The face of education continues to shift from the classroom to the computer screen as learners young and old (and everywhere in-between) discover the power of e-learning. Recent developments in internet and educational technology have allowed for rapid growth in the online education industry over the past decade, especially in young learners, and there are no signs of this trend slowing down any time soon. It’s pretty easy to see why.
What we’re seeing is an explosion in the accessibility of high quality education across all fields, ages, and nationalities
In today’s online education market, students (and their parents) enjoy a wide range of freedoms not afforded in a traditional physical setting. Besides not having to drive across town to a brick and mortar learning center, these include:
- Convenient and flexible scheduling
- The ability to select from many different teachers and tutors
- Access to experts in fields outside of standard school subjects
- A choice in program type and class size
Educators also see a number of benefits made possible by the virtual classroom environment including:
- Convenient and flexible scheduling (Who wouldn’t appreciate this?)
- The ability to work from home or anywhere in the world
- A choice between offering services directly or through an online education company
- The chance to share their knowledge on topics which don’t fit within a standard curriculum
What we’re seeing is an explosion in the accessibility of high quality education across all fields, ages, and nationalities – and it is certainly something to be excited about.
So how did we get here?
E-learning has its roots in older mediums of distance education, namely radio and television. As early as the 1920s, radio programs were delivering lessons to large college student audiences. As television became mainstream, efforts were made to adapt it, too, for formal educational purposes. (https://books.google.com/books?id=uQeEn1vEUSQC) However, without a real-time classroom environment and easy access to teachers, these methods never took hold on a large scale.
Over the past couple of decades, internet technology has been breaking down these barriers to distance education. For most of this time, the ease of delivering video lectures and quickly exchanging e-mails and text messages has been good enough. These have allowed colleges and universities across the world to successfully launch fully-digital courses. Studies have shown that these online courses can be every bit as effective as learning in a traditional classroom environment. (http://news.mit.edu/2014/study-shows-online-courses-effective-0924)
Today’s technology takes us one step further. Real-time video conferencing, virtual whiteboards, and passionate teachers specially trained to use them, bring the full power of the classroom to the little screen. Students can now speak directly with a teacher who may be on the other side of the world as if they’re together in the same room. While this may not make a huge difference for more mature students who continue to succeed with older distance learning methods, the ability to deliver a vibrant, interactive, and fun lesson over the internet allows these groundbreaking developments to engage a much younger student audience, too.(http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/learning/why-fun-matters-in-education.html)
It’s difficult to say what exactly is around the corner, but if recent developments are anything to go by, it seems a safe bet that e-learning will continue to change and improve the educational landscape around the globe.