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E-learning And Its Social Implications

There is recently a technological revolution, especially in the field of higher education, called E-learning. No doubt, the development and adoption of E-learning seem explosive right from the beginning, it is extraordinary, it is thrilling, and it is interesting and something new both for students and teachers. The way E-learning has been affecting and changing the scenario of traditional form of teaching and learning, the same way it has come up with its significant implications in social sector as well.  Since, E-learning is rapidly and deeply penetrating into societies all over the world, its social implications appear to be an interesting and explorative subject for the experts.

Every society consists of people, belonging to diverse religions, background, values, beliefs, preferences and likes and dislikes. While studying the social implications of E-learning, it is vital to take into consideration all those factors that make up a society.  E-learning’s social implications can be classified into the following kinds of issues. Palloff, Rena M., and Pratt, Keith., 2003).

  • Cultural
  • Gender
  • Geographical
  • Lifestyle
  • Religious
  • Literacy
  • Digital divide
  • Disabilities

Cultural

The cultural category includes content, writing styles, writing structures, multimedia, participant roles and web design. If a teacher is familiar with sensitive part of the material or discussion, how can that teacher lead his/her class to include or exclude that stuff? Writing styles can also affect the process of an online course.

Both the teacher and students are required to have knowledge regarding rules of written assignments. And, if expectations are not fulfilled, who will be responsible to keep homework and discussions on track?

Gender

The issues related to gender also exist in the class, despite of the fact that attendants are physically too far away from one another. Maybe it is the task of the teacher to track facilitation and shift leadership roles in various groups in order to ensure gender neutralization. Any issue identified related to behavior must be tackled and resolved immediately.

Lifestyle

There are many forms of lifestyle changes and the teacher is required to make sure that class members are equally treated, irrespective of their preferences and lifestyles. In certain circumstances, the students take on this role themselves. The saying “diverse strokes for diverse folks” should be maintained with minimum disruption in class.

Geographical

Geographical differences and issues become even more evident if we look them from a global perspective. For instance, if there is a discussion room activity to be happen, all affected time zones should be accommodates. Within this class, there would also be the thoughtless locale jokes. And also the technology issues like internet access must be taken into consideration.

Religious

Religious considerations should also be honored and addressed. Maybe, it would not be suitable for the teacher to ask students to get work done on a Saturday or a Sunday, as these are spiritual days for few religions. This is a sensitive issue where decision making is quite critical.

Literacy & Disability

It is wise to consider literacy for an online course, and it is unwise to overlook. Irrespective of the course level, there is a strong possibility that some people lack certain required skills or skills that need improvements like writing, typing, reading, using software etc. Disabilities must never be neglected. Text options and other formats might be essential.

Reducing the digital divide

Regardless of societies, there are digital gaps between major and minority groups, younger and older, men and women, disable people and rest of population, whites and blacks etc. Access to latest technology and training to utilize it also help decreasing the bridge of digital divide between haves and have-nots.

Palloff, Rena M., and Pratt, Keith. (2003). The Virtual Student: A Profile and Guide to Working with Online Learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Wiley Imprint

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E-learning- A Technological Revolution With Wider Impacts

The societies around the world are changing. Although these changes, which are a lot in number, are attributed to various environmental factors, we cannot neglect the impacts of increasingly popular mode of learning, called E-learning. Not just the students and academies are getting benefited by rising concept of E-learning; it is impacting the entire society as a whole, including families, economies and societies. The good news is that, the influences that it portrays upon these forces are quite positive, containing long lasting benefits.

The impacts of E-learning are vast. You can find them both at individual and collective level. Effective E-learning arises from an information communication technology, in order to widen educational opportunities and facilitate students to polish the skills and capabilities; they and their economy require coping in 21st century. A promising body of evidences proposes that E-learning has the potential to show substantial positive impacts. It listed them as follows: (Bebell, D. & Kay, R., 2010).

