When the COVID-19 pandemic forced countries across the globe into lockdown, all levels of learning, from primary school students to advanced university degrees, went online. However, eLearning wasn’t invented in response to the pandemic. Reputable institutions such as EDHEC have been developing remote and hybrid programs for years, leveraging technology to deliver courses to students regardless of their schedule, work commitments, or geographic location.
Although this mode of learning is far from new, there’s no denying that its adoption has rapidly accelerated in recent years.
Today, online education is arguably the most convenient way for professionals looking to enhance their skill set. With this form of education allowing people to access top-quality courses from anywhere, anytime, it could be that eLearning is the new normal.
What is eLearning?
eLearning, or electronic learning, is any kind of education delivered virtually with the aid of technology. It is used for remote delivery of university courses, but this type of learning is also being applied in other settings, such as workplace education. According to Findstack, nearly 40% of all Fortune 500 companies are using online learning for training and the US government spent over $2.6 billion on eLearning products for staff training in 2021.
In this mode of learning, the instructor is not physically in the room with you. Instead, you may watch classes virtually through pre-recorded video or audio, live over video conferencing platforms, or through other learning materials. When done well, eLearning offers the same, if not better, learning outcomes than traditional modes of education.
A recent study compared virtual and in-classroom learning, and found both learning methods to be equally effective. eLearning can have a range of other benefits for students, allowing them to study on their own schedule, access courses from all over the world, and be more in control of their own learning experience.
eLearning – The New Normal?
The heavy investment in e-learning by educational institutions and corporate and government entities shows the widespread support for eLearning.
The boom in remote educational technology pre-dates the pandemic, with global tech companies investing heavily in this area over the last decade or so. These technologies include language applications, video conferencing tools, virtual tutoring, online learning software, and educational portals. Development in these technologies has surged since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part-time students who are balancing their studies with full-time work have long made up a large eLearning cohort, whether returning to further study or earning a degree for the first time. However, more and more full-time students are now studying online, particularly to access degrees from institutions in other parts of the country or even across the world.
Currently, many schools and universities are boosting their infrastructure and capabilities in this area. They’re developing eLearning setups where teachers and students can better collaborate and achieve exceptional learning outcomes. As technology develops further, it’s making it easier than ever for the academic community to provide the highest standards of learning in a virtual context.
These features include:
- real-time editing
- unlimited video conferencing
- automatic translation
- smart calendar scheduling
- online assignment submission
- online assessments
Challenges of eLearning
As students at all levels suddenly adopted eLearning during the COVID-19 pandemic, many faced challenges associated with the format.
There’s no doubt we saw a learning curve as teachers struggled to learn how to master online learning tools and students adapted to the new format.
The sudden disappearance of face-to-face classes, coupled with the more general impacts of lockdown on people’s mental health, made it very difficult for students to keep up the same levels of energy. Many missed the social interaction of being in the classroom, feeling isolated.
However, many of these challenges were a result of rapid transitions without time for proper planning, thanks to sudden lockdowns. As instructors became familiar with the relevant tools and format, they were able to narrow the gap in learning outcomes.
Likewise, educational institutions introduced a range of activities to compensate for the loss of social interaction. They used technology to make learning more interesting and interactive. Students were introduced to a whole new dimension of education that piqued their interest, and some who were previously too shy to interact in live classes had gained the confidence to participate more in online classes.
Furthermore, institutions that were already accustomed to eLearning had years of experience delivering excellent online education and addressing the challenges associated with online education.
At EDHEC, we’ve developed a range of systems to support the best learning and professional outcomes in eLearning, including peer networking and online career coaching.
What’s Next for eLearning?
According to Business Wire, the online education market will be worth $350 billion by 2025. This represents further impressive developments in technology that will make eLearning even more interesting, interactive, and effective.
In this context, we can expect to see a growing number of schools and universities offering remote education. This will likely mean we’ll see more purely online courses and classes being offered, but also more hybrid approaches. In fact, we’re already seeing many institutions embracing hybrid programs that combine virtual and in-person learning.
Embrace the eLearning Revolution
With all this in mind, it seems likely that we’re set to see eLearning as the new normal in the years and decades to come. As instructors and students alike become accustomed to this mode of learning, supported by advances in technology, the excellent learning outcomes achieved in this field can only increase in the future.