E-Learning as a New Frontier in Education
The rapid increase and advancement in the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has integrated computerized technology with traditional teaching and learning forms in educational institutions, in particular, higher institutions across the globe. This has enhanced and transformed the core functions of teaching, learning, research and community outreach, stimulating the experience of both learners and instructors.
E-learning provides opportunities for institutions to deliver and access education anywhere in the world, at any time with no or limited barriers provided facilities that support the technology are available within the domain. It is “flexible learning using ICT resources, tools, and applications and focuses on the interaction among teachers, learners, and the online collaborative environment”. A learning paradigm, teaching and learning processes are facilitated using ICT related tools that improve on the experience.
Students of diverse backgrounds and in geographically dispersed locations are allowed access and can participate in the same courses as well as collaborate with each other in conjunction with the online instructor. This is why Online Learning Environment (OLE) is now the trend in many higher institutions and many Universities in Africa now leverage on it to enhance academic activities.
There is a balance struck between face-to-face learning and distance learning through the use of electronic tools while incorporating additional facilities, for regular interaction and collaboration between students and instructors. The use of discussion boards, chat rooms, and other interactive tools, brings all students into a ‘virtual classroom’ which can be carried out in a synchronous or asynchronous manner.
The synchronous mode allows learners to discuss with the instructors and also among themselves via the internet at the same time, using video conferencing and chat rooms as a tool that also supports instant feedback making it more effective and reliable.
The asynchronous mode allows learners to discuss with the instructors as well as among themselves at different times but does not support instant feedback.
The use of technology supported learning methods in educational institutions is a strategic move to reach out to different categories of learners: the physically challenged, students in war-torn zones, remote areas, part-time students, among others.
An online learning environment becomes attractive by offering improved access and convenience which supports institutions in managing their resources effectively while boosting their revenue base.
The integration of E-learning technologies in education offers quite a number of benefits; flexibility when the issues of time and location are taken into consideration, students are able to learn more with less pressure bestowed upon them – a convenient approach more likely to improve satisfaction.
E-learning is cost effective since the cost of physical infrastructure is reduced considerably and participation is not limited by numbers. Meanwhile, the use of technology has been observed to improve an atmosphere of social connection among learners through the discussion forums and blogs.
This tends to eliminate barriers that have the potential of hindering participation in learning activities for example, ‘fear of expression’ and motivates students to interact with others as well as, exchange and respect different point of views.