An Introduction to E-Learning
The word e-learning is short for electronic learning. E-learning typically involves the use of computer technology to support learning. This can be structured in various ways. Several different formats for structuring e-learning are shown in the table below. The one thing that all of these formats have in common is the use of the Internet to support and deliver instruction. The major difference is the amount of instruction that is posted online for student learning.
Synchronous Versus Asynchronous
The terms synchronous and asynchronous are used to describe whether or not students attend instruction at the same time or at different times. In synchronous instruction the teacher and students meet at the same time. In face to face instruction this means that everyone is in the same room at the same time. In online instruction synchronous instruction occurs through the use of technologies such as chat, two-way video conferencing, or audio conferencing. Online instruction is more likely to be asynchronous allowing students to access and participate in the course when they choose to do so.
Benefits of E-Learning
There are some benefits to asynchronous online instruction. The benefits include:
- Flexibility: It is possible to attend class when it is convenient.
- Accessibility: It is possible to attend classes that are not available locally.
- Global Boundaries: Students from various geographic regions may attend the same class and share an array of perspectives and ideas.
E-learning can be a rewarding experience. For those who have never participated in online instruction it may seem very different at first. Maximum benefit can be achieved by spending time becoming familiar with the course interface and expectations. In addition to this it is important to understand basic computer technology and software used in online instruction. Much of the information in this guide has been developed to assist in this orientation to e-learning.
Successful Online Learning
Successful online learning depends on multiple factors. Certainly the quality of the course is one factor. In addition to this there are several student characteristics that contribute to success in an online course. Some of these characteristics mirror success factors for students involved in any type of course. Student motivation, attitude, and general ability are among these characteristics. For example, students who are high achievers in traditional education are more likely to be successful in online courses than low achievers. Grade point average (GPA) has been identified as a predictor of success in online courses (Bernard, Brauer, Abrami, & Surkes, 2004). General ability as a student is not always enough to lead to successful or even enjoyable online learning. There are other student characteristics that seem to be important as well (Palloff & Pratt, 2001). The list below illustrates some of the possible traits needed to succeed in online courses.
- Self-motivation: Ability and willingness to independently direct one's own learning.
- Independence: Ability to work well with minimal structure.
- Good thinking skills: Ability to use higher-order thinking such as synthesis, evaluation, or analysis.
- Good time manager: Ability to develop a schedule, establish goals, and follow a self-established routine to meet due dates.
- Good problem solver: Ability to troubleshoot and resolve problems.
- Basic computer skills: Ability to operate a computer. Understanding of computer hardware and software needed in the online course.
While some characteristics such as self-motivation and independence seem inherent others may be developed and strengthened. A student can develop higher-order thinking skills. Time management and problem solving strategies can be learned. Basic computer skills may be acquired. Information related to these skills has been developed and posted on this site for you to use as you prepare for e-learning.
Bernard, R.M., Brauer, A., Abrami, P.C., & Surkes, M. (2004). The development of a questionnaire for predicting online learning achievement. Distance Education, 25(1), 31-47.
Palloff, R.M & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of online teaching . San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.