According to Wikipedia, electronic learning, better known as e-learning, means “the student and the teacher use online technology to interact and participate” in a learning program. When we think of e-learning today, we often think of taking classes of some sort on a computer, a tablet or similar device. However, the first e-learning courses actually date back to World War II, when there was a massive need to train troops quickly and reliably, ensuring all received the same education.
This was initially accomplished by using films. However, by the mid-1940s, this was expanded so that workbooks and other methodologies to test students accompanied the films. Testing, as we will discuss later, is a crucial part of any e-learning program because it provides a way to determine whether the student is actually learning the material.
Films, videos and testing procedures were educational mainstays well into the 1970s. These were often referred to as self-paced or self-directed learning methods because they allowed the student to use the system at his or her own discretion.
Then the personal computer was introduced, which allowed for an entirely new and expanded way to teach a variety of subjects using CD-ROMs, DVDs and software programs. This was advanced ever further, and quite dramatically, as the Internet took hold. Now teachers could both present information, often available to students at any time, and test their learning comprehension through one system.
Some computer-based e-learning programs required students to use the system at specific times, but today most are readily available whenever the student wants to use them. Further, online e-learning programs now also allow learners and instructors to interact with each other with online chats, message boards, questions and answers — all helping to replicate the classroom environment but on a computer-type device.
There are many advantages to e-learning programs and at the top of the list are flexibility and convenience. As an example, some managers have learned about Green cleaning and how to implement a Green cleaning strategy in their facilities using an e-learning program. Instead of attending a class at a specific time or location, these managers are able to access the information on their own schedule, whether that is at 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning, and work through it at their own pace.
Other advantages of E-Learning include the following:
It is cost-effective: Not only do many e-learning programs cost less than hiring trainers to come to a facility and train workers, but they also allow workers to take the courses at times that have the least impact on their work. This is especially important if those taking the courses are in sales.
Everyone is on the same page: An e-learning program ensures that everyone is receiving the same training and education; this can help improve efficiencies for an organization.
Learning and retention are increased: Many students find one of the things they like best about an e-learning program is the ability to retake the class; for instance, some programs will not allow a student to move on to the next class or level until they have passed the test for the current program. Not only does taking the class again help improve learning, but retention is typically enhanced as well.