The proliferation of knowledge could well be thought of as the single biggest contribution of technology. Whether through CD-ROMs, CBT’s or the Internet, accessible eLearning content has allowed millions of people across the globe skills themselves up and lead better lives. From being just an idea that was first floated in an international conference in Los Angeles, eLearning is today the fastest growing market in education. With the explosion of the internet this phenomenon is only going to grow. So where do traditional centres of learning figure in this age of technology? Will the myriad advantages offered by eLearning be the death of universities?
From stone tablets to paper books to web based tutorials, throughout the ages man has found ways and means to spread the light of education. As civilizations grew and more things were discovered, there came a necessity to make the dispersal of knowledge more sophisticated. The need to preserve and pass on this knowledge to generations led to the establishment of universities and schools, high centres of education, the walls of which saw the human race go from strength to strength. But since time immemorial, conventional education has always been connected with economics and cultural barriers. Women and those in the lowest economic rungs of society could not go into schools and universities. In the early 19th century, the concept of distance education changed the perception of education when it was taken out of the confines of a walled classroom and made available to all. Distance education became more sophisticated with the advent of radio and television and the invention of the internet completely changed the face of it. It had now become more accessible, cheaper and interactive with the introduction of multi-dimensional teaching concepts. Educators could now use graphics, multimedia, sound and motion to teach concepts that could otherwise be taught only through practical’s.
This accessibility that allows education to reach even hard-to-reach learners is among the most measurable advantages of eLearning. Imagine a Harvard professor conducting online eLearning courses to a group of students in Africa. Questions are asked, concepts are learned, doubts are cleared and minds are ignited. This is the democratization of education, which is no longer confined to the haloed walls of a university.
Not just those deprived due to socio-economic reasons, but the anytime, anywhere, anyplace advantages of visual lessons has been widely appreciated by employees of organizations, who need to invest in continuous improvement. An instructor who is geographically isolated can help employees learn the latest tools and techniques and upgrade their skills. These latest know-hows can be incorporated to improve processes and enhance organizational profits and credibility.
Also, eLearning is the step forward to make education more sustainable and environment friendly. A study conducted by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) and the UK’s Open University Design Innovation Group (DIG) has found that distance learning courses consumed nearly 90% less energy and produced 85% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional campus university courses. With only a computer and a remote connection, students can save time, travel and boarding cost while aiming for higher education.
With so many advantages, will eLearning be the end of conventional education as we know it? Unless classrooms adopt technology and move with the times, it could very well be. While many colleges have adopted a blended learning approach by using part face-to-face and part online training, they still need to incorporate more technology to survive.
We live in times where technology changes are as rapid as it can get. Staying in tune with this changing technology is the only thing that leads to success. eLearning incorporates all the latest technologies giving learners a chance to experience simulations, improve their skills, and take a shot at aiming for higher education at moderate costs. With so many myriad advantages, eLearning just might be able to scale the traditional walls of a conventional teaching institute and completely change the way education is delivered.