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E-Learning: Development, Advantages

and Limitations

E-learning comprises all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching. The
information and communication systems, whether networked or not, serve as specific media
to implement the learning process.[1] The term will still most likely be utilized to reference
out-of-classroom and in-classroom educational experiences via technology, even as advances
continue in regard to devices and curriculum.
E-learning is essentially the computer and network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge.
E-learning applications and processes include Web-based learning, computer-based learning,
virtual classroom opportunities and digital collaboration. Content is delivered via the Internet,
intranet/extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM. It can be self-paced or
instructor-led and includes media in the form of text, image, animation, streaming video and
audio.

History and development


The history of e-learning and starts with an understanding of how instructional design,
instructional technology, and educational technology evolved in the last century. This also
includes having a basic understanding of distance education history.

In October 1999, during a CBT Systems seminar in Los Angeles, a strange new word was used for the first
time in a professional environment – ‘e-Learning’. Associated with such expressions as 'online learning' or
'virtual learning', this word was meant to qualify "a way to learn based on the use of new technologies
allowing access to online, interactive and sometimes personalized training through the Internet or other
electronic media (intranet, extranet, interactive TV, CD-Rom, etc.), so as to develop competencies while
the process of learning is independent from time and place2".

So the word itself is not that old. But what about the elements of e-Learning?

The development of the e-Learning revolution arose from a number of other 'educational revolutions'. Four
such revolutions cited by Billings and Moursund (1988) are:

1. the invention of reading & writing;

2. the emergence of the profession of teacher/scholar;

3. the development of moveable type (print technology);

4. the development of electronic technology.


Pre 1920s: Shift from phrenology (stuffing the mind with knowledge as a mental exercise) to
an empirical knowledge base for education based on Thorndike's Laws of Learning and the
introduction of educational measurement.
1920s: Matching of society needs to education and connecting outcomes and instruction.
Individualized Instruction (II) plans were developed that allowed learners to progress at their
own pace with minimum teacher direction. Contract learning and mastery learning emerged,
and the roots of job analysis and task analysis.
1930s: Even though the great depression affected education in terms of funding and other
respects, the 8 year study plan (Tyler) was a major milestone in specifying general objectives
for education and behavioral objectives were being shaped. Also formative evaluation was
recognized.
1940s: With WWII and the military, mediated strategies such as the use of films for
instruction and AV technology was dominant and the term for instructional technologist was
coined by Finn. The idea of an instructional development team was also initiated.
1950s: With the baby boom after WWII, the Trumpet Plan that recognized small group, large
group independent study instruction was a milestone and Sputnik which initiated federal
funds to education was another milestone. The period also marked the birth of Programmed
Instruction (PI) from behaviorism. Bloom's mastery learning theory and task analysis was
first used by the Air Force personnel.
1960s: Cognitive psychology was dominant in this decade (Gagne, Glaser), and the systems
approach to designing instruction was introduced (Finn). A shift from norm-referenced
testing to criterion-based testing was noted. The focus was on the development of
instructional materials. The first types of teaching machines were developed, while
instructional film became more creative and broadened its reach to children in schools.
Programmed text and instructional films were some learning technologies used in the
1960s.The advent of large scale television availability brought on a new learning delivery
method. The expenses were high and the delivery of the information challenging. The use of
videos emerged and were used in corporate training and school classrooms for example
educational shows such as Sesame Street and broadcasting university lectures.
1970s: Cognitive approach was still dominant. In the history of e-learning, the work of
Ausubel, Bruner, Merrill, Gagne and others on instructional strategies dominated this
decade. The birth of AECT and the proliferation of models of instructional design was noted
as well as the development of needs assessment procedures by Kauffman and others.
1980s: Performance technology (Gilbert) and the focus on needs assessement (identifying
the gaps between actuals and optimals) (Rossett) and whether the discrepancy was due to
lack of incentive, lack of knowledge or skills, or lack of environmental support.
Microcomputer instruction (CBI/CBT) flourished in this decade with the emphasis on design
for interactivity and learner control.
1990s: Focus on designing learning environments based on a constructivist approach to
learning and multimedia development. Hypertext and hypermedia influence the field and
cross-cultural issues are bridged using the Internet. In the 1990s, interactive learning via
computer-based training (CBT), use of touch screens and interactive videodisks increased
with the availability of home computers and more reliance on technology in the workplace.
The technology has since been advancing very fast, leading to concerns of digital and
knowledge divides, incompatibilities between hardware and software, slow system
performance, and memory and disk space issue, In the 1990s and not enough memory space.
This was a technological learning curve for both the learning industry who made the products
and the learners who used them.
2000s: In the new millennium, Internet technologies are more and more integrated with
personal, academic, and professional lives. Learners, educators, and instructional designers
have a variety of tools and resources to chose from in the courses, seminars, and training, for
example using e-learning tools, Web 2.0 tools, web conferencing, etc. To get there we have
to have some history of e-learning in order to understand the future.

Advantages

• Learning is student centered. The learner is the core of any e-Learning system. Materials and
activities are designed with the needs and interests of the learner in mind. Students assume control
of their learning experience and use it to suit their own specific needs.

• e-Learning is self-directed and self-paced. Learners control the amount of time they spend on
any particular topic. This allows learners to spend additional time on difficult items before moving on
or to skip material they already understand. This “individualized” approach usually allows learners to
complete their education and training faster than in traditional courses.

