Technology has become an essential part of our lives.
It has altered the way we interact and communicate, the way we make business transactions and even the way we dress.
With this in mind, it is only right that we feel the impact of technology in the way we learn. So, I welcome you to the new age phenomenon known as eLearning!
What Is It?
Simply out, eLearning is learning through the use of electronic technologies to gain access to educational materials and curriculum outside of a physical classroom.
It involves learning solely through the internet and it includes computerized electronic learning, distance education and online learning.
It is different from courses that are taught through a CD or DVD ROM, television channel or video and audio tapes. It is a highly interactive medium that affords you the opportunity to interact with professors, lecturers and other students in your virtual class.
The lectures can either be delivered live or prerecorded. The professor or lecturers in charge set and grade examinations and tests at prearranged times.
This medium has learning has proved to be so popular that some experts have claimed that it would replace the conventional classroom learning in a matter of years.
Nowadays, eLearning has gradually been graduating from being just a means of distance learning. It has started transforming and influencing the mode of instruction in university campuses around the country.
With conventional classroom learning, the students have to live inside the school campus for the entirety of their studies. For those that choose to live outside the campus, they commute to class every day.
The physical presence has been the definition of the staple of education over the years. It has also influenced in shaping the educational curriculum as well.
However, eLearning has blurred these lines. Now, geography or physical proximity is no longer a factor in the relationship between the student and the educational institution.
Now, some institutions have specially designed graduate courses for working adults. The classes for these programs are usually taken online and the few times there are face to face interactive sessions, it is for short term residencies.
eLearning has evolved to the stage where instructors and institutions now adapt it to suit certain objectives.
With eLearning, students now have a choice in where, when and how they want to learn.
Also, there is now improved access for students who, due to some reasons, cannot attend the conventional campus-based educational programs.
Chief however is the fact that the adoption of eLearning methods and media had given institutions more control over finances. Through eLearning, there is really no restriction to the number of students that can enrol in a course since physical space is not a limitation anymore.
This form of eLearning is just the most basic advancement of traditional eLearning.
In this instance, activities fixed for the class are scheduled around class meetings. Credits in this program is determined by the number of hours the student spends in face to face class meetings and it is available in different formats like workshops, lectures, studios, field trips or internships.
The technological advancement that qualifies this sort of program as an eLearning for!at is because these type of programs involves the usage of computers in certain functions.
For instance, a software simulation or design software can be used for engineering or arts applications but the course will still be largely dependent on hours spent in physical classrooms.
Therefore, classroom courses are simply programs that are mainly based on face to face interactions but still employ technology at certain levels.
Synchronous Distributed Course
This type of program uses internet based technologies to extend normal classroom lectures and activities to students in remote sites live.
It utilizes tools like web conferencing to give non-campus based students access to a classroom experience and it does this according to a schedule fixed for face to face classroom sessions.
This program offers courses that mix campus based students with those that are based in remote locations.
This program offers a bit of flexibility for remote students since they have the opportunity to record lectures and other activities and thus view them later.
Web Enhanced Course
This serves as a complement for normal class sessions and it does so without reducing the number of hours required for class meetings.
It requires internet access for the completion of its course requirements. The task or lessons participated in online only augment classroom activities.
This type of program is similar to traditional courses but they are categorized separately because web enhanced courses will need added student and faculty and technological assistance and support.
Blended Classroom Course (Hybrid)
In this instance, online activity is combined with classroom activities and meeting and it replaces a significant portion of face to face instructional activities.
If a course requires a physical meeting thrice a week, a blended program can replace two of these sessions with online instructional sessions. Thus, the one hour of physical sessions will be on project or laboratory work.
The template for this type of program is usually set by the parent institution. Nowadays, more institutions are adopting blended courses with on-campus students.
This is because of more than 50% of a course's classroom sessions are made virtual or available online, the lecture theatre itself will be free for use for another course.
With online courses, the entirety of the course's activities is conducted online. There are no requirements for on-campus activity or face to face sessions.
These courses entirely remove geography and physical proximity as a factor in the educational relationship.
Although these courses might seem attractive and fascinating to on-campus students, they are designed solely for students who do not have access to the campus. These students might reside in other States in the country or they might even be from other continents.
Flexible Mode Course
This program presents students with multiple delivery modes for instructional or other educational purposes.
It gives students considerable control over the time, venue and the mode of delivering courses.
Two models styled according to this program are the Emporium and HyFlex learning models. Although they are designed for use on campus, they eliminate all classroom sessions and replace them with a learning resource centre that provide personalized assistance on demand and online course materials.
Charlotte Green is a veteran educational instructor and small scale IT professional.
She has facilitated over three hundred hours of virtual classroom sessions with four educational institutions in England.
She occasionally writes for academic periodicals, weeklies and tech magazines.