School Beyond Walls: Advantages of E-Learning.
Many times we are constrained by various circumstances and institutional settings that limit the extent to which we can spread our antennas in our quest for knowledge. This has had counter effects on our development as individuals, teams, nations, and the world at large. A fundamental ground of learning known far and wide particularly for formal education is the school.
The school settings for many decades was and is still in some parts of the world largely based on setting up physical infrastructure with classrooms or lecture halls (as the case may be) where the transfer of knowledge takes place from the teacher/lecturer to the students who are gathered together in the same location. Thus for many decades learning was majorly based on whatever was taught the students by the teacher in the classroom and additionally from recommended textbooks.
Though this traditional system has achieved to a commendable measure its purpose of enlightening minds by means of education, the increasing awareness and popularity that formal education has gained have highlighted the limitations of the traditional “four-walled” school system through the increasing demand for education as a result of a desperate quest for knowledge as well as the persistent need for research in various fields.
This need for a wider knowledge base and source of information is a pointer to the fact that “E-learning” that is, a system of learning by the use of electronic (technological) means mostly internet to conduct learning, is the way to go!
To think that online learning was just developed between the 1980s-1990s with the term “E-learning” only been used for the first time in 1999 at a CBT systems seminar shows that for a long time people had been subjected to the good but quite imperfect traditional educational system within the four walls of school infrastructure. Therefore, E-learning(or online learning) like a superhero just had to be summoned to save the day and it has been doing an impressive job thus far.
A major advantage of the E-learning system is the ease of accessibility to information. E-learning has enabled the school to be brought home-that is you can be in school anywhere you are and at any time you want-how cool is that!
The “four-walled school” system poses geographical limitations because people who are interested in learning that is far away from the location of the school are deprived of the opportunity of quality education if they are unable to access their desired school. There are people who have had to either walk or ride a bicycle for miles to get to their school in the morning or those who have to enter public transport or change their accommodation altogether in order to attend a school of their choice; such measure of inconvenience just to access quality education!
This is coupled with the fact that students do not have the opportunity to learn at their own pace due to time constraints. All students are boxed into the set time approved by the school. Thus, whether or not students are available to take lectures which they have paid for, lessons continue even when such students are unavailable for legitimate and unavoidable reasons. Such lessons are lost only to be regained at the expense of the convenience of the teacher who has to go over the said topic again for such student or such student is asked to simply copy the notes and read whether or not he/she understands. However,with E-learning, lectures/classes can easily be accessed at convenient times and locations by students even after such lectures have been delivered in reality.
Furthermore, e-learning affords every student the opportunity to have a personalized learning experience. Unlike the four-walled school system where usually every student is limited to the teaching methodology of the teacher/lecturer, e-learning affords every student the opportunity to learn in the best way he/she understands. How do I mean? There are three major ways in which people learn- visual, audio, and kinetic.
More often than not, classroom teaching would usually be limited to audio learning whereby students simply listen to the teacher/lecturer and write notes. Therefore, other students who aren’t really audio learners cannot operate at their best because they are limited to only one learning method(worse still if the teacher/lecturer is not really good at expatiating his/her explanations). Of what importance is this you may ask? This is the situation with many students in the traditional school settings who do not have their best-suited learning methodology readily available to them because in such settings, the class teacher cannot effectively without any external assistance cater for the learning needs of each of the students, especially where the students to teacher/lecturer ratio is high.
However, with e-learning, access to audio notes, online video tutorials, and even online educational games offer various learning styles suited for various people thereby providing a personalized learning experience for every student.
E-learning also affords the users variety of learning aids and materials on a particular subject matter. Instead of students being constrained to using a single recommended textbook or handout, students now have access to a wide range of resources through e-learning which they can refer to again from time to time.
Finally, education(especially at the tertiary level)ought to be a scholarly exchange of information between the lecturer/teacher and the students who are both scholars in the temple of knowledge. However, this exchange of knowledge cannot be effective where quality research is lacking. This is the reason for the constant recycling of the same set of information with minimal or no improvement year in year out in many educational institutions due to lack of adequate research as a result of limitation in research facilities. More often than not both lecturer and students drink from the same cistern- recommended textbooks or books available in the library. Therefore we experience little or no novelty in the curriculum or general study outlines because scholars are limited to the research resources available to them particularly textbooks.
However, e-learning provides a platform for both students and teachers/lecturers to access a variety of information and carry out effective and qualitative research online and also contribute to the scholarly discussion by uploading their own research so that others can also learn and draw out useful information from their research.
Beautiful enough, the cost of e-learning is much cheaper compared to physical learning in a “four-walled school”. An obvious cost saved is transportation cost because lectures and research can be done from home without having to appear physically at a particular place. Also, the cost of research had been drastically reduced because students and lecturers alike do not have to buy all the textbooks in the bookshop on a subject matter just to access the required information. All that need to be done is to search out the required information online and boom! Research begins! Fortunately, the cost of data is much lesser and pocket-friendly than the cost of textbooks!
The world is developing in various respects at a fast rate and the only way to keep up with the unrelenting pace of development in the world of today is by effective and quick access to up-to-date information. E-learning has made this possible by the use of various technological means and devices particularly the internet. The quick development of various means of e-learning is a pointer to the fact that e-learning is the effective way to catch up with knowledge on various disciplines in these times by continuous improvement and editing of already existing information borne of quality research something that the traditional school system cannot boast of.
Impressively, in recent times there has been a synergy of both the traditional school system and e-learning whereby four-walled schools also encourage and run e-learning side by side with the regular classroom teaching/lecture for effective transfer and acquisition of knowledge. Therefore while some students are in the class physically, others are in the class online and both groups have access to information via the internet and not just textbooks.
For some schools, a complete e-learning structure has been set up whereby all lectures are taken online. Electronic libraries have also been established for proper information research. This has resulted in more qualitative, cheaper, and wider access to information and educational materials by students who can now be in school and yet be at home at the same time.
Indeed, the barricades put up by education within the four walls of a school such as geographical barrier, time constraint, limited sources of information are successfully being scaled by the e-learning system which many schools have now adopted. This is not to say that e-learning does not throw up its own challenges but without a doubt, it has been a major stride in educational development particularly in the areas of research and convenience. School beyond walls that is, e-learning is indeed a step in the right direction and greatly advantageous to educational development.