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Electronic Learning

Electronic learning or E-learning is a general term used to refer to computer-enhanced learning. It is used interchangeably in so many contexts that it is critical to be clear what one means when one speaks of 'eLearning'. In many respects, it is commonly associated with the field of advanced learning technology (ALT), which deals with both the technologies and associated methodologies in learning using networked and/or multimedia technologies.

Market

The worldwide e-learning industry is estimated to be worth over 38 billion euros according to conservative estimates, although in the European Union only about 20% of e-learning products are produced within the common market. Developments in Internet and multimedia technologies are the basic enabler of e-learning, with content, technologies and services being identified as the three key sectors of the e-learning industry, although it can be seen that there are two additional sectors, those being the consulting and support sectors. There are many organisations in this market, including companies such as New Horizons, Knowledge Anywhere, TutorVista and many others.

Growth of E-Learning

By 2003, more than 1.9 million students were participating in on-line learning at institutions of higher education in the United States. Many higher education, for-profit institutions, now offer on-line classes. By contrast, only about half of private, non-profit schools offer them. The Sloan report, based on a poll of academic leaders, says that students generally appear to be at least as satisfied with their on-line classes as they are with traditional ones. Private Institutions may become more involved with on-line presentations as the cost of instituting such a system decreases. Properly trained staff must also be hired to work with students on-line. These staff members must be able to not only understand the content area, but also be highly trained in the use of the computer and Internet.

Technology

Many technologies can be, and are, used in eLearning:

  •   Screencasts
  •   ePortfolios
  •   Electronic performance support system
  •   PDA's
  •   MP3 Players with multimedia capabilities
  •   Web-based teaching materials
  •   Hypermedia in general
  •   Multimedia CD-ROMs
  •   Web sites and web 2.0 communities
  •   Discussion boards
  •   Collaborative software
  •   E-mail
  •   Blogs
  •   Wiki
  •   Text chat
  •   Computer aided assessment
  •   Educational animation
  •   Simulations
  •   Games
  •   Learning management software
  •   Electronic voting systems
  •   Virtual classrooms

Goals of E-Learning

E-Learning lessons are generally designed to guide students through information or to help students perform in specific tasks. Information based e-Learning content communicates information to the student. Examples include content that distributes the history or facts related to a service, company, or product. In information-based content, there is no specific skill to be learned. In performance-based content, the lessons build off of a procedural skill in which the student is expected to increase proficiency.

Computer-based Learning

Computer Based Learning, sometimes abbreviated CBL, refers to the use of computers as a key component of the educational environment. While this can refer to the use of computers in a classroom, the term more broadly refers to a structured environment in which computers are used for teaching purposes. The concept is generally seen as being distinct from the use of computers in ways where learning is at least a peripheral element of the experience (e.g. computer games and web browsing).

Computer-based Training

Computer-based training (CBT) services are where a student learns by executing special training programs on a computer relating to their occupation. CBT is especially effective for training people to use computer applications because the CBT program can be integrated with the applications so that students can practice using the application as they learn. Historically, CBTs growth has been hampered by the enormous resources required: human resources to create a CBT program, and hardware resources needed to run it. However, the increase in PC computing power, and especially the growing prevalence of computers equipped with CD-ROMs, is making CBT a more viable option for corporations and individuals alike. Many PC applications now come with some modest form of CBT, often called a tutorial.

Web-based training (WBT) is a type of training that is similar to CBT; however, it is delivered over the Internet using a web browser. Web-based training frequently includes interactive methods, such as bulletin boards, chat rooms, instant messaging, videoconferencing, and discussion threads. WBT is usually a self-paced learning medium though some systems allow for online testing and evaluation at specific times.


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