E Learning Definition: What Is It?
Let's start with the e learning definition. Also known as online learning or online education, e-learning is any training or educational courses delivered using digital means (software and hardware). It comes in many forms, including:
- Teachers leading live one-on-one or online group lessons using videoconferencing tools;
- Students watching pre-recorded video lectures or listening to podcasts;
- Learners using educational apps to learn a particular skill (e.g., a foreign language);
- Schools introducing blended learning platforms that allow students to pass tests and send assignments online.
E-learning can power both synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences:
- Synchronous learning includes any online activity that happens live. For example, this can be a Zoom seminar or lecture taught in real time.
- Asynchronous learning online means students can access materials any time they want. Pre-recorded video lessons and interactive learning games are two good examples here.
Is e-learning the same as distance learning? While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there's one key difference between them.
In e-learning, students and teachers can use digital tools during in-person classes. In distance learning, they're not in the same room, by definition. So instead, both parties use digital tools to bridge that distance.
The global e-learning market is worth an astounding $315 billion. The lockdowns caused by the pandemic accelerated its growth. Approximately three-fourths of U.S. students, for example, were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2020 – that's a 97% year-on-year increase.
So, e-learning is here to stay. But is online education good or bad? Let's try to answer this question by breaking down online education advantages and disadvantages.
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Pros and Cons of Online Learning
Before breaking down both the pros and cons of online learning, let's be clear: they depend on who you ask. For example, a student taking classes online won't list the same thing as their professor.
Plus, for some learners, online learning is simply not a good fit – and for others, it's the best one ever. Their answer depends on their autonomy, preferred learning approaches, the environment they need, and so on.
This said, let's review the advantages and disadvantages of online classes for school students.
6 Advantages of Online Education
Online learning comes with inarguable advantages. They're convenient, they facilitate access to higher education, and they help students save time.
When it comes to practicalities, here are the seven major benefits of online education that students can take advantage of.
Convenience is at the forefront of the advantages of online education, and that's for a good reason.
Most of the time, students can take online courses at their own pace. Learning material is available at any time and from anywhere, after all. This allows students to maintain a flexible schedule and balance their personal life and, in some cases, a job with studies.
Online learning is usually accessible from multiple devices: smartphones, tablets, and laptops or PCs. So, learners can review materials or participate in interactive activities on the go (while they commute, for example).
They're Easier to Participate In
Education at a tap or a click of a button – that's what studying online means in practice. College students can gain access to course content whenever and wherever they need to, for one.
They also have more control over how they learn, too. For example, they can choose to focus on reading course materials, watching videos, or chatting with other students.
A virtual classroom doesn't force social interaction, either. This can be a tremendous benefit for students struggling with social anxiety.
Combine all of that, and it's understandable why online learning tends to improve attendance and success rates among college students.
They Make Education Easier to Access
Here's another one of the advantages of online classes: online learning renders higher education more accessible.
For one, earning an online degree is often more affordable and less time-consuming than enrolling in an in-person program. Plus, more and more employers recognize these degrees when students put their online education on a resume.
What's more, anyone can attend an online course, regardless of where they are. Students don't have to save money to move to another city to enroll in traditional classes. They don't have to limit themselves to accessible campuses if they have a disability, either.
They're More Time-Efficient & Flexible
Even learners with busy schedules or full-time jobs can find the time to learn at their own pace. Online education gives the opportunity to do just that: be in charge of their learning process.
Online students can choose to study when they're at their most productive – or simply when they have the time, be it late in the evening or early in the morning.
When it comes to living online classes, students also don't have to commute – or even dress up – to attend them. That makes online programs more time-efficient, as well.
They Facilitate Access to Resources
E-learning means the world of knowledge is the learner's oyster, to paraphrase a popular expression. Unlike in a traditional classroom setting, online, students and educators aren't limited by textbooks and printing services available.
Educators can add as many learning materials as they want to cover every aspect of the topic – and cater to the students who want to go deeper into it.
Students, in turn, can choose from dozens of formats and delivery styles. This allows them to find the materials and learning styles that work best for them personally.
They Boost Creative Teaching
This is one of the least evident advantages of online learning, but it's an important one.
Teaching in a virtual classroom comes with certain limitations. So, educators have no other choice but to find new, more student-centered approaches to transferring knowledge and fostering skills.
Educational institutions also have to account for many learning styles and preferences. For example, when developing special education programs for online students, they have to remember that some prefer quizzes and reading materials. In contrast, others learn best when watching videos or playing games.
4 Disadvantages Online Class Comes With
Online courses aren't without downsides, of course. For example, they require a great deal of self-discipline and self-motivation from learners. They also make collaboration way more challenging than in a traditional classroom setting. And they rely heavily on technology.
Let's take a closer look at the four disadvantages online class comes with.
They Require More Effort to Focus
Without tremendous self-discipline and a strong ability to focus, online students may struggle with making the most out of e learning platforms.
That's understandable: if students take their online classes at home or on the go, they have to deal with way more distractions than there'd be in the classroom. And if they learn at their own pace, it takes some power of will and motivation to simply get started with or get back to the lessons.
This is also why online students are more likely to require college paper help than their counterparts in the traditional classroom setting.
They Make Collaboration Harder
Most opponents of online education name the potential lack of collaboration as its main drawback. And it can be a real threat to learners that need face-to-face social interaction and collaboration to study productively.
Collaborating on a project over Zoom can be frustrating if people try to talk over one another. It also lacks the same spirit and engagement that comes with in-person teamwork. That's because collaboration is often reduced to emails, messages, and tools like Google Docs or Trello.
Student-teacher communication is also more challenging in online programs. For example, it's more difficult to ask questions during live online courses; plus, talking to the educator in person can be next to impossible.
