How e-learning has impacted education
Since its inception over two decades ago, e-learning has continuously grown and made its way into all corners of the education sector, including schools, universities, registered training organisations (RTOs), and technical and further education (TAFEs).
In this article, we cover how e-learning has impacted the education sector, and how you can make sure any e-learning resource you create effectively engages students.
The impact of e-learning in schools
Let’s start with schools. Once upon a time, students only ever used pens, papers and textbooks to absorb and retain information. But now, they have access to a myriad of e-learning resources to supplement traditional face-to-face learning.
While this has a lot of inherent benefits for students, such as flexibility, learning how they like and setting their own pace, a research paper commissioned by Federal Government, the Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES) and Mitchell Institute at Victoria University revealed that transitioning to fully online learning can actually lead to a decline in learning, especially for disadvantaged students (those from low socioeconomic, rural/remote and Indigenous communities or those with a disability)¹.
Ultimately, the modelling showed that the longer students of all levels learn remotely, the more likely it is that they’ll perform below what they would have in the classroom; and that for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the gap is a lot wider. So while e-learning allows students to take more control of their learning, it’s not necessarily meant to be a complete replacement and could end up doing more harm than good if it’s used as one.
The impact of e-learning in adult education
Moving on to older students, the 2019 National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) report Online delivery of VET qualifications: current use and outcomes discusses the state of online learning in the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector.
Students partaking in online VET qualifications have the opportunity to learn wherever and whenever they want, but according to the report, online VET has higher subject withdrawal rates and lower course completion rates compared to other modes of delivery. This can be attributed to many factors including poor quality training, the delivery mode not suiting the student, issues with securing a work placement (if required), or the student lacking access to the necessary tools or technology to complete the course. On the flipside, when these factors aren’t an issue, there’s a better chance of VET success.
When it comes to VET, teachers typically use a competency-based training system to measure the practical skillset of their students, which can be difficult to do online. One of the biggest challenges the VET sector faces is therefore creating an e-learning resource that generates the same outcomes as face-to-face classes.
The key to creating a solid online course is using the right tools for the target audience and incorporating the following five factors the report contributes to good delivery practice:
- positive and supportive training providers
- students who have realistic expectations of the course and delivery
- learning resources that are well-structured, up-to-date and cater to different learning preferences
- effective student support systems
- skilled and empathetic trainers with good problem-solving skills.
How can we ensure online learning engages students?
Ultimately, an e-learning resource needs to engage the learner for them to want to participate in it and reach the educational finish line. When creating an e-learning resource, it’s important to look at the current and emerging technologies that could help design and deliver effective online content.
To give you an idea of what’s out there, here is a list of current technologies that are up for grabs:
- Online learning platforms / Learning management systems such as Moodle, Canvas, Axcelerate (and many more)
- Video conferencing technology for virtual classrooms such as Google Meets, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex
- Technology for simulated and interactive activities
- Global Positioning System (GPS)
- Application Programming Interface (API)
- Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) tools
- Social networking sites
Just as important, here are the emerging technologies that making their mark:
- Virtual Reality (VR)
- Augmented Reality (AR)
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Big data
- Machine learning
- Wearable devices
This article doesn’t offer an opinion on whether online learning is better or worse than the traditional classroom teaching, but one thing is certain; due to the cost efficiency, the flexibility and transferability of online learning, it is most definitely here to stay.
1: Victoria University. (2020). New research shows the impact of online classroom on learning. https://www.vu.edu.au/mitchell-institute/schooling/new-research-shows-the-impact-of-online-classroom-on-learning