11 Reasons Why eLearning Is Important
The last time the history of learning and communication was severely disrupted, Martin Luther had nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church and the printing press was still a rather expensive contraption reserved for use by the elites and academics
It wasn’t long before printers were aligning their productions in favour of customers’ ‘favoured fields’.
This time, we have an equally (if not more) disruptive and far-reaching technology on the scene and it’s promising to prepare us for a transformation in reality itself — from the physical plane to the digital plane.
That would be online learning, webcourses and the online training management systems that handle it all.
From online learning for English as a second language courses, to LSAT prep courses, and even online learning in coding ‘bootcamps’ such as Bloc or General Assembly, the occasion for eLearning is less a one-time event or a nifty tool and more about a shift in attitudes and expectations of individuals today.
In other words, eLearning is here to stay. And why not? These 11 reasons highlight the efficacy of online learning and its watershed moment that fully justifies the ‘here to stay’ reality.
1) Enhancing the Age of the Autodidact
It’s the golden age of ‘teaching yourself anything’.
Self-taught achievers like good ol’ Da Vinci, Emerson, Ben Franklin, and even Bill Gates have long been regarded with a mixture of awe and envy, partly thanks to the mystique around the big question: ‘How exactly did they do it?’
In the digital age, however, the answer of how to do it is clear: online training classes.
The science of self-directed learning, according to an article by Psychology Today, helps us because it promotes an ethic of willingness, trial-and-error, and a resilient ability to be open to seeking new learning from anywhere — online classrooms included.
More broadly, it also helps us ‘survive in the knowledge economy,’ asking us all to become self-taught learners.
Autodidactism, defined as the ability to be a self-guided or self-taught individual, is not only about motivation or creating one’s own incentives to learn.
No doubt, these are important characteristics for a potential student to have. But online classes are the perfect place for this because, especially with the advent of MOOCs, it allows students to determine their own learning path. They can decide what comes next because one course taken opens up the doors to several other courses.
Rather than being bound by a pre-existing course path, online learners in digital classrooms can start by taking a finance course and then, from here, move on to either computing, or physics, or even database management.
This is truly the age of the autodidact. Rejoice.
2) Breaking Down Accessibility Barriers
Like the printing press splintered through the barriers against mass literacy and promoted wide distribution and dissemination of knowledge, so, too, do online schools help bring learning to anyone with an access point — smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and, soon, even wearable technology — and an Internet connection.
Web-based learning activities allow individuals who might otherwise not be able to participate in ongoing self-development and learning the coveted chance to enhance their own opportunities.
The factors keeping them from this development traditionally might be circumstantial, financial, or even cultural. Virtual campuses, online degrees and eLearning, however, exist independent of these barriers, always ready and willing to be accessed, via the world wide web.
3) Improving Business Innovation
The link between eLearning, online courses and innovation in business is an interesting one. It’s not always readily obvious or easy to pinpoint explicitly.
But consider the courses being offered and the overall themes that tie both together.
Harvard’s HBX Learning Model offers a course known as ‘HBX Disruptive Strategy‘. It touts innovation as a consequence of disruption. Clearly, eLearning itself is a disruption to traditional teaching methods.
Business innovation also relies on ‘transforming what you do and how you do it through a new way of working’. At the 2017 ALPMA Summit in Brisbane, it was people and technology that made a dynamic duo behind the force of innovation.
People and technology are at the very heart of online courses, as both its creators/producers and its consumers.
Finally, one of the key drivers behind innovation, according to Australian-based Atlassian, is that ‘people need time and space to let their creative, innovative juices flow’.
Online courses that encourage what the HBX Disruptive Strategy course explains as ‘a flexible program structure…[with] no set time to log in’, and completing coursework ‘on your own time, while meeting regular deadlines’, mimics this need for flexibility in time and space.
Which inevitably leads to innovation, once individuals return with their newfound learning and insight.
4) Changing Workplace Engagement
Gallup, the leader in measuring statistics like workplace engagement, reports a bleak picture overall: a ‘staggering 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged.’ Meanwhile, ‘companies with highly engaged workers outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share’.
So the question remains: How do companies create engaging workplaces? One answer has been to provide incentive and loyalty programs. Another is to change workplace culture by offering ‘perks’ that attract and retain top talent, such as catered lunches, unlimited vacation, and flex-time.
An even simpler solution (with even farther-reaching positive consequences) is to give employees a sense of upward mobility and invest in their future, through ongoing professional learning and development.
While offering training in the past involved high costs, which limited it to a numbered pool of employees, online classes open up the opportunities for ongoing, work-related learning to all employees who are willing and interested.
5) Broadening Reach
One of the undeniable benefits of an online learning management system is its ability to reach a broad audience.
Especially in the case of MOOCs, many of which are pre-recorded and then remotely administered, there is no need for the instructor to be present at all.
This means access to the course is always open and enrolment occurs on a rolling basis, rather than a semester sequence or based on instructor availability.
And, of course, once students are enrolled, a mass majority can access the course, unlimited to the physical location or size of a lecture hall.
