26 Mar E-learning For Businesses: How Your Business Can Benefit
Find out how e-learning for businesses can decrease training costs and often produces better results than traditional classroom training.
The term “e-learning” has been in common use for a number of years, but many people still don’t really know what it actually means, and how it can help them be more successful in their business and private lives.
This article is intended to give you an overview of e-learning, looking at its history, its advantages and drawbacks and whether or not it actually works.
What is E-learning?
Until the last decade or so of the 20th century, education was pretty simple. Students were sat down in a classroom with a teacher who provided instruction and feedback. Physical presence was a requirement.
The computer revolution dramatically changed the field of education. E-learning, at its core, is the use of computer-based educational tools to allow students to learn at their own pace, regardless of their location.
In the past, e-learning was delivered using floppy disks, CD-ROMs or DVDs. These days, it’s generally delivered via the Internet. Modern e-learning tools allow students to feel as if they are inside the classroom. E-learning software lets teachers and students share educational materials and assignments via formats like Word documents, PDFs, slideshows and video.
Webinars, along with chat and message forums, allow direct interaction with professors, teachers and other students.
A vast range of e-learning systems is now available. These are generally known as Learning Management Systems, or LMSs. These systems allow courses to be delivered to students in a controlled manner. They also allow a certain amount of automation, for example the marking of tests.
E-learning lets learners control their learning experience and fit it into their schedule. Even the busiest people can use e-learning to further their studies and advance their careers.
Since the development of the Internet, some major advancements in education have occurred. Learners these days are familiar with the Internet, smartphones and messaging, which means that taking part in an online course is simple for them. Social media, online forums and text messaging allow learners to stay connected, ask and answer questions and feel part of a community.
E-learning is rapidly evolving, with new and exciting technologies being developed all the time. An example is Augmented Reality, which allows students to, for example, view and interact with three-dimensional models of buildings, equipment and tools.
Course content needs to be kept up to date to provide students with the most recent information, especially in industries where rapid changes are the norm. Many businesses are realizing the advantages of e-learning in terms of being able to quickly update content. They also appreciate the relatively low cost of e-learning systems, and the capability of allowing employees to study at their own pace.
Traditional classroom learning is expensive and time-consuming, and the results are variable. E-learning for businesses is cheaper and faster, and often produces better results.
The History of E-learning
The origin of the term “e-learning” is shrouded in mystery. It was apparently first used between 1997 and 1999, perhaps at a CBT Systems seminar. Other terms like “virtual learning” and “online learning” are also in use. Some of the principles of e-learning, like the ideas of self-study and distance education, have been around since the 19th century.
A Timeline of E-learning
In the 1840’s, Isaac Pitman developed a correspondence course to teach his method of shorthand. He would send postcards to his students containing shorthand text, which the students would transcribe and send back for correction. This process was enabled by the introduction of uniform postage rates in England in 1840.
In the 1950s, B.F. Skinner invented a “teaching machine”, a mechanical device designed to administer a curriculum of programmed learning.
In one version, the machine was a box that displayed questions one at a time in a small window. The learner could respond to each question, receiving a reward for each correct answer.
The first generalized computer-assisted instruction system was introduced in 1960. This was PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations), developed at the University of Illinois and running on their Control Data Corporation (CDC) ILLIAC 1 computer . By the late 1970s, the system ran on nearly a dozen networked mainframe computers and supported several thousand graphics terminals worldwide.PLATO introduced many modern concepts in multi-user computing, such as message boards, forums, e-mail, chat rooms, remote screen sharing and multiplayer games.
In Britain, the Open University has always focused on learning at a distance. Course materials were delivered by mail, and correspondence between students and tutors was by post. The advent of the Internet allowed a wider range of more interactive educational experiences, and immediate communication via email.
The Apple Mac and the IBM PC allowed people to have computers in their homes. Software allowed them to learn about various subjects and gain access to online information and opportunities.
During the 1990s, a number of online schools were set up, using the Internet to deliver education to people who were unable to attend college because of time or geographical constraints.
The advance of technology helped to reduce the cost of distance education, bringing it to a larger audience. Soon, businesses started to use e-learning to train employees. This provided the opportunity for workers to expand their skill sets and increase their industry knowledge. People gained access to training which allowed them to earn online degrees, enriching their lives.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Online Learning
For teachers and trainers, e-learning makes the processes of content creation and delivery easier and quicker. Some of the benefits are listed here:
E-learning removes the limits of time and place
Traditional face-to-face learning is limited to learners who are able to be physically present at a certain location at a specific time. E-learning, however, allows learning without these restrictions.
The use of multimedia and elements of gamification can make a course more interactive and more enjoyable for the learners. This not only enhances engagement, but also increases the lifetime of the course material.
More cost effective
e-learning eliminates the need for expensive textbooks, and the need to constantly buy updated editions.
As businesses expand into other countries, the need to train new people increases. e-learning is simply the most effective way to address this issue.
Disadvantages of E-learning
There are some drawbacks to e-learning. It’s more difficult to pick up practical skills from an online course. Hands-on experience is required for skills like pottery or carpentry – you can watch videos and read and listen to explanations, but the practical experience is essential.
Learning in isolation
E-learning is an individual experience, and learners may feel that they are completely alone. However, tools like video conferencing and social media allow learners to actively engage with their tutors and with fellow students.
Sitting in front of a computer for hours on end may result in bad posture and eyestrain. It’s advisable to make sure that students are aware of these issues and are advised to take regular breaks, as well as being given guidance on posture and desk height.
Does E-learning for Businesses Actually Work?
Many educators have debated the validity of e-learning as a method of teaching. Do human beings actually have the ability to absorb information this way? Can people expand their knowledge and learn new skills in front of a computer? It’s true that computers offer distractions and promote procrastination, but there are unique advantages to online learning.
Every individual learns differently. Some people learn by writing everything down. Others learn visually. Some people need someone to guide them every step of the way; others prefer to learn by themselves. Some students are comfortable talking in front of other people, while others are uncomfortable communicating with others.
E-learning can respond to the individual needs of every student with different tools. As an example, audiovisual content and interactive testing can be more attractive to younger learners than old-fashioned books.
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