Technology has impacted all of our personal and professional lives. Among the greatest impacts have been on the world of learning. E-learning. In its simplest form, E-learning utilizes electronic exchanges which connect learners with content. The variations on E-learning are abundant, but there are two basic types:
Asynchronous Learning - Learning not conducted in real time. In this mode, students access content on their own schedule without real time interaction with instructors or students. "Asynchronous learning can be carried out even while the student is offline. Asynchronous e-learning involves coursework delivered via web, email and message boards that are then posted on online forums. In such cases, students ideally complete the course at their own pace, by using the internet merely as a support tool rather than volunteering exclusively for an e-learning software or online interactive classes." (1)
Synchronous Learning Learning is conducted in real time. "Synchronous e-learning involves online studies through chat and videoconferencing. This kind of learning tool is real-time. It is like a virtual classroom which allows students to ask, and teachers to answer questions instantly, through instant messaging, which is why it is called synchronous. Rather than taking lessons alone, students associating themselves with synchronous e-learning software or online courses can easily interact with fellow students and their teachers during the course." (2)
E-learning is both an alternative to traditional brick and mortar learning, as well as a supplement to such learning. Increasingly, technology is used within brick and mortar environments to complement the classroom experience. Forecasts for the future suggest, if not already in place, that hybrid learning between the two will become the standard. Consider the use of Skype or GoToMeeting to conduct synchronous learning with students and instructors located in brick and mortar locations.
BENEFITS AND DRAWBACKS OF E-LEARNING
There are benefits and drawbacks with E-learning. Among the benefits are that there are no boundaries or restrictions, it can be more fun, it's more cost effective and it fits into our busy schedules. Consider as well the enhanced capabilities to offer content through E-learning. When conducted in a synchronous environment, the instructor can bring in guest lecturers regardless of their location to speak to the class virtually. It's not quite as easy in the fixed...