E-Learning Is Rising To The Challenge. But Does It Really Work?
The world’s online education sector is currently undergoing an unparalleled experiment. From primary education, to higher university, and professional training—we are all about to discover the answer to the question: can e-learning effectively replace conventional, physical classrooms or training sessions?
A long way to distance-learning
During my bachelor studies back in 2002, online learning was still a pioneering field. People didn’t have access to great e-learning software, not to mention good internet, a capable PC or laptop, and of course, there were no mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. Today, the rise of cloud web technologies, affordable mobile devices, machine learning, augmented reality, and big data have all impacted online education. There is now an overwhelming supply of modern online learning systems (fueled by the growth of cloud computing) and their impact has forever changed the way organizations deliver education and training.
According to reports, the global e-learning market is projected to reach a total market size of nearly USD 300 billion by 2025 and register a CAGR of at least 13% during the forecast period. Despite this, we are now in a worldwide struggle to teach & learn remotely. That’s because many of these systems are siloed, filling very individual niches for the market. This is significantly different from what we have achieved with our education system projects, where an entire learning infrastructure is digitally centralized in one place: What we at Polcode refer to as a Learning Management Systems (LMS).
The frenzy for learning systems begins now
Prior to today, e-learning was an option, not a must-have. The pain points of conventional classroom learning didn’t hurt enough to usher in change. With schools now locked down indefinitely, millions of organizations across the entire education spectrum have suddenly shifted from traditional education to remote education overnight. Teachers are now faced with the challenge to become online instructors, expected to swiftly redesign curriculums, prepare and distribute teaching materials, choose the most effective communication platforms and (somehow) handle evaluation, reporting or technical issues in the meantime—all on their own.
Learning Management Systems can help scale
Without clear guidelines from education authorities, no time for tool analysis and lack of training, schools and training management are choosing their own paths to address the challenge. The demand for e-learning has skyrocketed during the current pandemic. Even organizations familiar with distance-learning concepts are missing solutions at scale. For instance, downtimes due to increased traffic are a huge concern. Lack of cohesion between teachers for centralized grade management, teacher feedback, student submissions, test scores, and certifications have their own set of challenges.
What educators need are scalable solutions, not a vast choice of software and little time for in-depth analysis that is, needless to say, crucial before making software purchases.
How powerful are Learning Management Systems?
In specific industries like aviation crew training, professional sports, LMS projects have been deployed with significant impact, built with everything the modern web has to offer. Online learning is conducted via a Learning Management System that helps organizations significantly reduce cost and time to deploy, while syncing every possible education aspect into one site. By managing admin tasks, student tasks, and being able to scale up or down within moments, an LMS is the essential digital tool for online learning.
Here’s what Learning Management System can do:
1. It supports asynchronous (different locations and time), synchronous (same time and place) or blended learning (a mixture of both), combined with offline and online capabilities to allow users to work within their contextual limitations.
2. Allows educators and administrators to design and customize learning paths, from the level of single class, to a semester course, to an entire education curriculum and government standard.
3. Makes content delivery and editing secure, fast, easy and collaborative thanks to reusable materials storage and cloud backups.
4. Allows real time interaction with students, faculty, administrators and lecturers.
5. Creates a robust and easy-to-use testing, grading, report card system that functions as a bulletproof replacement for traditional methods, with tracking features that allow transparency, anti-corruption or fault paper trails.
6. Complies with local, federal and digital regulations, while safeguarding confidential data with the best in secure registration and logins, limiting users to indicated domains or by IP blockers.
7. Enables bulk actions at scale, like adding or removing users, setting detailed permissions, managing different tiers of access, and sending content to recipients.
8. Provides a singular dashboard with customized reports that are available for export, allowing teachers and their students to spend more time on education and less on menial tasks.
9. Offers tons of modules, like gamification, specialized certification, email notifications, alerts, and a ton of other add-on features that support custom needs.
Collaboration tools aren’t long-term education solutions
Right now, free phone and video conferencing tools are getting the job done in the short term. When educators need to act quickly, low-tech, low-budget options are the best. But these tools are designed specifically for work and socialization in mind. None are fully compatible with a good education workflow.
Every educator, I would bet, wants to change several things about the digital tools they are using now. Unless an educator has customized software for online learning (that their students, colleagues, and administration are also using), an LMS provides better universal utility. This is true regardless of age group, education level, subject matter, learning styles and goals set by the administration.
There are also numerous tools to help team collaboration and even more online learning platforms (see some examples in the table below).
A modern LMS can handle much more than course administration, yet we still seem to be stuck with traditional methods applied via video conferencing tools. Student attention is also at stake. We already know that attention is a scarce resource: how do we manage all the information learners are expected to absorb from multiple sources? Do we coordinate all teachers’ agendas to reasonably schedule all students’ assignments? Or are we busy filling in reports that could have been easily automated? As a superior, how do you still keep up with your employees’ performance?
Insights and Analytics will be new metrics for learning
The business side of education is generally aware that shifting to digital learning systems can improve operational efficiency and reduce costs. But educators need to be aware that e-learning management systems can impact learning efficiency. Educators can better measure how their courses are performing.
Advances in machine learning allow capturing rich sets of information and presenting it in a structured knowledge base.
With learning analytics, educators are given insights into information that is normally invisible to the human eye, such as identifying the smallest learning gaps, monitoring students’ performance in real time, and measuring the effectiveness of applied methods. It opens the doors for a more personalized learning experience. For example, an instructor can adjust a course so that higher achievers can automatically receive more challenging assignments. Those who need more time and attention can get extra resources to proceed at their own pace. With more informed data, better predictions and real time progress assessment are not only possible, but they are more accurate and objective.
The Future of e-Learning
The magic begins for remote education begins when a carefully designed solution is implemented, optimized and combined with learning materials. Recent trends in using technology to intensify engagement show that augmented reality and virtual laboratories are exciting topics to explore—but on another occasion. For now, we’re met with the time-sensitive challenge of getting our learners and educators better tools to carry on with their lives.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. I am curious to hear other opinions on the current status and future of e-learning from those working in or with the edu sector. Drop me a line if you feel like sharing or discussing the topic!
P.S. Check out our top 10 Distance Learning customer stories to learn more about our approach to building e-learning solutions.
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Polcode’s Old Guard Proud Member
Active user, advisor and designer of custom education solutions