E-Learning: An analysis of the processes, benefits and the future

 | May 30,2011 10:15 am IST

E-Learning is the delivery of learning and training using electronic media, for example: using computers, internet, and intranet. In principle, e-learning is a kind of distance learning; learning materials can be accessed from the web or CD via a computer, and tutors and learners can communicate with each other using e-mail or discussion forums.

E-Learning can be used as the main method of delivery of training or as a combined approach with classroom-based training. E-Learning is also helping to embed learning within work processes, as organisations begin to recognise that learning is not something that only takes place in a classroom.


In fact, 70% of all learning occurs whilst a person is on the job, that is not in formal training or education but in everyday working life as employees carry out their jobs - finding out information, reading documents, talking to other colleagues etc. It is these kinds of informal learning activities that e-learning can also support and encourage within an organization. In many industries competition is based on talent and knowledge. Also the global character and geographical spread of organizations are becoming wide. Providing learning services in such a geographically wide spread structure, ensuring consistency, crashing lead time in providing service at the same time reducing cost are the concerns for organizations. E-learning is an important learning tool that organizations are increasingly putting to use to achieve the mentioned results.

Some pioneers are already well advanced in the use of e-learning, while others show varying degrees of interest and many remain to be convinced. Yet despite disillusion caused by past hype, there is a growing sense among executives and analysts that e-learning - the use of IT and the internet to enhance training - is a market with huge potential. "Corporate e-learning is one of the fastest-growing sectors within the education market," says KPMG Consulting. "E-learning is moving out of the early technology phase into a more mainstream business market." As well as connecting employees through e-learning, companies can also link up with partners, suppliers and customers, KPMG adds. "Huge benefits will accrue when content flows seamlessly - often over mobile networks - throughout industry value chains."

Modes of E-learning
Apart from the traditional methods of e-learning like CD-ROMs and presentations using computers, web based training (WBT) has revolutionalized e-learning. Margaret Driscoll has identified four kinds of Web-based training characterized by goals, instructional strategies, and roles of the instructor and students.

There are several key differences between these four kind of Web-based training programs. The most obvious difference is between the synchronous and asynchronous kinds of Web-based training. Synchronous programs require that the students and the teacher establish an agreed-upon time to meet online for class. (In some distance education circles asynchronous delivery is seen as solely developed and delivered online, whereas synchronous would be associated with meeting at a specific time and place in a traditional educational setting) Synchronous programs are similar to audio and videoconference and require scheduling. Asynchronous programs allow the students and teacher to log in to class at their convenience. In these programs the students and teacher do not have to be online at the same time.

The second distinguishing feature is group learning versus individual learning. In group learning programs, students work together building team projects, solving case studies, and developing presentations. Group learning can take place in synchronous or asynchronous classes. In contrast, individual learning programs allow learners to set their own pace and move at a rate that meets their self-directed study and learning needs. One student's pace and success has no effect on another learner's success.


Benefits of e learning
1. Anywhere, anytime, anyone factor
Approximately 80% of the professional workforce already uses computers on the job. Technical obstacles, such as access, standards, infrastructure, and bandwidth, will not be an issue two years from now. The growth of the World Wide Web, high-capacity corporate networks, and high-speed desktop computers will make learning available to people 24 hours a day, seven days a week around the globe. This will enable businesses to distribute training and critical information to multiple locations easily and conveniently. Employees can then access training when it is convenient for them, at home or in the office.

2. Consistency of method
Compared to conventional teaching methods, e-learning brings in consistency across various parameters. This will be greatly helpful in the areas of value education, spreading the vision/mission of the company, policy deployment etc. where consistency becomes critical. Distribution of content to the entire organization would be possible allowing organizations to rapidly deploy learning throughout the organization without being tied to the constraints of the classroom.

3. Substantial cost savings
Many companies are trying to cut down on all expenses that are not directly related to revenue. With e-learning, the bulk of training expense is invested in learning, not travel and associated costs. E-Learning lowers the overall costs of creating a workforce that performs faster and more efficiently than the competition. Costs can be cut without completely sacrificing training efforts. Web based training is less expensive when considering the distribution of training, in relation to the limited number of participants in a traditional classroom environment. Web based training can be easily updated for additional content without much cost.

4. Learner centric program
Participants in an e-learning program have more control of the pace of the course and also more opportunity to concentrate on content most applicable to them. Furthermore, they can apply what they are learning during the course and come back online at any time for more help and clarification. Also individuals are able to take advantage of lifelong learning without relocating or quitting their jobs. It even brings in the entirely new concept of “safe failure” which allows employees to experience challenges and failures in a simulated environment without affecting the success of the organization.

5. Just-in-time access to timely information
Web-based products allow instructors to update lessons and materials across the entire network instantly. This keeps content fresh and consistent and gives students immediate access to the most current data. Information can be retrieved just before it is required, rather than being learned once in a classroom and subsequently forgotten. Similarly, organizations can quickly roll out a small piece of targeted learning that focuses on solving an immediate business problem.



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spatal on 05/31/11 at 03:51 pm

It will take time for India’s purpose built e-learning infrastructure to get up to speed. In the meantime, there are many online learning and distance education resources that can be utilised right now for elearning from home or school. Many top American and European universities offers some free courses. There are a few good free sites as well. My cousin was a teacher in Africa for a couple of years and found Alison.com useful for the students and even teachers to use on their own to help with their study and class preparation. The youth seemed to really respond to it as well.