E-Learning V the Classroom

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Classroom learning v E-Learning! Is one better than the other? Can one completely replace the other? Indeed it seems that e-learning is the way of the future. Educational institutions, corporations and government organisations alike already offer various forms of electronic teaching. However, can a computer truly replace a teacher and a blackboard?

How people learn
Each individual has a form of learning that suits them best. Some individuals achieve fantastic results in courses taught online, however most people drop out of 100% computer-led courses [3]. Educational institutions, as well as companies in carrying out staff training, must recognise that there is no ideal way to carry out the teaching of a large group of individuals, and so must design programs that best suits the needs of the group as a whole.

People learn using multiple senses. This involves learning through both theoretical components of a course, as well as social interaction with both instructors and other students. Students learn from each other's mistakes and successes, not just from what they are told by instructors.

Each individual student has an ideal learning pace. Instructors are therefore faced with the challenge of designing courses that move forward such that those students with a slower learning pace do not get left behind, while not moving so slowly that students with faster learning paces get bored.

Various studies [3] have shown that people absorb information most efficiently when, for example, they:- •Are able to see some benefit, and deem the information relevant; •Connect with other people;

•Control the pace and delivery of instruction;
•Receive feedback;
•Use methods that best suit their preferred learning style, and; •Most importantly, learn from a variety of styles.
It is difficult in a classroom environment to take advantage of several different styles of teaching. Similarly, lack of feedback and social interaction and just two limitations of e-learning environments. The most effective forms of teaching are those that utilise the advantages of each style.

E-Learning
In the age of high-speed information transfer, e-learning is becoming a popular and cheap means for delivering teaching to individuals outside the classroom, and in some cases all over the world. Teaching can be via CD, websites, or through real-time online facilities such as webcasts, webinars and virtual classrooms. However, different methods of e-learning each have their own advantages and disadvantages.

E-learning is still a relatively new concept, and in many respects still in the teething stages. As such, various problems arrive across different e-learning environments. For example [2]:- 1. Lack of immediate feedback in asynchronous learning environments: While some e-learning environments such as webcasts, webinars and virtual classrooms operate live with the addition of an instructor, most do not. Teaching that is delivered through a CD or website, although having the advantage of being self-paced, provides no immediate feedback from a live instructor.

2. More preparation required on the part of the instructor: In an e-learning environment, an instructor can not simply stand in front of a whiteboard and deliver a class. Lessons in e-learning environments must be prepared ahead of time, along with any notes and instructions that may accompany the teaching.

In many cases it would also be necessary that the instructor not only understands the concepts being taught, but the technology used to deliver that teaching. This therefore increases the skill-levels needed of e-learning instructors, placing greater demand on educational institutions.

Staffing levels may also be higher for courses run in an e-learning environment, requiring for example [4]: The Instructor – able to teach both course content and be skilled in the use of technologies involved. The Facilitator – to assist the instructor in delivering content, but may do so...
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