Reviewing the most significant changes that have occurred in the educational industry during the last decades, it is possible to note that the absolute majority of them are associated with the widespread introduction of information and telecommunication technologies (ICTs) in the educational process. Traditional education practiced throughout the world for centuries becomes less responsive to the contemporary needs of society in conditions of mobility and globalization. If earlier it was sufficient to get a good education once and then use it for life, today plenty of professions require continuous learning and advancement.
E-Learning Identification, Significant Developments, and Benefits
Electronic learning (e-learning) is a system of education provided with the help of electronic resources, including the use of the Internet, computers, mobile devices, optical discs, and so on. The paramount goal of e-learning is to serve as the foundation for the technologies of a knowledge-based society (Truong, 2016). At the same time, e-learning allows designing education without interruption from work and according to an individual program corresponding to the competencies of a particular specialist.
E-learning advances rapidly and presents various developments. Gamification is one of the most important advancements since it engages learners in the process of education through applications and websites designed similar to computer games. For example, in business, gamification is used to build relationships with partners and employees through customer loyalty programs and motivation based on values, rather than remuneration. Virtual assistants compose another development, which can be observed in the example of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. The functionality and capabilities of the mentioned assistants can be used to perform web searches and receive additional information. Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) based on Open Educational Resources (OERs) presented recently refer to addressing the challenge of access to e-learning. As claimed by Knox (2014), MOOCs ensure access to quality education that is especially crucial for developing countries. The e-book is one more development, which helps learners to receive high-quality education spending less and learning in a distant manner (Truong, 2016). Supported by mobile devices, e-books have become rather significant for students all over the world. Last but not least advancement is associated with library digitization. Not only books but also scholarly publications and other resources became available to learners in an online fashion. In other words, education became more accessible with the advent of e-learning methods and tools.
Speaking of the benefits to employees and learners in business, one may note that e-learning includes the merits of traditional and online forms of learning that ensures high learning retention. On the one hand, it offers a unified service regardless of the place and time of training; on the other hand, it involves interactive forms of communication between a learner and a teacher as well as the progressive control of training (Al‐Qahtani & Higgins, 2013). The second benefit contains capacity and consistency. In particular, e-learning allows covering plenty of employees, so that each of them would clearly understand the message being translated and establish constant communication. As a virtual structure, e-learning reveals a wide scope for distance learning methods, thereby promoting the opportunity of a global educational space along with time and money savings. Employees from different countries and continents receive a valuable tool to boost their personal and professional skills and knowledge, as it is suggested in the recent study by Al‐Qahtani and Higgins (2013). In this case, e-learning represents an integrated educational environment that unites the resources of plenty of educational approaches in a single complex.
Reasons for Hesitation, Potential Extent of Replacement, and Recommendations
Some businesses prefer not to offer full online education due to several reasons. First of all, there is a problem with the availability of resources. Considering that their implementation may cost much for employers, many of them select traditional education (Bacow, Bowen, Guthrie, Long, & Lack, 2012). Second, a modern person perceives more information than a person of the last century used to do. However, being well informed, people tend to remain poorly educated. For example, students who are accustomed to the video modes while working with a computer are likely to have an extremely weakened ability to understand, imagine, or reflect. Having the ability to easily get information on any issue, they deprive themselves of the pleasure of independent research and their discoveries. Third, one more barrier refers to the need for increasing awareness of e-learning. Even though plenty of people use computers and gadgets every day, it is still a challenge to transform the whole educational process into e-learning.
The traditional face-to-face learning in higher educational settings and K-12 seems to be replaced by e-learning to a major extent. The ongoing development of technology provides a great variety of educational options, thereby attracting more and more learners and making this process more available. Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that e-learning cannot completely replace the traditional methods because of the necessity of a human factor. The presence of a teacher is an integral part of education, since he or she may answer the most critical questions and provide valuable feedback. Specifically, children and students need a close collaboration with their teachers expressed in proper communication and understanding, which cannot be fulfilled by the virtual assistants or any other sophisticated software.
Consistent with the research by Reilly, Vandenhouten, Gallagher-Lepak, and Ralston-Berg (2012), it is significant to anticipate the ways of e-learning development and support. One of the ways to promote e-learning sustainability is to transform access options. This means that learners need new approaches and strategies for accessing the required knowledge and skills. Another way technology may be needed to support e-learning is the reconsideration of support strategies as well as the subsequent shift towards the adoption of social constructivist pedagogy partially based on mobile learning (m-learning) (Cochrane, Black, Lee, Narayan, & Verswijvelen, 2013). The mentioned approach is likely to address non-engagement by contributing to the continuous peripheral participation of learners in the process of education. To unleash the potential of either employees or students, it seems to be essential to focus on the elimination of the digital divide between those who understand the importance of e-learning and those who lack proper awareness of the electronic resources’ role.
To conclude, even though e-learning involves the use of electronic materials, it has several advantages over the traditional face-to-face form. The employees and students have the opportunity to access electronic courses via the Internet from any place where there is access to the global information network at any time. The flexibility of education is another benefit of e-learning, since a learner chooses the duration and sequence of studying the materials independently, fully adapting the entire learning process to the specific capabilities and needs. Even though e-learning has some challenges, it is possible to overcome them and effectively apply online methods of education at the workplace, the University, and in K-12 settings.
Al‐Qahtani, A. A., & Higgins, S. E. (2013). Effects of traditional, blended and e‐learning on students’ achievement in higher education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(3), 220-234.
Bacow, L. S., Bowen, W. G., Guthrie, K. M., Long, M. P., & Lack, K. A. (2012). Barriers to adoption of online learning systems in U.S. higher education. Web.
Cochrane, T., Black, B., Lee, M., Narayan, V., & Verswijvelen, M. (2013). Rethinking e-learning support strategies. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(3), 276-293.
Knox, J. (2014). Digital culture clash: “Massive” education in the e-learning and digital cultures MOOC. Distance Education, 35(2), 164-177.
Reilly, J. R., Vandenhouten, C., Gallagher-Lepak, S., & Ralston-Berg, P. (2012). Faculty development for e-learning: A multi-campus community of practice (COP) approach. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16(2), 99-110.
Truong, H. M. (2016). Integrating learning styles and adaptive e-learning system: Current developments, problems and opportunities. Computers in Human Behavior, 55(1), 1185-1193.