THE BENEFITS OF EMPLOYING E LEARNING TECHNOLOGIES AND THE CONSTRAINTS AND CHALLENGES THEY MIGHT PRESENT TO ORGANIZATIONS

The invention of computer technology and its subsequent perpetual innovations have greatly contributed to the modification of learning methodologies. In the contemporary world, a number of people who are utilizing electronic technologies in learning or conducting tutorials increase every day. This new mode of studying outside a traditional classroom is known as ‘e-learning’. Many organizations have also embraced this mode to facilitate short-term and long-term certificates and diploma or degree course programs online. An e-learning program is specifically delivered through internet. Although a facilitator and audiences are very far apart, they can correspond effectively and exchange knowledge and skills. The mode also allows teachers to evaluate a scope of understanding of their students by grading their participation, practical assignments, and assessment tests. Many people have found this mode of learning of great convenience since it allows multitasking and juggling between work and school, or even undertaking various courses simultaneously, which is not possible when physical presence of learners and facilitators is required for learning to take place. In aiming to illustrate the relevance of this mode of learning, this essay focuses on Education Development Center (EDC) and Research Ethics Training Curriculum among others as model e-learning organizations and describes the different types of e-learning methods that have been increasingly adopted in the civilized society. Apart from that, the paper analyzes the emerging trends in e-learning such as a Learning Training Development (LTD) tool. Furthermore, the paper highlights new forms of e-learning, benefits of using e-learning as well as gives an exhaustive discussion of various constraints and challenges in e-learning.

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Types of E-learning

The current electronic technology has brought about three major types of e-learning, which are commonly embraced by learners and especially curriculum facilitators depending on varying contexts that necessitate different learning requirements (Mankin 2009).

  • The first one is text driven e-learning. The curriculum content in this type of learning is simple and presented mainly in text form. It may also include some graphics, a little bit of audio material, and simple evaluation tests. The method is suitable for facilitating compliance courses, which are required to be quickly learned and tested forthwith. It mainly relies on Power Point slides, which are simple in preparation as well as comprehension (Robson 2009). However, a deficiency of interactive components such as gamification and images is one of the biggest limitations of this style and constitutes its major drawback as compared to other styles (Bee & Bee 1994). A physical presence of a teacher who can provide clarifications can be lacking (Levers 1997). That is why many computer users and particularly learners prefer interactive programs that allow quick and easy understanding of the concepts.
  • Another type is interactive e-learning, which, unlike text driven e-learning, is well enhanced with more interactive components and other visual effects used to improve comprehension of information during the lessons (The University of Oxford 2015). The effects include graphic designs and diagrams, charts, maps, and some light video files used to illustrate different realia (Buckley & Caple 2007). All these effects are incorporated to enhance an interactive aspect of learning, which learners require even if they are away from the teacher. This style is inclusive in that, apart from delivering the content, it further exposes learners to various sceneries relevant to the topic being learnt. Learners can, therefore, relate the content with a real life situation without being physical present in a place or near a thing being referred to.
  • The third and final type of e-learning is learning through simulation. It is a highly interactive program of studying that relies heavily upon graphics and audio-visual clips and has a considerable level of gamification. It contains customized 3-D simulations, which can perfectly enable a learner to understand the material studied from different perspectives unlike it is in the text driven and interactive e-learning (Gold et al. 2010). The program is facilitated through special software, which prevents technical hitches due to manipulation by users. This software goes beyond curriculum and encompasses all aspects of learning as well as growth and development aimed at fostering a holistic kind of learning. This means it contains special curriculum contents, evaluation tests, a comprehensive revisions guide, general knowledge encyclopedia, and gaming zones. Moreover, its functionalities can be customized. This type’s all inclusiveness gives it an upper hand in making learning not just an easy but also thrilling experience that one would probably not find in a normal traditional classroom.

E-Learning As a Ltd Tool: Developments In E-Learning

E-learning has also been widely embraced as a learning and training development tool through which knowledge and skills in various careers can be gained. For instance, medical fraternities such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Center for Clinical Global Health Education (CCGHE) currently use this mode to facilitate the learning of such courses as HIV/AIDS, Laboratory Course, Biostatistics, Bioethics, and General Medicine; they also offer eLearning Training to different practitioners across the world. Given the dynamics in the needs in medicine, it would be quite cumbersome to enroll doctors and nurses for short-term courses or workshops in trying to harmonize certain concepts and practices. Internet has become the best mode through which this can be conveniently done. Furthermore, doctors and nurses can acquire new practical skills especially in operations through live sessions, right from their comfortable workstations. Consultations have also become easier thanks to e-learning mode (Sun & Ross 2009).

