From traditional education methods, schools, training organisations and workplace skills providers are now embracing eLearning to deliver quality training to a diverse and distributed audience. But how exactly does this work?
In this article, we will discuss the history of online learning, common eLearning content delivery methods, and a sneak peek into the future of eLearning.
What is eLearning?
eLearning, or electronic learning, delivers standardised learning and training to students via digital platforms supported by the internet. It utilises electronic technologies for accessing educational curriculums inside or outside of traditional classrooms.
With eLearning platforms, instructors can deliver knowledge to learners in real-time or asynchronously via their website, apps, digital materials, online courses, virtual tutoring, and other digital resources.
It’s important to remember that while online learning supports remote instruction, that is only one benefit. The eLearning model can also be successfully adopted for onsite and on-the-job training. This means it covers all digital teaching and learning forms, both on campus and off-site.
Many Australian education providers offer distance learning and hybrid programmes that rely almost entirely on virtual learning platforms.
A Brief History of eLearning
Although the term was coined in 1999 by Elliott Massie, the idea of eLearning has been around for a while. For instance, in 1924, Ohio State University professor, Sidney Presse, created the first electronic learning machine— The Automatic Teacher.
Before the invention of The Automatic Teacher, Caleb Philips from Boston developed the first distance learning course in 1728. Students received lessons by mail once per week.
Another notable invention was the PLATO—Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations developed in 1960 by Professor Don Bitzer. PLATO allowed teachers to deliver computer-based literacy education.
In Australia, much of the development of eLearning is linked to the country’s rich distance education history. From the beginning, the country’s topography and widely distributed student population made schools prioritise infrastructure for remote learning.
For instance, before eLearning platforms, traditional learning institutions offered print-based distance education programs as far back as 1911. This would certainly have created opportunities for learning for many who would have been otherwise unable to access the required resources.
Why Should Governments Embrace eLearning?
Flexible learning has become an in-demand requirement for teachers, trainers and learners in recent times. Little wonder the Australian government invested over$95m to support effective eLearning across a range of different sectors, including Vocational Education and Training (VET).
So, what does the government stand to gain from these heavy investments in online learning? To answer this question, let’s look at how governments can benefit from a shift from traditional education to electronic learning.
Revenue and Taxes
Governments can earn both direct and indirect revenue from online learning.
In Australia, all webinars and online courses are subject to sales taxes (GST), and in Canada, course creators pay digital taxes. As the digital and creator economies expand, governments worldwide can expect to earn more revenue from online courses and digital products.
They can also generate money from institutions offering online courses and earning foreign exchange from international students.
Scaling the Development of the Education Sector
More schools are shifting from traditional-based learning to virtual classrooms, breaking the typical barriers to meaningful course delivery. A clear advantage here is that instructors can customise online learning models to suit students’ unique needs, unlike traditional models.
Statistics from the Australian Government Department of Education and Training (DET; 2018) show that the number of students in Australia studying in the distance/online mode is now rising faster than those learning on-campus. And in 2018, the Australian online education market stood at around $4 billion.
By investing in eLearning infrastructure, governments can scale their educational sectors, support more learners and courses, and earn more revenue.
How Can Private Enterprises Leverage eLearning?
Compared to traditional training methods, eLearning is more effective in encouraging professional development, promoting knowledge and improving workplace performance.
Specifically, digital learning platforms enable organisations to onboard new employees faster while supporting customised learning experiences. In addition, they are useful for facilitating team training sessions, staff town hall meetings, and performance reviews, especially for remote and hybrid teams.
eLearning offers flexibility advantages for businesses. Learning happens at the trainee’s convenience, eliminating the need for a training facility, an in-person facilitator, and a fixed time slot.
Private enterprises can leverage eLearning to improve employees’ experiences in the workplace while saving time and money.
How to Deliver eLearning Content
An essential part of embracing eLearning is figuring out how to deliver online training to participants. Since the online learning delivery method can make or mar the overall learning experience, you need to make the right choice.
Several factors come to play here, including the number of training participants, your budget, industry and specific goals. For instance, if you want to collect real-time participant feedback, delivering eLearning content via synchronous communication channels is your best bet.
That said, let’s look at several eLearning methods you can choose.
Learning Management System
A Learning Management System (LMS) is integrated software that helps you deliver interactive learning experiences for students. Specifically, it serves as an all-in-one platform for online learning, enabling administrators to coordinate training programs, track participation, and report on students’ performance levels.
Cloud-based learning management systems are in vogue these days because they allow you to scale your training delivery seamlessly. For example, training and workplace skills providers can use Cloud Assess to develop and deploy effective training and evaluations that comply with ASQA assessment requirements.
Before we move on, here are a few tips for choosing the right Learning Management System:
- Choose an application that integrates with most of your existing business tools.
- Prioritise scalability, security and reliability
- Don’t forget to work within your budget
- Choose an LMS that simplifies your existing workflows
Instructor-led training (ILT)
In instructor-led training, the facilitator is fully involved in the learning process from start to finish. They often have one-on-one or group sessions with learners throughout the training period.
Instructor-led training is the go-to method for delivering specialised and complex courses. In these cases, the students require continuous interaction with the trainer (a subject-matter expert) to grasp the subject matter thoroughly.
This method combines face-to-face instruction with online learning modules for maximum learning impact.
Learning Portal Delivery
With an online learning portal, you can combine different eLearning methods to deliver the best experience for participants. While they are often used in employee training, teachers and trainers can also adopt learning portals for training and assessments in the classroom.
Learning portals support different training delivery methods. For instance, you can upload a video lesson and text-based micro-learning modules on the same application. Participants only need to log into the portal to access these eLearning courses at a go.
Using a learning portal means stakeholders can coordinate training in one place effectively.
Other Delivery Methods for eLearning Courses:
- Computer-based training
- Self-paced eLearning (independent learning)
- Social learning
- Custom web-based training
What Will Online Learning Look Like in the Future?
Presently, eLearning plays a vital role in democratising education and training in Australia. By eliminating time and place restrictions, web-based learning encourages learning without borders, which presents numerous advantages for different stakeholders.
For example, students can attend classes whenever and wherever they want, and teachers and trainers can deliver custom training experiences without sacrificing quality.
So what should we expect from the future of eLearning?
It’s hard to tell, but we can assume that the basics would remain unchanged. This means eLearning methods would continue to support out-of-box education, especially for training and workplace skills providers.
As more industries transition into the remote world, you should gear up for increased dependence on online learning platforms. These online platforms will make several changes to deliver “perfect” simulations on in-person learning experiences without the limitations of space and time. We’re already seeing this with virtual and augmented realities and the rise of the metaverse!
In a nutshell, you can expect:
- More personalisation of content delivery
- Community-based learning
- AI-powered virtual learning
The possibilities of eLearning are endless. As technological advancements continue, online learning will experience modern developments that redefine teaching and learning across the board.
If you’re yet to jump on the eLearning train, Cloud Assess can help you make the switch to online assessment and training today.
UPDATED: 20 January 2022