eLearning is part of the new dynamic that characterises education systems at the start of the 21st century. It describes the intersection between teaching and technology and includes anything where technology is used to enhance learning. eLearning can be defined as information and communication technologies used to support learners to improve their learning and to mediate both synchronous and asynchronous learning and teaching activities.
Like society, the concept of eLearning is subject to constant change. However, eLearning should not be confused with the idea of a virtual campus or online courses, these are part of the eLearning universe, but they do not define it.
Blended learning is a specific way of applying eLearning, by using technology to blend the best of face-to-face teaching with the best of distance learning. Contact time gets enhanced by online discussions, activities, and videos. This model has been applied very successfully by universities and other tertiary institutions. It is important to remember that in high school contact time is more than independent learning. Approximately 75% of learning time is spent in the classroom and only 25% at home. (In primary school it should be closer to 90-10%) So while Blended Learning can be successful in a school environment, it would look significantly different from what is working at a university.
eLearning can only be successful if used by a competent teacher. Technology can never replace the teacher, and a competent teacher does not suddenly become incompetent. The only difference is that teachers will now have a bigger variety of media to use. Technology tends to make the good teacher better and the bad teacher worse. The aim is not to replace teachers with video clips, but for classrooms to be more inline with the workplace where the learners will one day work.
Having said that it is also true that technology can solve a lot of problems experienced by schools that do not have sufficient good quality teachers. It can be leveraged to equalise some of the inequalities currently experienced in our education system.
Even though eLearning enables you to take learning outside of the classroom walls, the aim is not to have school 24/7. You can create online forums that enable learners to ask questions, but they should not replace regular interaction in the class. However, online forums create amazing opportunities for peer learning.
The idea is not to replace face-to-face contact but rather to supply more platforms on which communication can take place. Technology should give a voice to even the most quiet learner. In order to achieve this it is important to put guidelines and rules in place that aim to ensure that the learners do not use their tablets to hide from social interaction.
We cannot deny that technology is having a huge impact on our current lifestyle. The solution however is not to ban it, but to manage it and talk about it.
Research has shown that people have different preferences when it comes to studying. However, all learners should be capable and comfortable using electronic devices in their studies.
In the world in which our children live, the biggest divide is between those who have access to information (internet) and those who do not. In a average South African school you will find some learners have unlimited access to the internet and some have never been on the internet, all in the same class, trying to do the same assignments. By giving all learners a limited amount of internet access at the school, we level the playing field a bit by ensuring that they are all comfortable with technology, which should stand them in good stead for the future.