Is E-Learning Suited to My Needs?
E-learning is a method of learning that has been steadily transforming itself from a marginal and insignificant fad of the few into a mainstream trend of internet users worldwide.
E-learning is, of course, a generic term that could refer to any number of learning techniques that are either computer or web-based. Many of us are "e-learners" without even being aware of it. Each time you actively gain knowledge about a certain subject through the use of your computer, you are for all practical purposes "e-learning"!
Yet there is still quite a significant difference between looking up an entry in Wikipedia or reading about the tsunami in Japan on CNN's web site, and learning how to cook by watching videos or learning languages using virtual classroom technology. The difference lies within the following factors:
1. Level of control (real and perceived)
3. Level of commitment
Having so much information at the tip of your fingers can be both empowering and perplexing at once. When looking up an entry, you have lots of control but insufficient guidance and direction. You are on your own. Watching a cooking video and will lose you some of that control (you can't determine how fast the presenter talks or what he or she talks about) in return for some very valuable guidance.
Learning a language in a virtual classroom with a teacher is an example of e-learning that allows the same level of control that might be available in a traditional classroom (tell the teacher to talk slower, repeat certain words, explain something else, etc.) with the kind of guidance and direction that only a teacher can provide.
"Anger always comes from frustrated expectations.” - Elliott Larson
"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.”- Charles F. Kettering
A person's expectations towards e-learning in general are rarely realistic. As I mentioned above, having access to a world of information doesn't necessarily mean you'll know how to navigate through all that data, classify it correctly and separate the wheat from the chaff, as the saying goes.
Many people hold some very misguided assumptions about instructor-led e-learning. They, for some reason, think that it's either a waste of time ("too good to be true") or some kind of magical world where everything that was once difficult or unattainable is suddenly made simple and are one click away from being realized ("too good not to be true"). I have some good news for the former and bad news for the latter. Learning online with a teacher is quite similar to learning in a conventional classroom. You still have to apply yourself persistently and consistently in order to succeed and the time it takes to gain adequate knowledge in the target discipline still depends on the competence of the teacher and the starting point of the student.
The term virtual learning just doesn't do e-learning justice; it implies that a virtual classroom is somehow different than, or inferior to, a "real-life" classroom. The truth of the matter is that today's technology actually allows teachers and students to digitally collaborate in ways never imagined before, allowing us to make the learning process as effective and enjoyable as any other means available.
Virtual is the new real! Remember the first time you spoke to someone abroad on the phone and said "Wow, you sound as if you were right next door!"? It's the same thing with e-learning; you'll be surprised just how easy, user-friendly, and effective it is.
If you're worried about losing the effect of physical proximity, you might be overestimating the pedagogical value of the sense of touch and underestimating the educational value of sight and sound. Let us not forget that even at school, most of us learned by listening to what the teacher was saying and watching what she (or he) was writing on the blackboard (or whiteboard, depending on your age). The point is that most of us didn't touch the teacher and the functions that did ensure a good education are not only available online today, but are at times much more effective in a virtual classroom.
However notable differences do exist between the two platforms:
- Standard classrooms can attract only teachers and students from the near vicinity, whereas virtual classrooms are open to whoever wants to learn and whoever is capable of teaching, wherever he or he may reside.
- Virtual classrooms cost less than physical classes and therefore students can pay less for high quality teaching services.
- With the virtual option, students save time and money otherwise spent on travelling, parking and so on.
Going back to the instructional cooking video, we see that it demands very little commitment on our part - especially if it's free. This lack of commitment might later take its toll on the taste of the casserole you want to prepare. People are naturally intimidated by the prospect of long term commitment, whether financial or otherwise, and even more so when it comes to the internet because, as I have already mentioned, here users expect the speed of their internet connection to determine the speed of their academic progress (and this of course isn't the case!).
Nevertheless, people who do make the commitment, invest the time and money, and take their commitment (to themselves) seriously, have difficulty figuring out why they waited so long to start learning online.
LingoLearn is an online language school offering beginners' level language courses, as well as intermediate and advanced level courses. Learn a language with our experienced teachers and excellent learning materials, in a state of the art virtual classroom!