E-Learning a future tool of education?

E-learning may seem like just another buzz word today. However, it has the potential to become much much more. First we must consider a few questions. What is elearning? How can we use elearning? What are the challenges that elearning faces?

What is elearning? A quick search on the internet will turn up definitions related to using technology for learning. Some definitions will state elearning as learning through the use of internet related technologies. Others will describe elearning as distance learning where the teacher and student are not in the same geographic location. One can agree with many of these definitions. However, one should consider what learning is first.

Learning is much more than what the majority take it for. To learn something, one must have a want or need to learn it. One must ask many questions in the process. Rousseau in EMILE felt that learning should have one student and one teacher. Learning was not just in a classroom, but it was part of the process of raising the child to prepare them for the world. Socrates saw learning as a life-long process. Learning is exactly that.

Computers will never be able to replace humans as the role of a teacher in this foreseeable future. However, they do make great learning aids. When we learn, we use our senses. Traditional learning tools presented to us information through one sense.

How can we use elearning? There are many possibilities of use for elearning. As a learning aid it can reinforce concepts. It can help a teacher convey a lesson in many ways. It can help people learning a new language. It can help with basic mathematics. It can help consumers and companies. People needing a quick briefing before a meeting could download a elearning based overview. There are endless possibilities for it. There is even a possibility that one could someday download a large multimedia lesson to their handheld via a wireless connection.

What are the challenges that elearning faces? Multimedia today allows us to take advantage of sight, sound, and interactivity. However, there are two major obstacles facing elearning. First, the distribution method presents a problem. Multimedia is rather large in size, and it requires that you distribute it over either a network or through physical media. Physical media can be quite costly, and it may not reach as many people as possible. Distribution over the network faces many hurdles. Growth in high speed internet and costs for the average consumer present many problems for this distribution method.

Finally, the quality of elearning products has not improved. There are many elearning solutions out there, but many of them are just slide shows without the interactive aspect. There is much potential for elearning; it just needs some bright minds and good companies to lead the way.