Kim Cliett Long
E-learning expands options for teaching and learning using technology. This nomenclature has been solidly in use for the last ten years. The expansive and ever fertile frontier of e-learning—a term used interchangeably with distance and online learning—has become standard fare as an educational delivery solution designed to enhance knowledge and performance. Many educational institutions, corporate enterprises and other entities are utilizing web-based teaching and learning methodologies to deliver education either partially or wholly online using electronic platforms. The learning value chain, including management and delivery, has created multimodal systems, content, and processes to increase accessibility, measurability, and cost effectiveness by infusing advanced learning techniques, such as adaptive learning or communities of practice, among students, employee groups, and lifelong learners. It is interesting to note that e-learning encapsulates internet based courseware and all other asynchronous and synchronous learning, as well as other capabilities for supporting learning experiences.
Student success and advancements in technology are now inextricably linked as a result of higher education institutions embracing and offering e-learning options. The absence of direct instructor guidance makes distance learning particularly difficult for some students. Certain students struggle with the lack of guidance inherent in online learning and the requisite need to work independently. In particular, the lack of high touch strategies in e-learning often leads students to drop or fail courses. While some students struggle to remain engaged in technology-enabled learning, technology is often the vehicle for keeping these same students on task. There are a variety of electronic tools designed to augment online learning and keep online learners on task. Podcasts, for example, can be easily downloaded, then played back on a student’s media player or mobile device at a later date. The student is not tied to a computer, which results in a more comprehensive learning experience.
In many cases, e-learning has become a very lucrative and desirable marketplace for higher education institutions. The business case for e-learning is a clarion call for tight integration among business, human resources, and knowledge and performance management. Hence, it is incumbent upon educational institutions to instill approaches that focus on the learner, learning, and improved performance, more so than the tools and technology. Of further importance is the need for higher education institutions to provide stratagems for developing and supporting caring online relationships, individualized student environments, collaboration, communication, and e-learning culture. Ultimately, institutions should measure not only improved business and performance, but also improved student online learning aptitudes (more self-motivated, self-directed, and self-assessed learning).