Last updated: 02.08.12

Move to e-learning 'is bound to happen'

Online learning will inevitably have a role to play in the academia of the future, an education correspondent has said.

Writing in the National Journal, Fawn Johnson said dismissing e-learning "ignores the potential of technology to improve education".

She said the organisations that create virtual learning environments "speak eloquently" about how this innovation could improve educational outcomes, assisting teachers by allowing them to enhance their performance without children losing "valuable classroom experience".

There is an "intangible quality" to learning in traditional lessons, the expert said, noting people who are concerned about the rise online learning courses can often be worried that this could be lost.

Furthermore, "naysayers" are "understandably" worried that e-learning programmes will emerge that are "built my computer whizzes who have no educational background" and will therefore worsen educational outcomes, the specialist declared.

However, she explained there are a wide range of e-learning courses, some of which are designed to revolutionise education in classrooms rather than supplant it.

Live tutoring can be performed with webcams and diagnostic tests can determine the skills, talents and requirements of particularly students, Ms Johnson continued.

Learners can then use these tools to prepare for college entrance examinations or advanced placement tests, she added.

There are some questions about e-learning that may need to be answered, the specialist said.

Ms Johnson questioned which subjects would be most appropriate for distance learning online and whether any would not be.

She also wondered whether people at colleges and further educational institutions would be better served with e-learning than those in tertiary education and whether a teacher who is communicating to the class through a webcam is as effective as one who is standing at the front of the room.

The expert asked: "Where can technology make the most difference in boosting student achievement?"

Online courses offer students the ability to add courses when those at desired times are closed or to accommodate work schedules.

"Learning online is - of course - not the same as learning face to face," instructional designer for Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health Sara Hill was recently quoted as saying by the New York Times.

"That is likely good news for anyone who can recall an hour lost listening to an interminable lecture in an overheated classroom," she added.