by Riaan Steenberg

The world of new learning

E-liminating the textbook crisis

E-liminating the textbook crisis
e-Learning could improve education

Bill Gates recently predicted that the web will be the place to learn in the near future. It will be “better than any single university” he has said, believing “place-based” learning will be less important in the near future.

In Africa alone, 48% of learners rely on cellphones, 36% on shared computing resources and 74% on ICT for classroom teaching to improve the quality of education said the eLearning Africa 2012 Report. And with rapid advances in technology and more and more people with access to the Internet, it is not surprising that the need for eLearning is on the rise.

Although eLearning is a fundamentally new way of learning, no one could have anticipated its exponential growth. The rate of enrolment for this mode of learning far exceeds that for its traditional counterpart. The flexibility and convenience of being able to study anywhere, anytime has transformed the way people choose to learn.

In the early days eLearning was approached merely as an attempt to transfer the classroom experience to the online world. In the interim, however, it has evolved into a medium all of its own.

Gone are the days of sitting behind a computer screen staring at 14 hours of streaming video until you’re bleary-eyed and brain-dead. Present-day eLearning is all about the b(y)te-sized chunks of relevant information that collectively form the integrated and holistic knowledge base that is the only pathway to true, practical wisdom. It is no longer the stagnant absorption of masses of (often irrelevant) information, but a complex and stimulating learning experience.

Tech-savvy learners know the difference between valuable information and waffling printer fodder, demanding short, powerful messages that are easy to digest.

It is a revolution in the transfer of content without sacrificing context. While it is not immune to the usual challenges of delivery, it is still a self-paced system for getting core concepts, disciplines and learning areas across to students.

The concept  that "understanding learning styles is one of the keys to successful behaviour management [and] if you can appeal to the learning styles of all of the pupils in your classroom then you have a much greater chance of engaging all your students in their learning" is widely gaining acceptance amongst pedagogues of all types. eLearning, more than any other medium, enables both learners and educators to embrace this truth. This is because the formats available are virtually limitless.

eLearning is most effective when it is a form of people-centred learning. That is where many organisations get it wrong. They think it is just about making content available online, but forget that learning is a directed experience.

To some extent, eLearning is harder work than traditional classroom-based learning. This is why employers are increasingly acknowledging the value of students who have obtained their qualifications through distance-based institutions – they see it as evidence of determination, self-reliance and the ability to think laterally. The classroom provides guidance whilst eLearning forces the learner to look beyond what is on the screen and find application.

Certification of learning will always be its most important aspect if the learner aims to convince others that she or he truly has the knowledge and competence required.

All knowledge on the Internet may be free or reasonably cheap, but it is not necessarily always valuable or even accurate.

Course accreditation is therefore vitally important and potential students should pay careful attention to establish if the eLearning programme is accredited, like those qualifications offered by Regenesys Business School.

For employers, credibility is non-negotiable. It is important that a structured learning process creates a cognitive learning experience that enables the end-user to practise the competency or skill in question.

The eLearning revolution recognises the changing world in which we live. It has been a long time since humanity emerged from the dark ages, where information was an exclusive commodity reserved for the rich to further entrench their power over the impoverished.

The modern world has vast repositories of information accessible to absolutely everyone. In this day and age, it is not people who merely have knowledge who have the power; it is those who know how to use that information. 

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