E-LEARNING AND ONLINE EDUCATION IN THE DIGITAL ERA
By Renata T. Caliman From Fatima Al-Fihri Open University
This digital culture era is remarkable by many factors, especially by disruptive technologies. For more than one decade, technology has played an important role in online education. Since this pandemic started, it has been crucial in every work and study environment. Companies, schools, universities, independent students, needed to adapt and make use of already known online platforms and technologies, or even create new ones.
E-learning and Online Education
First, it is important to understand the concept and difference between e-learning and online learning. Online learning refers to the use of the internet and other online tools for learning. It implies a distance between the teacher or instructor and the students. Therefore, all the lectures, tests and assignments are enabled by virtual platforms. Whereas, e-learning refers to the interaction between teacher and student itself. It can happen in a classroom or in an online setting. In this context, it is possible to highlight the ascension of a new mode of delivering online classes: blended learning. It is also commonly seen as hybrid courses, which means a combination of learning at a distance and traditional on-campus learning. However, most courses will still be online, allowing students to do coursework online. (StudyPortal, 2021). They involve a good proportion of real and virtual, in order to balance the pedagogical necessities. Federation University of Australia (2021) explains broadly this concept: A blended course combines face-to-face elements, such as classroom or laboratory sessions, with online learning elements such as narrated presentations, videos and online forums. Blended courses include online content/activities to support face-to-face learning, or divide learning into online components and face-to-face components. What types of content/activities are chosen and how they are implemented will depend on the desired learning outcomes and the most appropriate and effective blend of in-class and online elements. One way of approaching a blended delivery is to think about the most effective way of using the in-class time you have. […] Learning and teaching activities occur predominantly on campus with face-to-face delivery being complemented by online
communication, learning activities, resources and assessments. Examples may include transforming materially previously presented in a lecture environment, into interactive online learning, and then maximising weekly class time to consolidate peer learning opportunities. This is an example of how institutions can make good use of technological and educational tools to improve the course quality. Online courses explore in their maximum capacity the visual resources in order to capture students’ attention. The online learning industry has adopted techniques that enable teachers to develop closer connections with their students, such as interactive video lectures and discussion boards. New trends can contribute toward the development of online learning as one of the most effective manners of spreading knowledge across the world. FAOU (Fatima Al-Fihri Open University) is another concrete successful example of online learning. It is a non-profit international online institute that has created various academic programs, with professors from well-ranked universities, and accessible from every country in the world. Students can also count on convenient self-paced study options worldwide regardless of age, cultural or educational background.
Educational Technologies and Digital Tools
Technologies can explain the transformations and new economic, political, social, and cultural demands. New educational demands are also in the picture. Moreover, they mean an improvement of the quality of delivery and teaching-learning process. The reason behind this statement is that digital tools and technologies used for education matters can contribute to a more effective and dynamic teaching style, and bring a similar learning style as well. There are several methods online teachers can adopt with the purpose of boosting levels of student engagement: gamification of the learning process, podcasts, live chats, different ways of providing feedback, and addressing each student's professional needs. Other technologies such as LMS (Learning Management Systems), electronic board, electronic notebook, virtual library, media streaming, virtual lab, educational games, and virtual workshops, strongly support the idea of how e-learning is seen as a complement of the traditional teaching and learning style, not necessarily created to replace it completely.
Benefits of E-learning
According to Rosenberg (2008), e-learning surpasses barriers related to time and geography. Any course can be taken from anywhere in the world, at any time. Something that made this process even easier, was the on-demand system. It happens at the students’ self-pace. It gives them the feeling that they are in control of their own learning; which increases the chance of successful completion. Additionally, this made online learning cheaper than in person. It does require a good structure and operational system but definitely made education accessible. Another relevant point is that e-learning goes beyond receptive skills and productive skills. Students have to make use of social skills in the online environment as well. It also gives them a sense of community and belonging to something bigger. Having connections with people from across the world, with different expertise and backgrounds is highly enriching for the learning process. It helps students to explore new ways of collaborative work, through online platforms, forums, chats, etc. It is noticeable that when students are connected with other peers and instructors, they obtain numerous advantages from this interaction. Engagement and interaction are essential to a successful path. In conclusion, online learning seems to be as popular as on-campus learning, because of its flexibility and lower costs. New technologies can favour both individual and collective learning, online or in person. Simultaneously, there is an increasing demand for good pedagogical support from every part involved in the education process. New tools and new modes of class delivery are accompanied by new challenges. Subjects, contents, teachers, professors, students, and so on, every part of the educational context had to adapt to a new mode of work, combined with new tools. Nevertheless, institutions, professionals and students have shown a strong ability to incorporate them and make use of the advantages they bring along.
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