You’d be hard pressed to find a position or industry that doesn’t use technology of some kind. Higher education has almost been synonymous with technological changes and is usually one of the primary and early adopters. Using technology and offering e-learning courses helps better prepare students to be adaptable, to be problem solvers and be comfortable using different instruments in the future. Yes, we all know the benefits and efficiencies technology can offer, but is change always a good thing?
History lesson: e-learning and higher education
E-learning courses offer students the flexibility to learn and participate on their own time, and can be more inclusive and appealing to non-traditional or continuing education students. According to Mashable, there are “3 million online-only students in the U.S.—more than the total number of college students in France.” We think it’s safe to say e-learning is rapidly growing in popularity amidst higher education campuses, opening the educational doors to a more diverse student population. In fact, according to OnlineEducation.net, half of e-learning students are 26 or older (see infographic at the end of this post). Thanks to the Internet, students now have more access and control over their learning and higher education platforms.
Needs improvement: the challenges of e-learning
While the benefits of e-learning in a higher education system are plentiful and the statistics prove the popularity, it does pose challenges not only to the staff and faculty but also to the students. With the introduction of e-learning and course management systems (CMS), faculty members need to dedicate time to rethinking their syllabus and training on how to use these new systems. Students, too, need the required technical components and training as well. Just because we are in the digital age doesn’t mean one can assume everyone has ownership or steady access to it. If you’re thinking of implementing an e-learning platform consider the following:
- Increased demands on faculty: With the influx of new technology, faculty members are more accessible to their students than ever before; thus, making it inevitable to enforce true office hours.
- Unreliable technology: In the event of a technology failure, faculty members would be unable to monitor the validity of students’ assignment submissions.
- Access to required technology: Not all students will be living on campus and have access to a computer lab and high speed Internet. In designing an e-learning course, faculty will have to keep in mind students’ technical limitations (e.g. bandwidth, computer hardware and internet access).
- Change in learning environment: Traditional classroom settings offer students the opportunity to physically interact with their classmates and the instructor, but e-learning courses can segregate and alienate students from one another.
Ultimately each higher education institution will have to decide whether or not the benefits of offering e-learning courses outweigh the technical and time limitations that come with it. Indeed the statistics are staggering for the support of e-learning classes, but implementing said platform, gradually, will help faculty and students adapt to the new “traditional” education process.
Have you ever taken an online course? What are your thoughts on e-learning versus traditional higher education platforms?