years, what is the future of eLearning? Will it go on to override the conventional form of education such as colleges and universities? Will virtual learning free students of the traditional, walled classrooms and give them education with easier access and affordability? This article tries to explore what was, what is, and what will be in the field of eLearning.
The concept of distance education was never new. Correspondence instructions became popular in the early 19th century when a need arose to take education outside the confines of a university and make it available to those who couldn’t pursue it. The advent of radio and television brought new opportunities to students of distance learning but it was with the advent of digital and internet technologies in the late 1990s that completely changed the face of it. Integration of web technologies into education presented new opportunities to educators who could now introduce multi-dimensional teaching concepts into distance education and make it available to the non-traditional learner in the farthest corners of the world. Whether through CBTs or WBTs, learners could harness the power of technology, such as graphics, audio, and video to understand concepts as taught in a traditional setting and use it as a means for economic and social emancipation.
Whether it’s due to cultural barriers or socio-economic hardships, the truth is that traditional education is still a dream for many. When eLearning is introduced in such an environment it helps to enhance involvement, awareness, social responsibility, and a positive thinking that could uplift an entire generation of the underprivileged.
While eLearning is a great tool for hard-to-reach learners, it provides great prospects to the urban youth who want to continue learning as they work. The millennial population in the world is more than 80 million and a majority of them want to engage in continuous improvement to upgrade themselves. eLearning provides them this perfect opportunity to study as they work. Professionals can engage in high quality learning in the confines of their workplace or even home without spending time on commute, boarding or college fees. Especially in the corporate segment, eLearning has vastly bridged the knowledge gap in employees while also serving to motivate them. Having a skilled workforce is key to staying ahead of the competition and organizations are keen to make use of eLearning to achieve that.
Many corporates want their employees to stay abreast with the latest technology know-how so that they can bring in quality benchmarks into their day-to-day processes and strive towards achieving business goals. The emergence of new technology at such rapid rates requires a constant upgradation of skills to stay relevant. eLearning courses can be quickly adapted to reflect new subjects and concepts. The use of extensive graphics, simulations, audio and animation further simplifies the subject.
This new and innovative approach to teaching, learning, and assessment has also been adopted by universities who want to introduce student-centric learning in higher education. Students are getting the opportunity to use sophisticated methods of learning and explore their technical, social and creative side. The immersive environments that can be experienced with eLearning sessions mirror the sessions in traditional walled classrooms by providing simulations and introducing them to real-world situations.
The rising cost of higher education is pushing more and more people towards eLearning. Furthermore, eLearning offers a hands-on approach, preparing you to handle on-the-job challenges as you study. With benefits like increased retention, reduced learning time and learning cost, consistent delivery, the ability to self-pace, and its ready availability have endeared eLearning to the masses. Instructors find that they are able to customize the learning as per the learner and thus provide more personalized teaching. Also, the sheer number of choices that one gets in online courses is mind boggling. One does not have to stick to routine combinations to explore and enhance their skills. The fact that The Open University in the UK, a premier distance education university, has topped the list of most satisfying universities and the enrolment for online courses keeps rising year on year is testament of this gradual shift towards eLearning.
With so many advantages, will the proliferation of eLearning be the death of universities? Universities are not all about curriculum and studies, say experts. The campus provides a common meeting ground for like-minded individuals, a vibrant place for cross cultural exchange. Moreover, experts say that the teacher student bond can be achieved only through the traditional form of education.
eLearning has been openly accepted and has benefited millions around the world. While the charm of a campus life can never be overridden by a virtual class, the benefits are quite enticing. With better accessibility and planning, eLearning just might be able to scale the traditional walls of a conventional teaching institute and completely change the way education is delivered.