Feb 5, 2009

e-Learning Benefits and Challenges

e-Learning is an important consideration in education for several reasons:
  1. Implimented correctly, it can reduce some of the costs associated with education
  2. It allows schools to educate people they could not previously (e.g. people that work for a living, people geographically dispersed, etc.)
  3. Many students communicate better in a web based environment than in the traditional classroom.  Studies have shown that students who would not raise a hand in class will be very active in posting to discussion boards for example.
e-Learning is a challenge for educational institutions because the technology involved can be difficult to manage and use.  A lot of training or practice is required to get proficient in e-Learning solutions.  Also, self-paced WBT courses are very time consuming to create and really only make since when there is a large learning audience (e.g. at a large corporation).  For example, Flash based applications need to target customers that have a large learning audience to justify the expense.  Virtual classrooms are often a more cost efficient solution in many cases.
e-Learning is an active and growing industry.  It may take a hit with the economy being like it is but it will re-emerge very strong.  Since managers are really starting to think about ROI for e-Learning you will see a continuing growth in the systems that manage the e-Learning experience.  Also there will be a shift to what works best for the smallest cost.  This is why a lot of people think the informal learning that social networks bring will be the bedrock for the future of e-Learning.  Social networks are mostly personalized and self-policing and don't require the ongoing cost associated with producing and maintaining rich interactive content in self-paced learning modules.  That's not to say that self-paced learning modules that use Flash are going to disappear.  They will not, but they will be used in a blended learning environment that adds a social/informal aspect.
So, online courses will continue to be offered.  Furthermore, I think e-Learning technologies will continue to grow as instructors start offering more blended classes that take advantage of the best aspects from the traditional classroom and the best aspects of the e-Learning technologies.  As virtual worlds (e.g. second life) become more prevalent in e-Learning more and more subject matter will be able to be taught on line.