Apart from that, an accounting has also been greatly modified through this LTD tool. Major transactions have been made to work electronically, and this has made economic sector quite sophisticated and more efficient. Through such organizations as BMJ Learning, accountants are constantly updating their knowledge and skills even at the place of work without having to postpone their activities to travel to the source. Through the same mode, other people have also been enabled to study accounting for their own personal improvement.

Similarly, the following e-learning organizations HRH Global Resource Center and Research Ethics Training Curriculum have also widely relied on the LTD tool for popularization of their curricula on general management and human resource skills. This has aided many managers to acquire and keep updating their skills in personnel management to increase productivity. Since human resource is the most important resource in any entrepreneurship, the demand for skills in managing it is ever increasing (Shipley & Golden 2013). This is the reason why many business organizations are blossoming today due to the abundance of courses on human resource management available online. Besides these, there are other fields such as engineering, agriculture, and business management where the LTD tool has been of great use. With continued innovations, many other industries are embracing e-learning for facilitation of online courses, which has simplified the acquisition of relevant knowledge and offered continuous training in abundance.

New Forms and Trends in E-Learning

The robust e-learning market has ignited the evolution of new trends and forms, which have made learning even more sophisticated. The current civilized society has a wide range of platforms, for example social media, through which massive open online courses (MOOC) and online learning collaborations are easily and conveniently accessible. One the common MOOC providers is NovoEd, which was created by a renowned professor at Stanford University. Novo Ed was originally called Venture Lab and was launched by a Management Science and Engineering Professor, Amin Saberi in collaboration with a PhD Student, Farnaz Ronaghi. It is a new platform which intends to encourage more collaborative work in small groups.

In addition to these forms, the society also acknowledges e-learning on tablets and mEnablement as other upcoming modes of e-learning. These are widely embraced new forms of learning that entail the use of tablets. Unlike notebook or PCs market, the tablet market has shown exponentially robust growth worldwide for its convenience and versatility in use. The tablet usage has proven its compatibility as it serves a tool not also for learning but also for communication, storage, and research among others.

Apart from tablet learning, there are also Pervasive Learning and Embedded Ubiquitous Learning. The former entails learning at the speed of need through the modalities of formal, informal, and social learning with the help of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and others. This makes a perfect sense in that more people have become concept workers having combined working and learning. Due to the emerging technology, pervasive learning has become very effective, and it is widely adopted due to its convenience over other modes. On the other hand, the embedded ubiquitous mode is a kind of learning that is embedded with work in that it is provided at the time of the task execution when the accomplishment of the task at hand is rife. This type of learning is highly dependent on mobile devices.

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Similarly, there is also Responsive/ Multi-Device Learning, which allows learning with the help of any kind of device with little regard to its size, shape, and resolution. This mode provides an optimal experience of viewing, easy and quick reading, and navigation and requires minimum resizing, panning, and scrolling.

More so, there is a wearable computing technology used in learning which enables live sharing of information and makes research work easy by prompt provision of information being searched through usual mobile phones such as smart phones. In line with this, there is learning through Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) 5. So far, learning through HTML is one of the most high tech trends that hit the e-learning industry, which is used by all mobile web companies. It provides tools such as Lectora, Articulate Storyline, and Adobe Captivate, which seem to be the most promising in their compatibility with all devices as well as in provision of publishing options.

Another very popular mode of e-learning is gamification learning, which entails principles that foster learning through playing of games. This mode has the potential of making learning stickier, thus increasing uptake of learned content as well as providing a more inclusive record of work covered in learning. Gamification in learning is specially valued for being popular among young people who may be looking for ways of being recognized and acknowledged for their accomplishments by their peers as a way of establishing and increasing social circles. Some games also have reward points where the status of a player can be displayed in a learning context.

Also there is an informal kind of learning, which is usually embedded in other tasks. This is a self-initiated style of learning, where learning takes place contextually but subconsciously. It highly relies on the conduciveness of the environment with the relevant gadgets used for informal learning (Derven 2008). For instance, it may be prompted by the culture of a given organization. Apart from this, different videos are used in e-learning. Videos engage the learner, and unlike in other forms, its presentability is thrilling and more viral. It provides an opportunity to bridge the gap between different sizes of screens and platforms. They also act as a cross language tool for learning, and the cost of their production and even facilitation is relatively low. All learners can benefit from this learning regardless of their computer literacy levels since it only requires a television set and a digital versatile disk (DVD) player. Therefore, this type is in fact more versatile in that learning can take place anywhere: at home, in hospitals, prisons, refugee camps, picnic sites, among other places.
Lastly, Algorithmically Generated Content in Learning is also widely used. It is often used in games aimed at generating of content to populate the environment of the game. As technology continues to advance, it is hoped that more sophisticated modes of e-learning will emerge and hence learning will take a different twist altogether.

