Advantages and disadvantages of e-learning/teaching
There are many advantages to online and computer-based learning when compared to traditional face-to-face courses and lectures:
- Saving time and travel: overcomes timing, attendance and travel difficulties.
- Easy access from different spots across the world. Courses can be accessed from a variety of locations.
- Eliminating or significantly reducing travel and accommodation costs for participants in the training: both students and lecturers.
- Covering a large number of people in a short time.
- Faster delivery cycle in time than traditional classroom based instruction. Students can subscribe for several courses at once.
- Suitable for professionals: Training can be undertaken when people are available, rather than making sure that participants are available when the training is planned. Learning sessions are practically available all the time and learners are not bound to a specific day or time to attend classes.
- Flexibility: The content can be updated, modified and changed in a flexible and fast manner.
- Re-use and modularization: the learning objects learning materials can be reused.
- Higher freedom for participants: The trainer/tutor is usually a coach and facilitator rather than a traditional lecturer.
- Advances competences in new technologies: E-learning process helps trainees to understand and to cope with new technology and online tools.
- Affordability: It’s easy to reach economies of scale: the greater the number of participants, the greater the probability that economies of scale will make e-learning an attractive proposition from a cost perspective.
- Better, faster and cheaper administration than classroom training. Due to the online technologies, one coordinator can handle significant amount of courses and trainees.
- Improved performance: Results of numerous surveys show that in online education students in general perform better than those in the offline learning.
Together with advantages, e-learning platforms and tools bring risks. They are often frustrating, and do not always work efficiently. Feasibility study identifies the following weaknesses and risks:
- Users’ resistance to changes: Introduction of new methods and technologies always creates frustration, especially for people who have more “conservative” mindsets in relation to training and education.
- Strong requirement for self-discipline: Not all users participating in online courses are disciplined and can spare time for studying on their own. E-learning requires a higher level of responsibility for participation in a course, preparation of assignments, meeting deadlines.
- New communication technologies improve faster than ever: Today’s developments are already outdated tomorrow. Every online technical development and implementation requires a significant amount of time and investments, and the results could be outdated soon.
- Synchronization is not easy: For some e-learning methods, like webinars, online conferences, etc. where trainees have to participate simultaneously, it is difficult to synchronize their schedules to be able to attend at the same time. This is especially an issue when e-learning process covers two and more countries with time differences.
- Internet connection: The use of many technical applications in the e-learning process (webinars, podcasts, video materials, teleconferences, etc.) requires high speed Internet. This is a problem in developing countries where Internet infrastructure is not well developed and uploading and downloading processes are very slow.
- Copyright on the training materials: E-learning platforms need to consider that trainers are not always willing to post free in the public domain their articles, papers and training materials. Security measures should be part of developing an e-learning tool.
- Language barriers: E-learning in countries where the commonly used language is not the same as the language of the software (which is usually English) might create obstacles. In a training environment where trainers are international consultants and experts, the project costs might drastically increase due to the need for translating all language materials into the local language.
Success factors in e-learning/teaching
In case you decide to design an online course, here are several key factors which would influence the level of success of your course:
- Interactivity and engagement. The most effective learning occurs when learners are actively engaged. Interactivity involves active participation by the learners: answering questions, interacting with others, uploading content, reflecting on course materials, providing feedback. Whatever tool is used, it is important to engage students from the start, because immediate engagement builds self-esteem, and gives the courage to go ahead.
- Customization. The content and the design of the courses should reflect the needs and interests of the target group. The tone, level of content, and interactivity should be appropriate to the culture and training behaviour of the participants.
- Usability of content. The content should be developed in a way that participants can refer to it multiple times as they should be the one in control of the timing and flow of content.
- Visualization. It is important to use rich media elements (photos, graphics, animations, simulations, videos, and sounds.
- Evaluation methods. There are many ways for interim and final evaluation in online learning programs. The most popular are: tests; qork on a case study (preliminary prepared by the trainer, or initiated by the students); solving a practical problem based on a theoretical framework; writing an essay; working on a practical project and analyzing the project based on a preliminary grid; monitoring and evaluation of students’ participation: level of engagement in online classes, chat rooms, information flow.
- Easy to understand content and evaluation techniques. Comprehensive, structured and user-friendly way of presenting course material is a must. Reading the summaries and highlights in the course material is sometimes more important for the students than reading the whole package. The students’ performance should be evaluated during the whole course by using easy-to-understand evaluation techniques.
- Balancing the content and the visual presentation. Both are equally important in any types of e-training. Visual images help learners to retain attention and maintain their interest. Gadgets (e.g. pick-n-choose button for choosing the right answer; coffee mug icon for break-time, or a guru icon that gives out hints) give a sense of a human touch that makes learners feel more engaged and attentive. Unless very important, background music and sounds should be avoided because they usually overload the working memory.
- Combining theory and practice. Irrespective of trainees’ background, the courses have to allow them to relate the content to their own experiences. This is especially important when setting up e-tools for training practitioners.
- Providing ongoing feedback. Many learners are afraid of failures; therefore ensuring sufficient feedback is an important factor for success. The methodology need to also secure providing feedback from the students for each trainer and for each course at the end of the training.
Here are a few links to explore further:
- E-learner: Advantages and disadvantages: http://www.dso.iastate.edu/asc/academic/elearner/advantage.html
- 6 advantages of e-learning: The best reasons for online education: http://www.onlinelearningreviews.net/advantages-of-e-learning-best-reasons-online-education/
- Disadvantages of e-learning: http://www.le.ac.uk/users/rjm1/etutor/elearning/disadvofelearning.html
- Advantages and disadvantages of online education – http://www.streetdirectory.com/travel_guide/62604/phoenix_university/advantages_and_disadvantages_of_online_education.html
- 7 key factors to ensure a successful eLearning program: http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/210351/7-Key-Factors-to-Ensure-a-Successful-eLearning-Program
- Top 100 free online courses from the best universities: https://custom-writing.org/blog/free-online-courses