This is an age in which a great many things are possible, and many of them because of the fantastic technological leaps we’ve made in the past decades. Computers, and the lightening speed at which we can share information have changed a great many things. Education is no exception. We live in an age of e-learning, (or ‘electronic learning’), which refers to the capacity to undertake entire courses, and in fact some whole degrees without ever entering a classroom, or even leaving your home. What are the pros and cons of this innovation?
There is no doubt that flexibility is one of the great advantages that e-learning offers. Courses will still have an instructor in most cases, and a fixed date for completing certain tasks, but outside of that, the student is in total control of their schedule. Information on the internet sits and waits for us to access it when and where we please. This gives a great deal of freedom to the student with a busy schedule, and in fact, it opens doors for people whose life demands may prevent them from signing up for traditional degree work.
Costs may vary with e-learning, and certainly e-learning courses offer to guarantee to be less expensive than traditional education. With that said, e-learning does not require a classroom in a building with a heating and lighting system, custodial staff to pay, etc. Students enrolled in e-learning absorb the costs for these kinds of things themselves, simply by doing it in a different environment, whether it is home or a cafe, or somewhere else. More often than not this does translate into a net savings when it comes time to pay tuition fees.
While computers are often as widely used ‘on campus’ as they might be for e-learning courses, the capacity that modern technology has, in increasing amounts, allows for all kinds of innovative materials to be part of the e-learning environment. This goes beyond simple audio and visual aids, which are ample, but also includes new kinds of software that allow for all kinds of ‘virtual’ experiences of say, constructing a building, or testing a model for aerodynamics. E-learning courses, as a result of this expanding technology, are able to cover an increasing array of topics without the need for expensive or high-tech laboratory resources, opening more fields to this type of advancement.
So who is it for?
E-learning will have both pros and cons, and perhaps the best way to understand which will apply to you is to look at what you want e-learning to do in your life. E-learning is an excellent fit for people already in the work force and looking to upgrade their qualifications without putting their career on hold. It works great for people who families and other commitments that limit their time. It probably is a good fit for a lot of technical learning that requires more memorization than other complex programs.
However, if you are entering post-secondary for the first time, it may be advisable to not give up your classroom experience quite so fast. Our lives are made better and faster by computers to be certain, however, we are still human! When we learn, we are often learning about ourselves, or at least, the thoughts and accomplishments of our species. Engaging with others is a vital part of this process. E-learning may have its appeal to you at some point for its advantages, but is not likely going to replace the valuable experiences we can still have in a classroom environment.