6) Teaching Digital Literacy
When students engage in an online learning environment, there are one of two things going on. Either they are mastering the digital environment which makes the digital classroom and its functions a part of their learning curve, or they’re already digital natives looking to tailor the learning experience for themselves.
In both cases, online degrees and online classes require a period of on-boarding and introduction. While it does get a bit repetitive, every learning environment or course has different requirements, and this can get tricky when the platform itself changes.
Since there are so many options for online learning management systems readily available, the instructional design of each differs. This kind of varied and diverse learning experience helps students build flexibility within the digital environment, learning that there are some aspects to online learning that never change.
Eventually, they’ll come to expect these familiar features across all platforms — such as a ‘News Feed’ feature — setting a new stage for communication.
7) A More Personalised Learning Experience
Online degrees offer students a wide range of perks including:
- The ability to access course material, location-independent
- Studying and learning on one’s own time
- Choosing one’s own modules, course paths, and subjects
- Connecting with other peers, based on like-minded interactions
In its totality, the online learning experience offers students the chance to make it their own. They can customise their hours, the course subjects they choose, the peers they connect with and how deeply they choose to go into the material.
In essence, because the learning experience is placed in the hands of the student, it all comes down to whether or not they’re willing to put in the work. Their choices define the broader learning path they’ll take, whether they’ll seek certification (where offered) or even complete the course at all.
8) Encouraging a Different Way to Connect with Peers
Regardless of all the upcoming innovations in augmented reality and wearable technology just waiting to disrupt the eLearning’s original disruption, one thing is for sure.
The digital ‘classroom’ is not a mirror image of the traditional classroom at all.
The very fact that students are, essentially, users and must interface with a screen, accessing course material and learning through an LMS platform, necessarily shifts the way that learning and information absorption happens.
Students in webcourses must not only rely on their own intrinsic motivation, they must also connect with their peers through the various modes that technology affords them.
From video-conference study-groups to peer-led discussions and self-evaluations, the responsibility for learning as well as for communicating and connecting with the second-biggest resource in the digital classroom — each other — is placed on the shoulders of the student.
9) Increased Productivity
When course materials, resources, lectures and peers are all available online, students can tap in (and tap out) on their own time.
This means that consistency is the key to completing a course. As long as students check in, at least once a day, and commit to finishing just one assignment or reading just one chapter, their progress will be steady.
They can choose their own hours in the day to access this course. If they have busy schedules, they can ‘chunk’ out the material they’d like to cover for the day, leading to an overall increase in productivity as far as course progression goes.
10) Seeing Instant Results and Feedback
In a traditional classroom, students must complete an assignment, a quiz, a test, or project and then submit it for consideration and marking.
In webcourses, this line of evaluation is expedited. Even in cases where students must submit assignments for an instructor’s live review, the feedback time is much faster and less bogged down.
Marks are updated instantly and reflected on a student’s overall grade, without the student having to approach the instructor, schedule an appropriate time or wait for the point in a term or semester where marks are ‘released’ and ‘updated’.
This is a crucial component in the autodidact’s journey and a major reason why elearning is so important.
Self-directed learners also have the responsibility to understand where they are in their learning curve. Without regular in-person interactions with an instructor, it can be difficult to gauge this quickly.
The instant feedback and results that are programmed into an online course, through automated quizzes and functionality that promotes instant marking, allows the learner the chance to do more than simply figure out if they should ‘drop’ the course or not.
Instead, it gives students the chance to course-correct, seeking help from their peer-to-peer interactions faster, earlier on.
11) Dramatically Decreased Eco-Footprint
Whether they are self-hosted or living in the cloud, digital ‘classrooms’ are doing more than simply improving, optimising, and streamlining the learning experience for students.
Online education degrees, for example, allow teachers-in-training to both create digital materials for their assignments and access digital materials to study. This greatly decreases the need for paper textbooks, presentations, handouts and more.
The costs of paper reduction are far-reaching and extend to more than an individual student having to shell out money for photocopying and textbooks. Saving on just one tonne of paper would:
- Save enough energy to power the average home for 6 months.
- Help save 7,000 gallons of water.
- Eliminate the need for 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric tonne carbon equivalent (MTCE).
Not only are these teachers-in-training, in this example, reducing paper consumption and increasing the overall sustainability of learning solutions, they’re also creating learning materials that are digital in nature, training a whole new generation of soon-to-be digital natives.
Making the Most Out of the Future of eLearning
The prevalence of online classrooms poses an opportunity, certainly, but also a bigger question: What do we do about the vast amount of resources and courses available online?
With companies, private institutions, marketers, universities and more creating courses and accessing learning management systems to disseminate information, it’s easy for the self-learner to become utterly overwhelmed and paralysed.
In this case, it becomes just as important to do up-front research into each of the courses. To cut through the noise and find the best courses, potential students should mine reviews from past students, research the course provider, the learning platform being used, and the course materials in order to determine the ‘right fit’ and learning path moving forward.
So the broader impact that eLearning has is clear: conscious and empowered decision-making for all potential students.