The term e-learning covers a wide set of applications and processes, including computer based learning, web-based learning and mobile learning. The use of computers and the Internet forms the major component of e-learning where learners can access their learning materials online at any place and time. It is a network enabled transfer of skills and knowledge, and the delivery of education is made to a large number of recipients at the same or different times.
With the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and lockdown, e-learning became the go-to-method to ensure that learners are able to access their studies without the need for them to be in the same venue with an educator. Many learners have adapted well to e-learning interventions.
As with most things, it has both benefits and disadvantages. The benefits of e-learning are:
- It offers great flexibility and allows every student to learn at his/her own pace.
- Participants, especially at remote sites, have anytime, anywhere access to training opportunities at their convenience, which are relevant to their specific needs without being away from the workplace or their homes.
- Participation in training can easily be checked and participant progress can be monitored, thus allowing educators to focus most of their energies on education rather than the associated mundane tasks.
- It can be customised with other realities such as virtual reality (VR courses) in order to provide certain virtual experiences in the absence of face-to-face training, e.g. safety training.
- It makes it easier for the student to grasp difficult concepts by using audio/visual tools for better conceptualisation.
- It levels the playing field and gives each learner an equal opportunity to obtain knowledge, despite any physical impediments that they might be struggling with. Screen readers for visually challenged students and speech-to-text for students who cannot write or type are a few examples of such helpful tools.
- E-learning eliminates the geographical barriers and allows students to access the highest quality of education from the best institutes, regardless of where they are situated.
- It makes it easier for working professionals to pursue certification to advance their careers, as they don’t have to commute long distances while managing the work burden.
- The time required to travel, as well as the time to schedule training events for multiple participants, are reduced.
- It significantly reduces the cost of education and makes it affordable for learners who belong to financially challenged families. Virtual classrooms have no need for physical lecture halls, which tend to get very costly.
- Training can be rolled out quickly to a large number of participants.
Together with the advantages there are a few disadvantages associated with this method of learning, some of them are:
- Online student feedback is limited. The immediate feedback and traditional methods of providing student feedback don’t always work in an e-learning environment.
- E-learning can cause social isolation due to remoteness of participants and lack human communication and interaction. Social isolation coupled with a lack of communication often leads to several mental health issues such as heightened stress, anxiety and negative thoughts.
- E-learning requires strong self-motivation and time management skills. In traditional classrooms, face-to-face communication with educators, peer-to-peer activities, and strict schedules, are numerous factors which constantly push students towards their learning goals. Without these, students are left to fend for themselves during their learning activities, without anyone constantly urging them on towards their learning goal, resulting in some students falling off-track during their studies.
- Although e-learning can be highly effective at improving the academic knowledge of the students; the development of communicational skills of the students is an area often neglected during online lessons. This will inevitably lead to many graduates who excel in theoretical knowledge, but who are unable to pass their knowledge on to others.
- Cheating is one of the biggest disadvantages of e-learning. Online students can cheat on assessments more easily as they take assessments in their own environment and while using their personal computer, without direct supervision. This often leads to fraudulent test results.
- Most e-learning training providers choose to focus largely or entirely on developing theoretical knowledge, rather than practical skills, due to the limitations of online learning. This disrupts the balance in training methodologies.
- E-learning is limited to certain disciplines, as highly practical interventions cannot be successfully taught on-line.
- Online learning is inaccessible to computer illiterate people and to those who live in areas with poor infrastructure, e.g. many rural or underdeveloped areas.
The pandemic has made it crystal clear that there is an urgent need to spread education across borders, companies and all parts of society. We also need to be aware of the fact that we may not be able to fully return to traditional methods of learning anytime soon. If there is a possibility that e-learning can help us achieve our goals, we must give it a chance. However, it is equally important for the educational fraternity to overcome the challenges impacting e-learning. Whether we like it or not, e-learning is here to stay. Let us make use of it!
This article contains information from https://e-student.org/