The American, Elliott Masie, Head of The MASIE Centre, is largely accredited with coining the term ‘eLearning’ in 1998. Although he now says that the ‘e’ is irrelevant, at the time it created much excitement amongst the emerging dot.com community, who embraced it with great relish and much hype. So much so, that at the turn of the 21st Century there seemed to be no way of escaping the term, with conferences, exhibitions, seminars and their like all trumpeting the power of eLearning. Technophiles jumped onto the bandwagon, whilst many of the learning and development fraternity showed intense technophobic aversion.
So 15 years later, has the power of eLearning diminished, stayed the same or increased? The best and easiest way to think of the eLearning that exists today is to open your mind and focus on these concepts:
technology enabled learning (learning by using technological devices)
online learning (learning by connecting to the Internet or an organisation’s intranet)
learning anytime and anywhere
formal learning (such as training courses and coaching)
informal learning (learning serendipitously)
social learning (learning with and from others)
mobile learning (learning on the go and out on the job)
blended learning (learning using a blend of delivery methods).
Due to the advances in technology over the last 15 years, the potential power of eLearning is now immense.
It would be wrong to think of eLearning as just stand-alone online courses or programmes, for example when studying English online, where the learner sits in grand isolation, accesses a module, reads the text on the screen and listens to the audio, interacts with various objects on the screen, undertakes exercises, answers questions and clicks on ‘Next’ to move on. The power of eLearning is far greater than this.
Its power lies in what can be accessed and learned online. In addition to the provision of content or subject matter, eLearning can use a variety of media (images, text, audio in many languages and video), it can contain stories, scenarios, case studies and games, it can use online tutors, groups of learners in real time and discussion groups. It can be used to run online seminars or webinars with individuals or groups of people who geographically dispersed. It can incorporate the use of social media, allowing learners to interact and collaborate at any time during their learning.
When providing English language learning for companies via eLearning, this could involve a combination of any or all of the above depending on the intended learning outcomes. For example, understanding and practising the basics of English could be covered by a stand-alone online course. This could then be extended by using online seminars to develop conversational and pronunciation skills, and learner support could be provided through online discussion and chat groups.
The key is to think expansively, for herein lies the true power of eLearning.