  • E-learning makes students to be more engaged and helps them to develop the most wanted skills of 21st century
  • Teachers can have positive attitude regarding their duties and E-learning also helps them in providing personalized learning to students.
  • E-learning has also been influential on a collective level and enhances parental involvement and family interaction.
  • The digital gaps can be reduced in communities, bridging the societal divides.
  • E-learning specially aims to benefit students who are economically disadvantaged and/or disable. With various E-learning models, they can get learning just like other normal people.
  • On macroeconomic level, E-learning portrays its impact in the form of job creation in information technology industry, resulting in economic progress and production of more educated and able workforce.

E-learning and students:

Students are being able to get higher level of engagement, motivation and showing higher attendance after being a part of E-learning mechanism in their institutes. In a survey conducted by the Project Tomorrow, U.S, 64% of elementary teachers revealed that biggest influence on the success of a student can be attributed to the level of their motivation to learn.

The finding based on the responses of 388 district technology directors showed that half of the respondents reported the E-learning is the source of increasing the familiarity of students with technology.

Teaching outcomes:

Many of the latest studies have revealed that granting laptops to teachers or facilitating them purchasing laptops seems to empower their teaching, enhance lesson planning and preparation outcome, get a more optimistic and motivating attitude towards their tasks and improve effectiveness of administration and management tasks.

E-learning and family effects:

E- Learning seems to make certain positive impacts in the family and home life. An analytical study by PISA indicated that computers utilized at academic institutes seemed to have very little effect on outcomes, while utilizing the computer at home showed more significant effects on results.

The usage of technology by students is more common at home. It is also indicated by many studies that students like to use technology at home even when they do not need it to do their homework. According to the survey conducted by CDW-G, U.S., 86 percent of the respondents (students) said that they use computers at home more than in the class, 94 percent indicated that they take the help of technology at home to do their assignments and 46 percent of faculty members revealed that they assign assignments to students that require use of internet or other technology, on a frequent basis.

Along with that, E-learning seems to develop the economy in the form of job creation and effecting work force, by helping even those who consider it difficult to get learning because of their disability or financial crisis, thus E-learning contributes indirectly in the development of communities and countries at large. That’s probably the biggest impact, making it an increasing learning approach all over the world.

Bebell, D. & Kay, R. (2010). One to One Computing: A Summary of the Quantitative Results from the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 9(2). Retrieved from: http://www.jtla.org

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History of E-learning

The word “E-learning” seems so general and common today, especially the speed with which it is becoming a learning norm nowadays, labels it as one of the widely practiced concept all over the world. But, till 1999, no one could even imagine that learning would be possible without meeting at a physical location and there had never been a term like “E-learning” till then. The word “E-learning” and its concept first emerged in October 1999, in a seminar at Los Angeles, organized by CBT systems. In this seminar, the origin and usage of this word in a professional field, was never thought to be the most admiring and adopted idea in just few coming years. It implies that the concept of E-learning is not that old.

The world “E-learning” is also associated with the expressions like “virtual learning” or “online learning”. Experts define E-learning as a mean to gain learning that is based on the utilization of new advanced technologies that permit access to interactive, online and sometime tailored training via Internet and other media like interactive TV, Intranet, CD-ROM, extranet etc so as to expand competencies while the course of learning is self-determining from place and time.

The growth of the e-Learning concept has derived from so many other ‘educational revolutions’. Some of such revolutions are quoted by Billings and Moursund (1988) as:

  • The development of writing and reading
  • The emergence of the teacher/scholar profession
  • The development of portable technology
  • The advancement of electronic technology

It seems that the basic ideas, didactical grounds and methodologies are not so new!

The history of E-learning has been a gradual evolution since long.

In the beginning of 1960s, Psychology professors from Stanford University, named Richard C. Atkinson and Patrick Suppes tested computers to be used to teach math to kids in elementary schools in East Palo Alto, California. These experiments gave birth to Stanford’s Education Program for Gifted Youth.

In the year 1963, Bernard Luskin set up the earliest computer in a community college for teaching. At that time he was working with Stanford along with others and made progress in computer assisted training. Luskin finished his milestone UCLA thesis while working with the Rand Corporation in examining the problems to computer assisted education in 1970.