• e-Learning is interactive and hands-on. The use of a variety of multimedia in e-Learning


increases student involvement and reinforces the learning experience. This leads to increased
retention and a stronger grasp of the subject at hand.

• e-Learning is flexible. Learning can take


place anytime and anywhere, as long as the
necessary equipment is accessible. The
logistics and expense of face-to-face
education and training can be extremely
limiting when students are separated by
distance. e-Learning also allows physically or
otherwise challenged students to more fully
participate.
• e-Learning provides consistent and
effective training. All of the target learners
can participate simultaneously and receive
the same information, reducing the variability
introduced through multiple sessions in
different locations

 Class work can be scheduled around personal


and professional work
 Reduces travel cost and time to and from
school
 Learners may have the option to select learning
materials that meets their level of knowledge
and interest
 Learners can study wherever they have access
to a computer and Internet
 Self-paced learning modules allow learners to
work at their own pace
 Flexibility to join discussions in the bulletin
board threaded discussion areas at any hour, or
visit with classmates and instructors remotely in
chat rooms
 Different learning styles are addressed and
facilitation of learning occurs through varied
activities
 Development of computer and Internet skills
that are transferable to other facets of learner's
lives
 Successfully completing online or computer-
based courses builds self-knowledge and self-
confidence and encourages students to take
responsibility for their learning

Limitations

Disadvantages of e-Learning

 Unmotivated learners or those with poor


study habits may fall behind
 Lack of familiar structure and routine
may take getting used to
 Students may feel isolated or miss
social interaction
 Instructor may not always be available
on demand
 Slow or unreliable Internet connections
can be frustrating
 Managing learning software can involve
a learning curve
 Some courses such as traditional
hands-on courses can be difficult to
simulate
 Computer literacy and access to
equipment. Any e-Learning system involves
basic equipment and a minimum level of
computer knowledge in order to perform the
tasks required by the system. A student that
does not possess these skills, or have access
to these tools, cannot succeed in an e-
Learning program.
 Some topics are not appropriate for e-
Learning. Certain subjects that require
physical exertion and practice, such as sports
and public speaking, are not good candidates
for e-Learning. However, e-Learning can be a
useful companion to traditional education for
teaching background and technical
information.
 Students themselves can be a limitation
to e-Learning. The flexibility and student-
centered nature of e-Learning requires a high
level of student responsibility. A successful e-
Learning student must be well organized, self-
motivated, and have good time management
skills. What you get out of an e-Learning
program is directly related to the amount of
effort you put in

Examples of rganization using


e-learning
Background information Xerox Corporation is a big and international document
management technology and services enterprise. A $16 billion company, Xerox
provides the document industry's broadest portfolio of offerings. Digital systems
include color and black-and-white printing and publishing systems, digital presses
and "book factories," multifunction devices, laser and solid ink network printers,
copiers and fax machines.

Question/challenge
Around 1996 they made an important shift from analogue towards digital. E.g. the
copiers had software instead of only mechanical parts like the years before. The
engineers of Xerox who were fixing the copiers at the customers site needed to get
some extra skills and knowledge. To close the competency gap there was an urge to
organize the learning process in a fast and efficient way. Lot of engineers needed to
be updated and certified.

Solution
It was a very blended solution with a lot of different didactical elements like:

• online seminars;
• tests;

• kick-off meeting;

• coaching;

• WBT;

• workshops;

• learning desk;

• (online) discussion;

• personal meetings with coaches;

• books;

• FAQ;

• QRC;

• labs (online).

The educational process was divided into 3 main phases:

1. prephase;

2. open learning centre;

3. postphase.

4.

5. Remarks

6. The project was not successful during the first month. It


started without the intense coaching and without the learning
contracts. The result was that the learners were falling behind
and were not motivated anymore. They had problems with the
learning responsibility and problems to combine it with their
daily job. After the false start (as a result of evaluations) the
design of the curriculum changed and the learning contracts
and the coaching became the cornerstones of the solution.
After the change it became a successful blended learning
course. The process was evaluated and there was a parralel
group with only classroom based learning. The outcomes of
the blended learning group (about 80 people) were significant
better. The scores on the Microsoft and Novell exams were
higher than the control group. They were even higher than the
average international scores on these standard tests.

Cia central intelligence agency

Background information

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an intelligence agency of the United States government. Its
primary function is obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and
persons, and reporting such information to the branches of the government. Its secondary function is
propaganda or public relations, overt and covert information dissemination, both true and false, and
influencing others to decide in favor of the U.S. government. The third function of the CIA is as the hidden
hand of the federal government, by engaging in covert operations. This is done at the direction of the
President, and with oversight by Congress.

Question/challenge

Late in 2005, the US Central Intelligence Agency began to explore new and innovative ways to adapt to a
new world. No longer could the agency continue its top down, hierarchical approach to management and
information gathering, intelligence gleaning, etc. Change was suggested to break the agency out of
gridlock. The change was patterned after changes already underway in many parts of the US Defence
Department.

Solution

MP3

Please listen to the audio or read the transcripts.

Transcript conversation CIA, PDF

Frans Bax from CIA University and Elliott Masie in a conversation about shifting paradigms.

Remarks

It is amazing that such an organization feels the urge for such a big and important shift. Not the technical
means are impressive but the shift in the communication and learning model.
Great quote: Nobody knows as much as everybody.