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What is e-learning?

Vicky Scott investigates whether e-learning is an effective new method of education.

E-learning is becoming a popular way of teaching and providing materials for students studying in further and higher education. Like all new technological ideas this new method of learning has its pros and cons and is developing quickly – giving students students flexibility and easy access to information but raising issues about who can afford it and also its effectiveness.

What is e-learning?

E-learning is simply using electronic tools such as  your computer to find learning materials for your studies.  It allows media like audio and video to be included within your learning materials to make them more interesting. The fact that e-learning materials can be accessed at any time both within and outside the classroom means there are many other benefits for both students and institutions.  The UK Children Go Online study (2011) found that 90% of 9-19 year olds use their computer for their homework, therefore computer facilities seem readily available to students of this age and the introduction of e-learning is a savvy way of making learning more interesting and fun. It can be argued, however that this method of learning could cause social separations between generations and also in families with lower incomes.

Financing e-learning and developing skills

The slash in funding in the education budget also makes it more difficult to develop the idea of e-learning becoming an advanced concept; although savings can be made within schools by investing in laptops instead of desktops as networks can be hard-wired to the schools system and students will be able to save the use of other materials and resources. The idea must therefore be cost effective as technologies change very quickly and institutions need to quickly develop to keep up, as well as maintaining a reliable service. E-learning sites can also be costly to develop and design.

E-learning can improve social engagement in students and can also help develop critical reflection and other skills. Moreover, the ability to keep track of marks and create tests online which students can complete at home makes the transition between school and home smoother.

Overall, there are many different issues which relate to e-learning, but there are also many advantages to using this method in relation to skills and benefits for individual institutions. The question is - will the fast development of technology destroy the potential of e-learning as a new and savvy resource for young people? It will be interesting to see how it develops in the years to come and if funding in education becomes more open to new ideas that can attract young people.

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