Distance learning, wired classrooms, open courseware, telecommunication and training games are all forms of e-learning that have evolved tremendously in the last few years. As all aspects of our economy and society trend toward a more globalized network, education is leading other industries into the future. Keep reading for the top 5 trends in e-learning this year.
- Community spirit: Distance learning used to mean individualized study, and while one of the benefits of e-learning is the ability for students to work more or less according to their own pace, today’s online schools and programs are based on the idea that education is a community-driven effort. Fully online schools as well as traditional universities offering e-learning alternatives or supplements are continually experimenting with new ways for students and professors to interact via telecommunications technologies, e-mail, podcasts, chats and message boards. These schools also offer career counseling, tutoring services, library and research support, and the basic student services that students at conventional campuses enjoy. The community-based principle is extended to the global network, as well, as schools invite students and educators from around the world to communicate and connect through their e-learning programs.
- Training programs for businesses: From on-the-job training to help existing employees keep up with evolving industry standards to HR training systems to initiate new employees into the day-to-day protocol of the office, more and more professional organizations are using e-learning systems as training solutions. In a 2010 poll conducted by Learning Circuits and shared by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), organizations replied that nearly 60% of their e-learning systems were designed for employees, and almost 30% were being used for customers. And while just over a quarter of organizations implementing e-learning had training budgets of over $1 million, over a third of organizations had just $50,000 and under to spend on the technology, proving that these systems can be cost effective for businesses as well.
- Interactive learning: Higher ed teachers, K-12 educators, companies and even the government have been using virtual reality and 3D software to train and teach, and this trend is still on the rise. Gamers and web developers are being recruited to help improve interactive e-learning systems, and the game Second Life is one of the most popular. The web-based game is used for personal recreation as well as for e-learning, and while some experts in the field believe it is still a niche system, others feel that it will continue to evolve and gain more mainstream appeal in a range of educational environments.
- E-learning for young students: From websites featuring educational games to more formal, cutting edge e-learning systems and technologies in actual classrooms, online education and e-learning have expanded to include even elementary and middle school students. These age groups are exposed to Internet, online games, smart phones and other advanced technology at a very early age, and by the time they attend school, they’re already familiar with gadgets and tech tools. From language podcasts to Twitter projects to class blogs to telecommunicating with students across the globe, teachers have all sorts of tools at their disposable to access a whole new world of resources from their own classrooms.
- Distance learning earns mainstream acceptance: When online education meant diploma mills and for-profit schools only, an online degree didn’t hold much credibility in the job market, or for students who wanted to transfer credits from an online institution to a traditional university. But now, public and private universities — including very distinguished schools like Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania offer top programs online at the undergraduate and graduate levels. As more schools and more students opt for e-learning methods that offer flexibility and the ability to work and attend school at the same time, more employers are respecting these degrees on resumes.
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