Initially the e-learning systems, that are based on Computer-Based Training frequently tried to replicate conventional teaching methods whereby the function of the e-learning system was assumed to be for conveying knowledge, as contrasting to systems that were developed afterward. These were designed on the basis of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL), which initiated the idea of shared growth of knowledge.

In 1993, William D. Graziadei introduced an online computer-conveyed lecture, seminar and evaluation project via electronic mail. The first most online high school was founded by 1994. Till now the e-learning has become the hot norm of societies at large, all over the world. The global e-learning industry is anticipated to have value over $48 billion as per some conservative estimates.(Nagy, A., 2005, pp. 79-96). From 1994 till 2006 i.e. just within 12 years, over 3.5 million students had been reported to participate in on-line learning environment at various higher education institutions in US.

E-Learning is now being adopted widely and used by a number of companies to update and educate both their customers and employees. Companies with big and spread out division chains employ it to teach their staff even for the newest product advancements without the requirement of arranging physical courses.

Reference:

1. Nagy, A. (2005). The Impact of E-Learning, in: Bruck, P.A.; Buchholz, A.; Karssen, Z.; Zerfass, A. (Eds). E-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, pp. 79–96

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Tin Can API-Another Fabulous Addition To Enhance E-Learning Model

If we talk about E-learning and online learning approaches, then the discussion would never be complete if we skip the most recent development in this regard. This development has come out in the name of Tin Can-API, a new protocol set ready to replace SCORM.

Since long, SCORM, a collection of specifications and standards had been used for e-learning and web based training. SCORM stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model, and it is a tool that is used to record when anyone takes an e-learning course and records quiz results. It describes communications between a host system referred to as the run-time environment, and user side content that is usually up hold by some learning management system. SCORM also tells how content might be packaged into a transportable ZIP file named “Package Interchange Format”. The last main modernization of SCORM took place in 2004. (Tillett, Jeff, 2012)

Tin-Can API is another evolution of the inflexible SCORM specification. There are a lot of benefits for using Tin-Can, however, the major trait that is proving to be its biggest benefit is its capability to record learning beyond the limitations of a browser’s window. This “light weight” feature of Tin-Can has made it quite versatile, so it is just a matter of time until you will start seeing it integrated in several different ways.

The major features that Tin-Can provides, along with so many other minor qualities, include:

  • Informal learning
  • Personalize learning
  • Performance tracking
  • Analysis
  • Visualization

For learning management system, especially the e- learning one, these features can be termed as ideal as they enhance their efficiency by giving lot of comfort and security.

In addition, there is a fitted query API to assist sorting out recorded statements, and a situation API that permits for a kind of “scratch space” for utilizing applications. Tin Can API statements get saved in a data store named as Learning Record Store that can exist itself or inside a Learning Management System.

Using Tin-Can API:

With Tin-Can API, you can now capture a variety of actions of your users at levels of factors never seen earlier than in conventional learning management systems. There are ways to help you to implement Tin-Can API in your own learning management system through three phases:

Phase 1: Learning Record Store Integration

This phase is complete. The first phase is to incorporate a Learning Record Store (LRS) to house Tin-Can statements.   Learning Record Store is the point where all the learning statements are saved.  An LRS is an innovative method that derived out of Tin-Can API. When Tin-Can API statements are formed, they are conveyed to an LRS which proves as a warehouse for delivered learning statements.

Phase 2: Tin-Can Organic Statement Generation for Quizzes

The second phase is still in progress by LeanDash and you will very soon see the results of this phase as well.

Phase 3:

Currently, no details are available about phase 3. However, it is also going to come very soon.

Reference:

1. Tillett, Jeff. (2012), “Project Tin Can – The Next Generation of SCORM”. Project Tin Can – The Next Generation of SCORM. Float Mobile Learning.