They Depend on Technology Working Smoothly
An internet connection is a must for online learning. So, if the student lives in an area without broadband internet access, watching video lessons or attending Zoom classes can be a tough feat.
You can also list the dependency on devices among the disadvantages online class attendance comes with.
Imagine you're an online student. Your laptop unexpectedly breaks down, and you have a deadline coming up. You may have no other choice but to turn to a dissertation writing service to avoid failing the online class!
They Require Certain Computer Literacy Skills
This might not seem like much of a con for the tech-savvy among you. But the quality of the online learning experience does depend on the digital skills of both the learner and the educator.
If you ever had to attend an online class taught by someone far from tech-savvy, you know how frustrating it is to be on the receiving end of it. Unfortunately, this can turn online classes into a waste of time.
And if you're the one lacking computer skills, this can be a full-fledged education barrier for you, too.
Tools of E Learning
E-learning can involve using dozens of various digital tools, from quiz platforms and language learning apps to videoconferencing tools and learning management systems.
That said, all tools of e learning can be grouped into four categories. Let's review each of them.
Communication is essential whether you need to drop a line to a research paper writer or ask your teacher some questions. That's why communication tools are irreplaceable in online courses – and why all e learning platforms include them.
Communication tools can serve two goals
- Fostering teamwork and building a sense of community between learners;
- Facilitating the student-teacher exchanges.
Here are a few examples of communication tools used in online learning:
- Online forums, chats, and discussion boards;
- Videoconferencing applications like Zoom and Skype;
- Email and instant messaging apps like Slack or Discord.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
Learning management systems are the software that allows educators to create, upload, and manage online course content easily. They also facilitate delivering online courses and monitoring learners' progress.
Here are five key features of any LMS:
- Social learning and communication tools for educators and learners;
- Analytics and reporting to track the group and individual progress;
- Course management to create online courses, enroll learners, set deadlines, and more;
- Virtual classrooms and video conferencing tools;
- Gamified learning activities and quizzes.
Some educational institutions have custom LMS for their online programs and courses. Others use the off-the-shelf systems dominating the e learning industry, such as:
- Khan Academy;
Digital Learning Games
Gamification of the learning process improves student engagement, motivation to study, and knowledge retention. How? Playing games is fun and effortless; that draws learners in and makes them more attentive.
So, it's no wonder gamified learning is a must-have for any e-learning platform these days – and why it helped create standalone online learning gamification apps, too.
Here are a few examples of games that can be used in online programs:
- Prodigy Math Game;
Online Learning Materials
This is the 'miscellaneous' category of e-learning tools. It includes all the materials that don't fit into the categories above. Typically, these aren't standalone apps; they are educational content students can use in distance learning.
This content can come in various formats, such as:
- Reading materials (articles, e-books, etc.);
- Workbooks and activity notebooks;
Sesame Street and PBS Kids are two good examples of online learning materials for kids. For college students, those can include topic-specific YouTube channels, pre-recorded video lectures (e.g., MIT OpenCourseware), and websites like Open Culture.
5 Studying Online Tips
Online learning, despite all of its perks, comes with certain challenges. It requires students to take charge of their learning process, which can be a tough feat for some.
So, if you're taking or plan to take an online course, keep in mind these five studying online tips that'll help you ace it.
Keep Yourself Laser-Focused
Your ability to concentrate can depend on many factors. Your physical needs (hungry or sleepy students are rarely productive), your mood, and your environment are just a few.
In e-learning, there's no one-size-fits-all trick that will make you laser-focused by magic. So, think back to all the times you were most concentrated. What do they have in common? Where and when is it easier for you to focus?
Based on your answers, develop corresponding habits. If the right playlist kicks in your focus, make it a habit to use your noise-canceling headphones when studying. Schedule your study sessions accordingly if you learn best late in the evening.
Polish Off Your Digital Skills
You don't want the lack of digital skills to stand in the way of your online education, right?
You probably won't need to develop them from scratch – you've probably been using a laptop and smartphone since you were a kid. Still, it's worth checking if you have the right digital skills for online learning.
These skills include:
- Using online learning tools efficiently;
- Collaborating and developing relationships online;
- Having the right online safety and data security habits;
- Troubleshooting common software and hardware issues.
If you need to use a new tool for an online class, set aside time to familiarize yourself with it in advance.
Find the Right Study Space
Since you don't have a physical classroom to signal to your brain, 'It's time to study,' you'll need to find a dedicated study space for online learning. Of course, you should use this space only to study; otherwise, this trick won't work.
Your study space can be a library, living room, or even a nearby coworking space. But before you choose it, make sure it's:
- Quiet and comfortable;
- Spacious enough;
- Equipped with a reliable internet connection;
- Tidy and neat.
Get Ahead of Common Distractions
You often see this advice on lists of studying online tips, and that's not without reason. Distractions are what break your concentration, by definition. So, to be a productive learner, you need to stay ahead of them.
Here are three actionable tips to help you avoid common distractions:
- Put away your phone somewhere you can't see it (and put off your smartwatch if you wear one);
- Install an impulse blocker on your laptop if you can't help opening YouTube or another website unrelated to studying;
- Put on noise-canceling headphones to tune out the noise.
Know Where to Turn to for Help
If you feel you can't manage online learning for one reason or another, don't hesitate to reach out for help. Share your struggles with your teacher or fellow students. Or, find a 'write my essays for me' service.
So, is online education good or bad? The answer depends on you, whether you're a learner or an educator.
If you, as a student, can keep yourself disciplined and motivated to pursue an online program, you can reap all the benefits of online learning. And if you, as an educator, can find ways to foster collaboration and engagement despite the constraints of a virtual classroom, your students will become more productive learners.
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