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E-learning - an Overview


E-learning most often means an approach to facilitate and enhance learning by means of personal computers, CDROMs, and the Internet. This includes email, discussion forums, and collaborative software, e.g. BSCW or CSCW. Advantages are seen in that just-in-time learning is possible, courses can be tailored to specific needs and asynchronous learning is possible. E-learning may also be used to support distance learning through the use of WANs (Wide area networks), and may also be considered to be a form of flexible learning. Often, but not always, e-learning will also attempt to be a student-centred learning solution. Some view e-learning as a means to effective or efficient learning, due to its ease of access and the pace being determined by the learner, but to date little research has reinforced this.

The term e-learning is not very precise, and it should be pointed out that learning is just one element of education. So, the term online education should cover a much broader range of services than the term e-learning. One may also claim that e-learning companies often focus on course content, while online education institutions cover the whole range of educational services.

Not every e-learning resource, usage or provision is necessarily 'exclusively e-learning', sometimes a hybrid 'blended learning' solution is available, either combining distance learning with direct contact 'close at hand' human educational resources, or combining software driven resources with human intervention (whether remote or local, computer mediated (such as through email or 'chat) or non-computer mediated (such as face to face of telephone) or combining software driven resources with any other educational resource (TV, radio, books, tapes, etc.)

On the practical side some e-learning is about organizing the topics to be taught and creating multimedia CDROMs or web sites. An important advantage is generally seen in the fact that hyperlinking is possible and having interactive parts illustrating difficult things or for doing exercises. In higher education especially, the increasing tendency is to create a Managed Learning Environment (MLE; also called a Virtual Learning Environment, VLE) in which all aspects of a course are handled through a consistent interface, using specialised software that is standard through an institution so gives students a consistent user interface.

Often a design approach is implemented which involves creating or re-using Learning Objects. These are self contained units properly tagged with keywords, or other metadata, and preferably stored in an XML file format. These are put in a database and creating a course requires putting together a sequence of learning objects.

One important point is to help teachers organize their pedagogical perspective. Some institutes for Higher education are devoted to this mission (training, counselling, funding, development, etc.).

One example (ADC) may be found in Holland http://www.uhaarlem.nl.be. The general philosophy for promoting E-learning and other technological tools may be found in http://www.uhaarlem.nl.be/nicodema.html Nicodema was developed by Universiteit Haarlem.

More recent approaches focus on dialogue, interaction and collaborative activities - courses still contain content but it is of secondary importance or is generated by the students. An open source course management system that makes this approach easier is Moodle. This advocates Social-Constructivism as a pedagogical perspective, whereby learners construct their knowledge through discussion, thereby enhancing their thinking skills.

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This article is from Wikipedia.org. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.