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5 Emerging E-Learning Models

E-learning is the fastest growing learning method in developed and advanced countries. The E-learning is going to widely adopted in many other developing countries soon. The planning for effective implementation of sustainable, result oriented and quality e-learning programs needs a comprehensive understanding regarding the affects of communication technology and information on current learning and teaching practices and on higher education market, in order to find out important success factors which are necessary to be discussed in an effective e-learning policy. (Elmarie Egelbrecht, 2003)

Newer and more effective e-learning models are being developed on a continuous basis, as novel research findings. E –learning models attempt to provide the frameworks needed to deal with the concerns of learners along with the challenges being imposed by technology, so that e- learning can be made effective.  Let’s have a look on some of the e-learning models.

  • ADDIE

The ADDIE model is basically a frame work that shows the generic method conventionally employed by training developers and instructional designers. (Elmarie Egelbrecht, 2003)

The word “ADDIE” is the short form of its five phase i.e.

  1. Analysis
  2. Design
  3. Development
  4. Implementation
  5. Evaluation

The model shows the dynamic, adjustable guideline for structuring successful teaching and performance maintenance tools. It is an ISD (Instructional Systems Design) model. Instructional models play a significant role in devising instructional materials.

  • Dick and Carey Model

Another recognized e-learning instructional design model is called The Dick and Carey Model. The model deals with instruction like a whole system, focusing on the connectedness between content, content, instruction and learning.

The components of this model include:

  1. Identify instructional objectives
  2. Conduct instructional investigation
  3. Examine learners and their contexts
  4. Write performance targets
  5. Develop appraisal instruments
  6. Develop instructional approach
  7. Develop and choose instructional materials
  8. Design and perform formative assessment of instruction
  9. Revise coaching
  10. Design and perform summative evaluation
  • Minimalism

The Minimalism theory by J.M. Carroll is a structure for the designing the instruction, especially teaching materials for e- learners. Minimalist model aims to reduce the degree to which instructional resources hinder learning and emphasizes the design on various activities that maintain learner-directed action and achievement.

  • Rapid Design

E-learning has become widely adopted and rapidly since late 1990s but organizations and developers were hindered by the complexity of writing processes. It was hard and costly to design online courses just from scratch. Rapid learning, Rapid design or Rapid e-learning development has conventionally referred to a method to make e-learning courses speedily. (Karrer, T., 2006)

Rapid design mostly focuses the idea of reprocessing accessible resources such as PowerPoint presentations and converting them into different e-learning courses.

  • User-centered design

Integrating User-Centered Design in an e-learning model will make sure that a product is useful, utilizable, and consequential to the user and permit for abridged development cycles.

User-Centered Design is a strategy for making experiences for learners with their desires they have in their minds. Usability is considered as the primary focus but merely one of numerous. Others incorporate usefulness, legibility, desirability, learnability, etc.

The aim of E-learning models is to spot the vital issues in the e-learning process that have to be tackled in a strategic development process for the execution of e-learning or the tuning of current e-learning initiatives.

Reference:

Elmarie Egelbrecht, (2003) “A look at e-learning models: investigating their value for developing an e-learning strategy”, Progressio, Vol. 25 (2), pp. 38-47

Articles

What Does A Real Life E-Learning Strategy Look Like?

We all follow strategies, every moment of life somehow or the other. It is true that almost every one of us have been a manager and pursuing strategies right from the day we got wisdom. Learning is an ongoing process and an infinite world to discover. Today, learning has evolved in the form of E-learning, vanishing the geographical barriers and distances and making people learn whatever they want, no matter what stage of life they are at.

However, just like other aspects of life, E-learning also requires certain things to follow which are essential ingredients for making the learners successfully pursue their E-learning goals. To exploit this opportunity to the fullest, you need to adopt practical and result oriented strategies so that the learners achieve their E-learning target effectively. (Watkins, 2004, Pg 32-34)

In this article, I am going to uncover some of the highly effective strategies that are compatible with learners’ real life aspects, in order to make the E-learning courses quite successful and interesting experience for them. After reading this article, you will be able to think on your own, what a real-life E-learning strategy should look like?

