e-Learning in organisations
E-learning is commonly referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning.
E-learning is commonly referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning. A number of other terms are also used to describe this mode of teaching and learning. They include online learning, virtual learning, distributed learning, network and web based learning. Fundamentally, they all refer to educational processes that utilize information and communications technology to mediate asynchronous as well as synchronous learning and teaching activities.
The letter “e” in e-learning stands for the word “electronic”, e learning would incorporate all educational activities that are carried out by individuals or groups working online or offline.
- E-Learning types.
There are four categories of e learning, and three types of e-learning.
The four categories are:
2.1. New information: this is generally passive learning. The learner will simply receive and read the information, which may be up date from time to time.
2.2. Knowledge transfer: this requires some participation by the learner, who will read, listen, and answer questions.
2.3. New skills: this will involve more participation. The learner will read, listen and try out the new skills, and will then be assessed for progress made.
2.4. Certification: this is the highest level of e-learning, because there is an examination at the end of the course, and a certificate awarded.
The three types of e-learning are:
2.1. Traditional: these courses have depth of content and are usually produced by experts, and to give the learner a real understanding of the subject.
2.2. Rapid self-directed: also called asynchronous. This is usually related to one specific aspect of the subject, and the courses are produced rapidly and liable to change. The learner works at his or her own pace. It could be based on CDs, DVDs, networks, and intranet.
2.3. Rapid, controlled: It called synchronous, because it is conducted at set times, for example in phone-ins or internet classrooms. It is conducted in real time, with a live instructor. All Learners log in at the prescribed time and can speak to the group under the control of the instructor, by raising a cyber hand. The course may last weeks or even much longer.
- E-Learning and communication technologies.
3.1. Communication technologies are generally categorized as asynchronous or synchronous.
3.1.1. Asynchronous activities use technologies such as blogs, wikis, and discussion boards. Participants may exchange ideas or information without other participants’ involvement at the same time. E-mail is also asynchronous since only one participant needs to be online to send or receive an e-mail.
3.1.2. Synchronous activities involve all participants exchanging ideas and information at the same time. Examples of synchronous communication include face-to-face discussion, online chat sessions, and virtual classrooms or meetings.
Virtual classrooms and online meeting spaces often use a mix of asynchronous and synchronous communication technologies.
3.2. Elearning technologies encompass three main areas of activity:
3.2.1. Content creation and management: the sourcing, creation, storage and management of elearning content - function typically addressed by a learning content management system (LCMS).
3.2.2. Learning management: the capture and application of information about learning resources, existing skills and learning activities to measure and manage learning outcomes at the organizational level – functions typically addressed by a learning management system (LMS).
3.2.3. Learning activity: the delivery of elearning content, facilitating interaction and learning assessment – functions typically performed by instructors or trainers.
- Benefits of Elearning.
There are many benefits that can be derived from e-learning. Some of these are as listed below:
5.1. Flexibility, Accessibility, Convenience
Learners can access the materials in their own time and study at their own pace and place.
5.2. Cross platform
Learners can access the content through window-based, Mac-based or UNIX-based computers.
5.3. Low delivery costs
Once e-content has been developed and uploaded on the server, it is relatively inexpensive to distribute domestically and worldwide.
5.4. Ease of update
It enables the content to be easily and regularly updated and instantly available to all learners.
5.5. Collaborative learning
E-learning promotes collaborative learning thus resulting in more engaging and richer learning experiences.
Content can be delivered to a small or large number of learners with little effort.
- Management and implementation of e-learning.
Important questions should be asked before implementing any e learning system as the following:
5.1. Are your learners ready for e-learning and do they have the technical skills needed to utilize it?
With this question you want to look at the level of general computer literacy and availability in your organization. While expertly designed e-Learning courses that utilize the latest learning platforms are intuitively designed, your users still need at least basic computer skills to successfully interact with and navigate within their courses. So if your learners are not comfortable with computer usage, how can you train them to ensure acceptance and the success of your course?
5.2. Do you have the right administrative roles and procedures in place?
Creating an e-Learning program comes with the introduction of new roles and responsibilities for your organization. For example, once your course is built, you need to decide who your platform administrators will be and who will be responsible for enrolling users, deleting accounts, editing profiles and so forth. And while there are self-enrolment options, sometimes this can lead to duplicate accounts which will need to be consolidated so this role cannot be completely ignored.
5.3. How does e-Learning integrate with your overall educational or development strategy?
Your e-Learning program needs to gel with your learning or educational objectives and it has to provide real value to your learners. And by value to your learners we mean that it has to provide relevant and useful knowledge that they can apply in their real lives.
5.4 Is Your Organization Committed to developing your e-Learning program?
Implementing change of any sort is often met with resistance and does come with a learning curve. So your leadership team needs to champion your e-Learning program and recognize, reward, and reinforce participation throughout the organization. The value to your organization and higher purpose of your e-Learning program needs to be effectively communicated to all levels while providing ample opportunity for discussion.
5.5. Will your courses be instructor led and feature group collaboration or will they be independent learning?
Creating an independent learning course can reduce employee costs for your organization as you would not need a trainer or instructor to facilitate the work. Also, these courses can be created in ways that “auto-grade” and display instant feedback to the learner thereby further helping in this regard. Independent learning courses also eliminate the need to create formal “semesters” as each user is basically learning at their own pace and at their own convenience.
5.6. Will e-Learning provide the return on investment you’re looking for?
From a financial return perspective, the appropriate department at your organization should be able to track the various costs incurred or saved as a result of your e-Learning program.
Some Factors you may want to look into are the indirect and direct costs of implementing your program. Direct costs could be things like actual fees paid for the consultation and development of your online course along with any costs associated with the setup and maintenance of your learning management platform. Indirect costs may not be so obvious and can include things such as your cost of your IT and support staff.
5.7. How will you measure success and what key performance indicators will you use?
Deciding how you will accurately track the effectiveness of your e-Learning program is no doubt a critical component in understanding the value of your e-Learning investment.
In doing this, many options are available and various performance indicators can be utilized. For example, your organization can track performance scores on key learning assignments and also create assessments that evaluate your audiences knowledge and behavior prior to and then after successful completion of the course.
Another metric would be to track the number of “graduates” or individuals that successfully complete the course over the number that take it.
A more qualitative measure would be to create opportunities for your learners to provide feedback on your e-learning course through either the built-in learning platform surveys or by other forums.
6. Evaluating the impact of e-learning.
It is crucial to have processes in place for knowing how you are doing with what you have initiated. This will include how your staff and students are engaging in e-learning. Without this kind of evidence, you are in no position to know how you might be traveling and what changes and/or improvements are necessary. Evaluation of impacts is often neglected or inefficiently carried out in most educational settings. Evaluation of the impacts of your processes should be closely integrated into the planning and implementation of any e-learning activity.
The term “evaluation” is being used here to refer to the systematic acquisition of feedback on the use, worth and impact of some activity, program or process in relation to its intended outcomes.