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E-learing – what is it?

E-learning is structured learning conducted over an electronic platform. But can generally be broken down into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous e-learning occurs in real time with participants actively communicating with each other. Synchronous e-learning might be conducted by way of a webinar or a tele-video conference. Asynchronous e-learning does not occur in real time. Usually it involves an interactive learning tutorial or information database posted online and accessible at participants’ own convenience.

E-learning is learning done over an electronic platform that allows participants to learn almost anytime from anywhere.

E-learning can be done either synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous e-learning requires simultaneous participation of all learners and instructors at different locations. Asynchronous e-learning does not require simultaneous participation of learners and instructors. There are advantages and disadvantages to adopting either a synchronous or asynchronous platform.

Synchronous e-learning is any learning event delivered in real time to remote learners.

Synchronous e-learning allows real-time interaction and fosters a sense of community amongst learners.  Synchronous e-learning can take a variety of forms, such as: Multicast webinars / Tele-video conferencing /Chat.

Asynchronous e-learning refers to learning situations in which the learning event does not take place in real-time.

Instruction is available on-demand and often offers participants greater control over the learning process.  Asynchronous e-learning can take many forms, including: E-mail and listservs / Public electronic bulletin boards like Blackboard and Moodle that allow collaborative forums for discussion / Downloadable learning materials / Company intranets that distribute training to employees / Interactive tutorials posted on the Internet.

Is E-learning the Right Choice?

E-learning carries many benefits over traditional classroom-based instruction. But the decision to adopt e-learning will depend on the needs and capacities of each organization. E-learning is a powerful and cost-effective platform for delivering consistent and easily reproducible learning experiences to many participants across a wide geographic region. And even with its wide reach, new technologies are making e-learning tutorials increasingly personalized. Many asynchronous e-learning tutorials allow participants to progress at their own pace, and interactivities can incorporate instruction that appeals to all three learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. Still, e-learning is often not the best means of instruction. Skill-specific knowledge delivered to a small group of localized people is probably best delivered in a traditional classroom setting. And no matter how effectively designed, no synchronous e-learning can reproduce the interactive collaboration that occurs in the classroom. Finally, even if e-learning would seem to suit instructional needs, organizations must be sure that all participants have access to the requisite technologies for online instruction.

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if e-learning is the appropriate platform to deliver instruction.

The pros and cons of e-learning vary depending on program goals, target audience, and organizational infrastructure and culture. An e-learning program might not make sense in situations where instruction is delivered locally to a small number of participants. However, when instruction requires repeated delivery to a large number of participants across an extended area, e-learning programs can cost-effectively achieve learning objectives.

A significant instructional benefit of e-learning is its ability to accommodate individual learning styles and knowledge levels of learners.

Within a single experience, e-learning can equally engage the three distinct learning styles of auditory learners, visual learners, and kinesthetic learners. The self-pacing allowed by asynchronous e-learning allows advanced learners to speed through redundant instruction, while novices progress slowly through newly encountered concepts. In addition, asynchronous e-learning, posted on the Internet, allows incredibly efficient distribution to an almost infinite pool of participants. Such is the potential of a well-designed e-learning program: it can offer increasingly individualized instruction to an ever-larger group of participants.

Each organization must evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of choosing e-learning

There are three strong arguments in favor of e-learning:

  • It is extremely cost-effective.
  • It can tailor lessons and allow self-pacing to create a more personalized learning experience.
  • It can be accessed by innumerable users at their individual convenience via the Internet.

At the same time, organization and its learning participants must have access to requisite technologies. It is very important that e-learning will not allow the same level of collaboration among participants, and between participants and their instructors.

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