Remember! You are teaching people and giving them learning online. You might be able to see one another through various electronic means, however; it’s a reality that in real life, face to face (physical) interaction results in unmatchable results. Hence, you need to make your strategy so interacting; engaging and motivating for the learners which can make them feel that they are physically collaborated and learning under one roof. No matter, what the age of learner is, he/she needs the excellent e-learning experience, self satisfaction and engaging atmosphere.

A real Life E-learning strategy!

An E-learning strategy must have the following elements in order to be engaging and compatible with real life aspects of the learners.

  • The E-learning strategy must be challenging that can keep the learners active and alert.
  • The strategy must be able to deliver empowerment to learners where they can share their thoughts and what they actually think about the current topic. This also enables instructors to have an insight regarding the degree to which learners are getting engaged with the E-learning process. (C.Curran, 2004)
  • The E-learning courses must be made interesting so that learners take interest and show enthusiasm to explore more and more.
  • Let the E-learning strategy be embedded with one of the most common real life facts, “To err is human”. The E-learning strategy must be flexible enough to give space for the mistakes and flaws, by the learners or a process. This will lead towards advancement and improvement.
  • Make learning fun, rather than burdensome thing to digest. Since E-learning involves learning via electronic means rather than physical or face to face correspondence, there is not much margin for the learners to have something humorous in order to refresh themselves. Like for example, if the webinar is of 4-5 hours, the strategy should include at least one hour for informal discussion, so that learners can divert their minds for some time and gain energy for the further session. (C.Curran,2004)

All these strategies have actually been designed by E-learning experts and are widely adopted nowadays to make E-learning quite similar with normal mode of learning, where everyone has access to lot of information in an interactive and friendly manner.

Watkins, R. 2004b. E-Learning Study Skills and Strategies. Distance Learning 1, no. 3: 32-34

Curran, Chris, 2004.Straregies for E-Learning in Universities. Research and Occasional Papers Series, UC Berkeley.

 

Articles

The Challenge of Four-Status Model of eLearning: Principles Toward a New Understanding for Healthcare Professionals

In many industries, a growing need for distance education exists. This is especially true in the healthcare industry where new knowledge is essential to enhance patient care.  Professional requirements also require hospital staff to learn new information.  In this article, Turnbull, Wills, and Gobbi (2011) talk about eLearning in a nursing program in Thailand and how they faced challenges due to several factors.  They mention that one needs to critically consider the factors of infrastructure, finance, policies, and culture (IF-PC) when deciding to pursue eLearning as a source of teaching, since there are many drivers and barriers to eLearning.

Gobbit et. al (2001) conducted a mixed method study consisting of interviews, questionnaires, and surveys.  The study examined the eLearning program at this nursing college in Thailand and came up with several findings.  Benefits of eLearning can be great due to the access of new knowledge, allowing hospital staff to enhance patient care.  However, technological barriers prevent many from being able to utilize such resources.  For example, many of the staff members were unable to access computers, while others had slow Internet connections. According to the author, the success of an eLearning program can be strongly influenced by the four domains mentioned in the article (infrastructure, finance, policies, and culture).

 

Turnbull, N., Willis, G.B., & Gobbi, M.O. (2010).  The challenge to the four-status e-learning model for healthcare professionals: a critique on a developing world case study.  Paper presented at the 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, November 15-17, 2010, Madrid, Spain.

 

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Financial Benefits of eLearning

Companies are rapidly implementing eLearning as a method of training.  The eLearning sector as a vehicle for training is becoming larger as technology gets cheaper and more advanced.  According to Nichols (2004), the way eLearning benefits companies is that it is lower in cost while it has a higher output through automation.  The author writes in his article that the financial benefits still need to be considered when deciding to pursue eLearning training.  As with all decisions, there exist benefits as well as drawbacks.

One of the drawbacks to eLearning initiatives is that there exists a high fixed cost.  Some of the costs related to eLearning are personnel (Instructional System Designers, eLearning developers, curriculum developers, programmers, graphic designers, and a few others).  Additionally, the level of interaction and simulations significantly affects costs as well.  For example, a course on sexual harassment might decide to include a video scenario using professional actors rather than text with images.

