E-Learning, Way Forward For Next Generation
According to recent press reports the Minister of Education has taken steps to train teachers of government schools in e-learning training techniques. A timely move, indeed!
It is an accepted fact that Sri Lanka’s present educational infrastructure cannot meet the current and future needs of the country. Despite having 40 percent of the population under 25 years of age, Sri Lanka is expected to face a severe shortage of skilled workers by 2022.
Even today, there is shortage of skilled labour. Our education system had not been able to cater to the demand for workers in mid-professional, skilled and semi-skilled job categories. According to published reports, currently there are over quarter million job vacancies for skilled workers in corporate and state sector but no takers. Additionally, our traditional education has failed to transformitself in order to be relevant for today’s rapidly changing requirements. The rate of advancement of technologies and resulting opportunities is much too rapid for traditional programmes and curriculum to keep up. Besides, there is a whole world of skills that are not even in the purview of our traditional education system.
In these circumstances, e-Learning will play a big role in helping to bring a step closer to solve our education problem.
What is e-learning?
E-Learning is defined as study courses that are specifically delivered via the internet to an individual or a group of people somewhere other than the classroom. It is not a course delivered via a DVD or CD-ROM, video tape or over a television channel. It is interactive in that you can also communicate with your teachers, professors or other students in your group. Sometimes it is delivered live, where you can “electronically” raise your hand and interact in real time and sometimes it is a lecture that has been pre-recorded. There is always a teacher or professor interacting/communicating with you and grading your participation, your assignments and your tests. E-learning may reach learners through one of 4 channels: Campus or school, Corporates, Government or Direct-to-student. That covers the demand side.
On the supply side, the industry has content providers (authors, institutions, etc.), service providers (content creation, publishing, marketing, etc.) and technology providers (authoring tools, platforms, learning Management Systems, etc.)
Role of e-learning
The e-learning industry is still in its infancy in this Sri Lanka. We are just at the beginning of making fundamental changes in the education sector. We have a long way to go. With a robust infrastructure for digital access, e-learning will eventually play a vital role in shaping the skills and education needs of our country. But how should we get around with it? Exploring and learning about the current global technologies, content and services will be useful but not sufficient. Like in other industries, e-learning would need to adapt and innovate to be relevant for Sri Lanka.
In order for this to happen, both the model of teachingmethods as well as types of content preparation and features built-in for the delivery of the content should align with our specific needs. What is good for India or UK may not be relevant to us. E-learning solutions which fail to be relevant to the users’ needs will quickly die a natural death.
One of the key challenges that e-learning normally face is maintaining learner engagement with the content and the platform on a long-term basis. In traditional classrooms this is achieved by the physical constraints, the teacher and social behaviour. Reaching a large learner base and sustaining interest levels will require integrating social engagement aspects along with learning. Successful e-learning providers increasingly adopt features, like study groups and discussions, to simulate a classroom study environment.
Gamification or introducing game-design elements and game principles will also play a key role in making learning platforms more engaging and bringing it to a larger audience.
In every country it was implemented, e-learning initiatives have created high positive impact in their education and training spaces. E-learning raises the level of educationand resulting economic development in countries where technical education is scarce or expensive, opportunities are limited and economic disparities exist.
Benefits associated with e-learning are immense, with foremost being the possibility of giving personalized attention to every student. Another significant advantage is that e-learning enables students to access the best possible learning resources. E-learning is a great help for teachers as well because the modules enable teacher to manage the learning pace as per their students’ needs. Likewise, these modules empower students also to set their learning pace as per their individual requirements.
Some say that e-learning is overhyped. It isn’t correct. There are many things that it provides to learners that a basic school going student does not get. It promotes self-learning among the students, and they do not depend upon teachers. There is student-to-student contact via video conferencing so as to let the students discuss their queries among themselves.
With advanced features like video recorded lectures and self-paced learning, e-learning – when implemented – will make its mark in the education sector in Sri Lanka. Its beyond doubt.
We must be mindful on certain issues which might crop up when preparing content for e-learning. Most importantly, the content may appear not quite up to the mark. To prevent this to happen few precautions need to be taken:
(a) The content for e-learning should be designed from the perspective of the student. Good e-learning content is all about communicating clearly and with all relevant information.
(b) Ensure that the content helps the learner meet the objectives of his course. Only the contents that meet the goals of his course should be set.
(c) The content shall impart knowledge that can be made use of in the real world. It makes the content much more interesting and also easier to learn and keep in memory.
In the modern world, e-learning is transforming education sector in a very innovative manner. The widening of courses and the changing trends in education sector has formed a broader choice for students to decide their career as per their competence and skill. Benefits of having such varied courses are not restricted to students, but are also beneficial for colleges, educational bodies, corporate and the nation at large.
For the corporate sector, where training and learning are an integral part, e-learning has been immensely successful in creating a strong foothold.
For example, it is a logistical nightmare for any employer to organise training sessions for the employees who are spread in different offices and different locations. The exercise consumes unnecessary time, money and effort. With technology-aided e-learning, employees can learn as per their schedules and availability, helping them utilize their time better. Moreover, innovative methodologies like simulations and serious gaming can kindle employee interest, providing opportunity to ‘do and learn’. The opportunity to practice and hone skills not only ensures greater productivity and quality of work, but infuses a sense of confidence in the learner, which helps them achieve overall excellence.
Keeping pace with the growth of technology, e-learning has transformed within the last few years to cater to the needs of modern employees. Newer methodologies have been very successful in imparting application-based knowledge.
Today, more and more industries are adopting e-learning as their chosen mode of training and learning delivery.
Sri Lankan internet users have touched 6.2 million by end 2017 and it is about 30 per cent penetration. We have good network infrastructure and backbone for content delivery. Aided by these and the critical need, Sri Lanka has very fertile environment for e-learning to grow. (Lionel Wijesiri)