How eLearning Benefits Students and Employees

A female student is working on a portable computer while sitting against the wide wall

At San Francisco Bay University, we are proud to be located at the epicenter of technological progress. Bay Area universities and other colleges and universities in Silicon Valley understand the importance of their location. That’s why we know the power of embracing technology within our teaching methods and utilizing eLearning as one of them. Depending on their program, our students have the option to study remotely, and doing so provides them with numerous benefits. Yet, many wonder, is eLearning beneficial? Do students miss out on anything studying remotely? You may be surprised to learn the concept of learning remotely goes way, way back.

Elearning Before There Were Computers

Although the term “eLearning” was first coined in 1999, the process of teaching someone through programmed learning material was born long before the turn of the century. In fact, teaching someone via “correspondence” can be traced all the way back to the 1840s, when an Englishman by the name of Isaac Pitman offered his shorthand course via correspondence. To this day, this is still considered the first widely adopted practice of distance education. Yet, eLearning would continue to evolve long before the first computer.

It was in 1924 that BF Skinner, a Harvard professor, invented what was then called “the teaching machine.” This machine essentially enabled teachers to administer programmed instruction to their students. It wasn’t until 1960 that Donald L. Bitzer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign introduced a modern-day form of teaching that combined teaching and computing. PLATO, short for Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations created one of the first online communities dedicated to computerized learning and foreshadowed the development of the internet and future eLearning teaching methodologies.

Although it was not until the 1960s that the first computer-based training program was introduced, it was these efforts by Isaac Pitman, BF Skinner, and others that set the stage for a method of teaching now relied upon by institutions and companies all over the world. Elearning has become widely accepted by schools, colleges, universities, and companies who want more efficient and effective ways to teach their students and employees. But therein lies the question. Is eLearning really efficient and effective?

The Different Elements of eLearning in Use Today

The world is rapidly moving towards an environment where technological utilization is becoming the norm. With the ever-increasing number of technological products, services, and applications changing the way we do business, communicate, and pass on information, the traditional ways of doing things are changing. And this includes how teachers and instructors teach and how students and employees learn. In a traditional classroom setting, an instructor has information available to them within that setting. Yet connecting students and employees to the outside world as they learn enhances their ability to construct and absorb new information.

As a term, eLearning (or E-learning depending on where you look) represents an umbrella term that refers to a variety of electronic teaching methodologies. Elearning provides access not only to educational material but also to the actual process by which the teaching is conducted. Elearning methodologies include:

  • Virtual classrooms
  • Web-portal learning
  • Digital collaboration
  • Audio and visual recording
  • Interactive teaching
  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual reality

Each new generation becomes evermore comfortable with technology. Thus, blending technology and learning provides a way for students who are used to using technology in their everyday lives to better understand the information being presented. There are so many different methodologies utilized by eLearning. And they are generally built within learning management systems (LMS). Learning management systems are very suitable for flexible learning methods, including “blended learning”, which is now so commonplace it has its own dictionary definition.

Aspects of Successful eLearning Programs

Elearning does not happen in a vacuum. When creating a course, managers, professors, or school administrators must make sure certain criteria are met. By doing so, they ensure the student or employee benefits fully from the course they signed up for or are required to take. For instance, the teacher or instructor must ensure they are available to answer questions or offer feedback to students. Many might assume one of the drawbacks of eLearning is a lack of availability when students need their instructors. And this is a drawback if the course is not properly managed. Students and employees must have access to their instructors when needed to ensure information is both received and retained.

As we mentioned before, an effective and user-friendly LMS is absolutely necessary. Students or employees must be able to easily navigate through and understand how the LMS works. Course material, tests, evaluations, and scores must be easily accessible to both students and teachers. In many cases, the backbone of an organization’s network will influence this factor. Company or university IT departments must ensure internal systems properly support the LMS in use.

Of course, a class is nothing without effective learning material, and this is where eLearning shines. Gone are the days when all an instructor had to work with were books, pens, paper, and a whiteboard. ELearning methodologies provide instructors with a plethora of tools - whether textual, audio, or visual - to communicate with and teach their students. And this may be one of the most important factors of eLearning: communication.

There are many ways, means, devices, tools, apps, and more that allow teachers and learners to communicate, collaborate, and share information. Whether it be through interactive multimedia, voice communication, live or prerecorded videos, digital presentations, or text, eLearning provides students and teachers with a whole new way to communicate and collaborate with each other. One university in the Netherlands used a modern LMS to connect thousands of students, resulting in a myriad of benefits for the entire institution.

How eLearning Benefits Students and Employees

One of the primary benefits of utilizing eLearning methods lies in its efficiency and flexibility. For example, an informal distribution model of eLearning is one in which the students or employees can view the course material, but said material is not used for testing or tracking purposes. Instead, the material can be accessed as a resource. This method is used primarily where blended learning is used.

More formal models of eLearning (and more often used) are those in which instructors keep track of and make recordings of how well their students are learning and retaining information. This is important for academic institutions like SFBU. Professors must have specific systems and standards in place to ensure the scores their students receive accurately reflect the level of learning and knowledge retention expected of them. In most cases, institutions and companies utilize learning management systems to provide and verify instruction.

Today, many colleges, universities, and companies of all shapes and sizes offer off-premise eLearning simply because it has so many advantages over traditional learning systems. Just a few of these include:

  • Flexibility: Learners can access material at any time and at their own pace.
  • Scope: Learners generally have access to thousands of online courses and information stored onsite or in the cloud. Companies using eLearning methods can upload policies, procedures, and other company-centric documents accessed with a click of a button.
  • Cost: Since universities and companies don’t have to bring students or employees into the classroom, eLearning often results in a cost reduction for students, institutions, and businesses. It’s a win-win-win.
  • Consistency: Teachers in a classroom present information in different ways. Elearning allows students to receive the same information in the same format every time a course is accessed.

We live in a fast-paced, technology-oriented world, and both students and employees want to know that the universities and companies they associate with offer cutting-edge teaching methodologies, of which eLearning is one. For many, eLearning is considered to be one of the defining methods of presenting and acquiring knowledge in the 21st century.