On the other hand, the benefit of turning training into eLearning over instructor led courses (ILTs) is that learning of new knowledge is much quicker than the traditional methods.  For example, a company introducing a new technology to its employees requires tremendous amount of knowledge transfer.  Providing eLearning training allows employees to learn them quickly at their own pace.  Contrastingly, providing instructor led training can take much longer to learn the new knowledge since training depends on the speed of the trainer.

When an organization decides to implement eLearning as a form of training, Nichols (2004) writes that it should depend on the contribution to cost, quality, service, and speed.  Although some aspects of the projected costs may be subjective, the author suggests that it can play a contributing factor in the decision making process, while getting “buy-in” from managers and directors (p. 33).

Nichols, M. (2004).  The financial benefits of eLearning.  Journal of Distance Learning, 8 (1), 25-33.

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Stanford R. Ovshinsky, Self-Taught Genius Dies at 89

On Wednesday, October 17, 2012, the world lost a modern-day genius, one who was rivaled only by the likes of Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. In addition to being creative, innovative, and remarkably intelligent, these iconic men shared another thing in common—they were all largely self-taught.

Having never graced the doors of a college classroom (at least not as a student), Ovshinsky transformed the technology, automotive, and alternative energy industries with his groundbreaking theories and inventions, many of which were initially perceived as highly controversial if not downright foolish by his colleagues. Still, one consultant and colleague of Ovshinsky, Chicago physicist Hellmut Fritzsche, called him “the only genius [he] ever met,” despite his 40-year career at the University of Chicago (as cited in Woo, 2012).

Perhaps the most notable accomplishment of the “energy genius,” as he was called, was the invention of the nickel-metal-hydride battery, which has been used to power such high-tech machines as laptops, cellphones, and even hybrid cars.

It might be said that Ovshininsky’ s legacy left its mark on not just the energy field, but on the education field as well. At the very least, his life’s work begs the questions: Is compulsory education and college education really necessary, or does is, as John Taylor Gatto, author of The Weapons of Mass Instruction, argues, serve only to dumb us down or stifle our creativity? If more of us were given the freedom to learn on our own about the things that most interest us, would we accomplish more as individuals, as a society, as a species? Yes, I believe we would, and although he never officially weighed in on the subject, I happen to think our modern day genius would agree.

Ovshininsky died of prostate cancer at his home in Bloomfield, Michigan.

References

Woo, E. (2012, Oct. 20). Stanford Ovshininsky dies at 89; inventor founded new field of electronics. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2012/oct/20/local/la-me-stanford-ovshinsky-20121021.

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eLearning Based on the Semantic Web

The new Web—what some people are referring to as the Semantic Web—offers a promising solution for the obstacles businesses face when implementing new eLearning methods. In a Semantic Web, content will be made consumable for both machines and humans, allowing “automated agents” (p. 2 ) as Stojanovic, Staab,  & Studer (2001) refer to them, to decipher web content and react to unpredictable scenarios just as people do.

According to Stojanovic et al (2001), in order for this objective to be realized, four main layers of representational structures are required including the XML layer (representing data structure), the RDF layer (representing meaning), the Ontology layer (representing a consensus of the meaning), and the Logic layer (which allows for reasoning). While technologies for the first two layers already exist, the latter two have yet to be fully developed.

The benefits of the Semantic Web will lie in its ability to be shaped by the automated agent into relevant, just-in-time learning experiences for users on an as-needed basis. In essence, an employee who needs to solve a problem or complete a task could create a course of study or training module in seconds simply by typing in a semantic query related to the topic.

Stojanovic et al (2001) argue that in order for such a scenario to be realized, eLearning systems must use ontology-based metadata (i.e. a standardized system of tags by which to organize web data). Furthermore, this system must describe not only the content of web resources, but also their context and structure. A Semantic Web based on this ontology foundation would allow for better communication between machines and humans, making dynamic, real-time learning a distinct possibility.

 

Stojanović, L., Staab, S., & Studer, R. (2001). eLearning based on the Semantic Web. Paper presented at the World Conference on the Web and Internet, October 23-27, 2003, Orlando, Florida, USA.