In the contemporary learning environment, the use of computers is a common feature. E-learning entails the use of computer and associated applications and pieces of technology to obtain the same utility as that obtained in the physical classrooms of the school environment. The ‘e’ in the term has been interpreted and understood differently by different people. While others say that it stands for Electronic, many others have argued that it means Enhanced. Whatever the case, just like the “E” in e-commerce, e-marketing and e-mail, the “e” in e-learning means establishing a learning environment online. Learning through the internet is becoming widely accepted as many individuals and institutions are fast embracing Information Technology. E-learning is used by many organizations as part of the efforts aimed at achieving the company’s mission, goals and objectives. Similarly, e-learning is used in the education system and arguably, it has enhanced convenience a great deal.
With the growing popularity of such concepts as distance learning and open education systems, e-learning is becoming an integral part of all institutions especially the institutions of higher learning. It is therefore, worth concluding that e-learning is one of the most significant emergent issues in the field of Information Technology. This paper focuses on explaining what e-learning is by giving a comprehensive discussion on the same and explaining how it is used in the contemporary learning environment as well as how it is likely to be embraced in future. The paper goes an extra mile in elaborating the role of e-learning in upholding business strategy.
E-learning has been described simply as all forms of technology-enabled conveyance of skills, information and knowledge (Alias, 2012). It can refer to both exclusive online learning or a combination of both actual classroom learning and internet enabled learning. E-learning has made the education system global. Today, a person in the United States of America can enroll for and successfully complete a university program from a university in China without the student having to travel all the way to China. Thus, is the convenience associated with e-learning. Today, the e-learning industry is valued at forty eight billion US dollars. Research has it that today; more than eight million students are studying through the online system in the United States of America alone. The same research indicates that the students under the e-learning program, also referred to as cyber schooling are as contented as their counterparts who are in the traditional system of schooling. Discussed herein is the concept of e-learning, its uses in the contemporary world and its projected importance in the near future.
The most common types of e-learning are: computer based learning, technology based training and the technology assisted collaborative learning (Keegan, 2011). The most common feature about this three approaches is that they are all computer enabled. Computer based learning is the actual use of computers and computer devices in the learning process. It does not necessarily done through the internet but rather a combination between the traditional schooling system and the use of various computer applications for instance the Microsoft office suite and the programming languages. The second approach is Technology based training which is usually an approach used by those organizations with well established Information Communication Technology departments or sections to train and retrain its staff on the current trends in the work environment. Through the computer based training, the company’s personnel department through the Human Resource Management Information Systems, commonly referred to as HRIS conveys the new requirements to all the relevant members of staff together with the operation manuals.
The members of the workforce use the manuals and instructions received through the personnel portal to orient themselves with the new trends. As such the company gets to train the members of staff without having to spend much money and time on such arrangements as the off-the-job seminars and workshops (TSAI, 2011). The third approach is the technology assisted collaborative learning. Just like the normal approach of the traditional learning where students discuss in groups, this approach of the e-learning system entails an instructor assigning the tasks to students in groups. This enables students to use the internet as a forum for discussion and interaction. They are also able to obtain study material from the available online libraries and educational links. This approach is also used in the system that entails a combination of the traditional method and the digital schooling.
E-learning comprises both coordinated and uncoordinated methods. The coordinated methods are usually simple in nature compared to the non-coordinated methods. The simpler methods can be used by almost everybody who is computer literate. The best example is the Microsoft suite applications especially PowerPoint that is used in computer based training. The sophisticated methods of e-learning adopted by the well established organizations and institutions of higher learning include the use of computer applications, online computer graphics, animations and multi-media such as videos and audio applications (Pange & Pange, 2011)
The uses of e-learning today and in the future
Currently e-learning is used in various fields. Most notably, it is used in schooling. E-learning has come out as the most important teaching aid to all instructors, lecturers and tutors especially in the higher institutions of learning (Shah, 2011). Through e-learning, a teacher can send lesson plans and class work tasks to the students and instruct them on how to go about it. The teachers can as well conduct continuous assessment tests through the internet and intranet networks. With regard to education, e-learning has also enabled off-campus studies through the distance learning or the open learning program. This has enhanced equal learning opportunities to all classes of people. For instance, those students with physical disabilities that cannot allow them to make trips to school can comfortably take their studies from home. Similarly those students that dread school sadism and intimidation are great beneficiaries of e-learning (Viereck, 2012). It is projected that in a few years to come, 80% of the schooling in the United States of America, especially in the higher learning institution will be taking place through the internet.
E-learning is a tremendously vital tool in the personnel department of many organizations that maintain a reliable information and communication technology department. The human resource function makes use of such applications as the Human resource Information system, HRIS in the training and assessment of the employees (Norman, 2011). The employees, especially those holding high ranks in the management of the firm need continuous training and retraining. As such, the traditional methods of training are inefficient because essentially, this people need to be around to monitor all the happenings and activities of the company. As such, e-learning becomes the only practicable option left to the company. The managers are the, through an online portal given the required instruction and the manual on how to execute such instruction. Such training may employ the use of such demonstrative graphics such as videos of recorded demonstrations and audio guides.
E-learning can be used in the effective carrying out of researches and academic investigations (Oung et al, 2012). Digital learning is a rich source of information and academically viable data that can be used by new researchers in coming up with innovative establishments and concepts. As such, e-learning can as well be said to be a reli9able information storage system. The information stored online is much secured than any data stored in hard copies that are prone to destruction by fire and other unforeseen perils. The information stored in the email for instance, is much safer compared to information stored in paper files. The use of such applications as the professional kit has made e-learning a very reliable storage of information (Jandric, 2012). As such, e-learning reduces paperwork a great deal. The probability that the future is going to embrace e-learning is very high following the high number of merits associated with the concept. Such advantages include the fact that e-learning saves time and cuts down on cost.
The role of e-learning in upholding business strategy
The rationale of all businesses is profit making. However differently the organizations may word their mission statements, they all point towards the improvement of the business organization through the maximization of revenues and minimization of costs. The role of e-learning in the attainment of company goals and objectives is seen through the role it plays in the cutting down of costs. E-learning cuts down on the costs of training the workforce. Training through the computers is more cost-effective as compared to off-the-job training (Alias, 2012). As discussed earlier, the use of Information technology in training saves on time and money. Such time and money can be used in the development and enhancement of the company strategy and mission. Capital, information and time are very vital variables in determining the direction of the company. As a way of cutting down the costs, e-learning reduces the paperwork involved in effecting business communications.
Conclusions and recommendations
From the foregoing, e-learning is very important in almost all spheres of life. It is therefore recommended that all institutions, especially the learning institutions implement the e-learning concept as a way of employing effectiveness and efficiency in the system. As a way of reducing the costs and saving time, it is essential that the organizations dealing in profitable business also employ the process of e-learning. Reduction of paperwork and shortening of procedure are among the key merits derived from e-leaning besides such other advantages as effective communication (Horton, 2001). E-learning is a very rich source of information and business ideas that can help boost business performance. It can transform a business from being a local trade to being a world-class competitor.
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