The Benefits of Using E-Learning

The emergence of e-learning provided a solution to many issues associated with normal traditional classroom learning. First of all, e-learning is cost effective if compared to traditional curriculum implementation. The usual learning requires text books, geometrical apparatus, laboratory equipment, and other miscellaneous tools, which are not necessary in e-learning (Derven 2008). This makes e-learning quite cheap, and hence, it can be accessed by more people whose main hindrance to learning could have been a lack of funds. In line with this, the money spent on transportation to and from school or training centers, on boarding facilities and educational tours can be saved and redirected to other projects since e-learning would not require such expenses (Chiu et al. 1999).

Besides, the delivery of content in e-learning is faster compared to the usual classroom learning. This is because an e-learning program does not require such processes as lesson planning before delivery, preparation of lesson notes, note taking by learners, setting up a laboratory for practical lesson, etc. It therefore takes less time to begin and wind up the lesson since learning commences forthwith upon access to the contents. This quickens the coverage of the required material and hence completion of the syllabus as compared to the classroom format.

In addition to that, e-learning is more effective in that the content delivery is well researched and comprehensively packaged together with relevant visual, graphic, and diagrammatic illustrations, which enhance understanding of underlying concepts (Heffernan et al. 2010). A learner or a facilitator is not obliged to search for the required teaching and learning resources unlike it is in the classroom situations. It is also quite beneficial to learners who dwell in environments where most of the resources required in the lesson are absent.

In line with this, the system has little or no impact on the environment. First, since all activities are done electronically, no paper shall be required for writing assignments, taking notes, or publishing books (Reid & Barrington 1999). This shall cut down heavily on the destruction of trees for pulp industries. In addition, since materials required in the lesson are all visual and are permanently present any time the lesson is revisited, no physical or chemical harm shall be done to the environment. Furthermore, the research has revealed that e-learning reduces the carbon footprint and the emission of CO2 per student by 85% (Harrison 2009). This is because such studying requires less energy consumption as compared to normal schooling.

On the same note, e-learning provides learners with freedom of working at their own pace but not at the pace of the slowest learner of a group as it is the case in a classroom. This helps them to cover quite a lot of material within a very short time and therefore forge ahead to other sections (Brown 2002). In addition, if the learner does not understand something the first time, he/she can replay the section as many times as necessary, unlike if he/she was to rely on the teacher for any clarifications. For instance, if the learner is absent from the lesson, he/she will miss out and will have to find other ways to learn that lesson.

Finally, thanks to e-learning programs, learners can select what they deem necessary to learn and discard what they do not value. This is because the program is learner-centered and not teacher-centered unlike in a traditional classroom situation where the teacher alone can determine what is to be learnt whether that makes sense to learners or not. Similarly, due to the thrilling and exciting manner in which the content is presented, understanding of information is optimized, and hence there is a high retention capacity.

Constraints and Challenges of E-Learning

Conversely, e-learning programs have a number of challenges and constraints that can inhibit it effective implementation. First, the mode eliminates a social aspect of learning when learners interact with their teachers and fellow learners to develop their social skills, share experiences, and play games together. For instance, the Research Ethics Training Program has denied its students an opportunity to interact with each other so that they can practice the ethics that they learn. One can wonder how effective the training can be if there is no possibility to contact teachers and students to share experience and exchange ideas. Perpetual use of this program is likely to create people who are social misfits and who may not make a positive contribution to the society (Denby 2010). In addition, since the program is heavily dependent on electricity and networks of service providers, it may not benefit those people who are in areas that lack such significant infrastructure. Furthermore, since most of e-learning programs are computer driven, learners shall require computer literacy as a prerequisite. The Education Portal of Americas, for instance, has been widely embraced in urban areas, where there is adequate infrastructure and people are computer literate as opposed to rural areas, where many people lack computer literacy. Besides, not many people especially from developing nations can afford computer devices for that purpose (Beevers & Rea 2013).

Finally, the facilitation of inter-professional learning (IPL) by such renowned e-learning organizations as Education Development Center (EDC), Educational Portal of the Americas, and Research Ethics Training Curriculum still remains a big challenge even though the benefits associated with it outnumber the drawbacks. First, there are a number of logistical issues curtailing the effective running of IPL. There is a lack of clear management structure that can be followed by all these institutes (Gibb 2008). In addition, preparation of teachers as well as mentors in work places is still a big constraint due to the mix of disciplines and transferability of learning. Lastly, hierarchically established uni-professional program institutes resist the change.

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