Last updated: 29.11.11

Online learning 'provides tailored learning for individuals'

Outdated ways of thinking about academia inhibit the idea of e-learning, according to one expert who has encouraged adults and young students to embrace the benefits that online resources can provide.

Writing for the Detroit Free Press, Michael Van Beek of the Mackinac Center, which is a research and educational institute based in Michigan, US, suggested that with increasing numbers of people using online learning facilities, attitudes towards the new resource should reflect the positive nature of flexible learning solutions.

According to figures from the centre, the enrolment on to programs for online learning courses has increased by 30 per cent nationally in the US and predictions show that growth for the industry will continue.

Recent figures from Ambient Insight Research showed that the worldwide market for e-learning products was $32.1 billion (£20.5 billion) in 2010 and is expected to rise to $49.9 billion by 2015.

But Mr Van Beek said that to allow for further growth, misconceptions surrounding the method of learning need to be addressed.

"The concept of placing kids in front of a computer and expecting them to learn turns some people cold to the idea of digital learning," he commented.

"Digital learning is really about individually customised instruction, improved learning assessments and expanded access. Using technology, instruction can be tailored to students' unique needs, allowing them to progress at their own pace."

The Michigan Education Association's president, Steven Cook, recently invoked the image of 'computer staring', but Mr Van Beek insisted that there is more to the virtual classroom than this.

He mentioned that there are a range of benefits that would encourage people to stray away from the idea that computer-based learning is just looking at a screen for hours. Flexibility, interaction and an ability to build up organised, self-managed learning schemes are all part of the e-learning experience.

The expert added that school performance should be assessed on individual student learning gains, which are easily measurable in digital learning environments.