The term eLearning evolved from the phrase electronic learning, with the emphasis placed on “electronic.” The term eLearning describes many different media associated with delivering distance education and training, whether in academic or corporate environments. The types of delivery methods available today are subcategorized into different areas, including web-based training, online education, computer-aided instruction, virtual education, multimedia learning, and social learning, just to name a few. Sound confusing? In the past two years, the term eLearning has diversified in its meaning as technology learning strategies have improved delivery methods. The subcategory of eLearning that a given strategy falls under depends on the medium used.
Regardless of the varied subcategories used to describe eLearning, there are similar media used across all of them. Today, most eLearning interface modules include text, audio, images, streaming video, animation, and real-time interactivity. No matter what type of eLearning you choose, you can expect to encounter a vast array of multimedia designed to enhance the learning environment. The goal of eLearning is to bring the education to the student, rather than the student to the education, ultimately creating as close to a genuine face-to-face classroom as is technologically feasible.
The results of eLearning are often measured by the quality of the learning experience. Similar to a classroom environment, if you have an instructor who speaks in a monotone voice and uses most of the class time to lecture, it will not be long before students’ minds begin to wander or, even worse, they begin to nod off. The key to learning is absorbing information using various methods. The use of engaging strategies during a classroom lecture increases the student’s ability to understand the information being delivered. There are various ways to deliver a lesson, whether having small group discussions, verbal pop quizzes, clever riddles, or using real-life examples of how the knowledge can be applied to the students’ lives. The key is to mix it up enough to keep the student interested.
The same methodology can be applied during the design phase of an eLearning module. Today, instructional designers are using creative methods to engage students throughout the duration of the learning module. This practice keeps students interested for a longer period of time, increases their retention of the material being presented, and ultimately makes the learning experience more effective. The parallels between classroom learning and distance learning are becoming more pronounced due to the many new learning tools entering the market. Keep in mind, though, that no matter what new technology advancements eLearning tools provide, the learning outcome is only as good as the learning strategy behind the tool. A good piece of food for thought is the idea of changing the meaning of the “e” in eLearning from “electronic” to “engaging” because the goal is to ensure that students are completely engaged during the eLearning process.
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