E-learning is a broad term that includes methods of learning using Internet technology, multimedia and packaged software programs. This form of distance education provides many opportunities for students to study course material and earn degrees outside the traditional ground-based classroom. E-learning is expected to continue growing in popularity because of its convenience and flexibility.
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Distance learning has been around since 1840. Isaac Pitman, an Englishman, offered shorthand, a quick writing method used by secretaries, as a correspondence class where materials and lessons were sent through the mail. In 1874, Illinois Wesleyan University offered bachelor's degrees by correspondence. The method caught on, and in 1915 the national University Extension Association was created to provide accreditation for distance learning programs.
With the advent of radio and television, more methods of distance learning became available. Teleconferencing, video and audio tapes also became methods for distance learning.
History of E-Learning
The term "e-learning" was coined in October of 1999. The expression specifically referred to learning using the Internet or other interactive or electronic media sources. It was also termed "online learning," according to the e-Learning Fundamentals website. E-learning is a type of distance learning because the student has the freedom to learn lessons and complete assignments outside the classroom.
Advantages of e-Learning
The Public Safety Degrees website claims that there are a number of benefits to e-learning over classroom methods. First, students can learn at their own pace. They do not have to work faster to keep up with advanced students or slow down to wait for struggling learners. Second, they can review the material multiple times to improve their own understanding, unlike in a classroom where the teacher covers the material quickly and then moves on regardless of whether or not the student is ready. Third, students are not required to show up for classes. They can learn from the comfort of their own home, while travelling or in the workplace.
Uses for E-Learning
In 2010, the World Wide Learn website indicated that e-learning was used by corporations to provide professional development and improve communication within organisations. Institutes of higher learning increasingly provided access to online classes, which offered a variety of learning opportunities to rural and distance students. Governments also used e-learning to provide education to underserved populations.
Future of e-Learning
E-learning is growing rapidly, according to David Nagel, the author of Campus Technology's March 2010 article The Future of E-Learning Is More Growth. Both K-12 and higher learning institutions are expected to continue to invest heavily in e-learning software and technology over the next five years. The research firm Ambient Insight found that e-learning was a £17.6 billion industry in 2009. Their figures expect those numbers to double by 2014.
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