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What as in a variety of contexts,

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What is e-learning?

eLearning.gov – “We define e-learning as courses that are
specifically delivered via the internet to somewhere other than the classroom
where the professor is teaching.”

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E-learning can also be referred to as digital learning,
online learning or virtual learning to name a few.

 “E-learning is
construed as in a variety of contexts, such as distance learning, online
learning and networked learning.” (Wilson, 2001)

The term ‘e-learning’ was reportedly first coined in 1999
when it was used at a CBT systems seminar. However, there is evidence to
suggest that there were early forms of e-learning existing as far back as the
19th century. Before the internet, these courses were offered via
distance learning. The first notable distance learning course was a shorthand
course by Isaac Pitman which was delivered via correspondence. Pitman sent out
work to his student and was sent completed assignments through the post. Distance
learning courses have developed over the years into the online courses that we
now know. The Open University were the first big institution to take advantage
of e-learning.

Over the last decade or so, the amount of eLearning
providers has increased dramatically. By now, many universities offer online or
distance courses, and education providers such as The Open University have gone
from strength to strength. They are now able to offer thousands of courses to
students around the world. According to Fry (2001), many universities have
taken to using eLearning as a marketing tactic, in the hope of attracting part
time students and to maintain their market position. Darling (2002) argues that
providing eLearning courses could be seen as a valuable strategic business tool
for higher education institutes. He also states that, when used properly and
implemented correctly, eLearning has the potential to modernise higher
education. G Singh, et al (2005) offer the suggestion that those who are in
favour of a more traditional approach to higher education could maintain that
higher education courses should be taught using rigid structures at a set
location, e.g. a classroom or lecture hall. However, many writers are of the
opinion that eLearning is a way to drastically change the educational systems
of the future.

According to O’Donoghue, Singh & Doward (2001), it is inevitable
that advanced technology will make its way into higher education. They also
state that it will help to break down many barriers that restrict people from
accessing higher education, such as communication and geographical boundaries.
Since O’Donoghue et al were writing in 2001, technology has well and truly made
its way into higher education. Even as far back as 2005, G Singh et al reported
that eLearning initiatives had already caused some serious issues for
lecturers, from changing work patterns to what some may describe as a reluctance
to integrate new technology.  They also
argue that the only way to measure the success of eLearning is to look at how
effectively the course is delivered. It is also stated that a major challenge
when adopting eLearning could be the training of staff. Having said this,
Charlesworth (2002) maintains that most lecturers are happy to be trained to
use technological applications. The problem lies in the fact that many are
slightly confused and struggle to implement them into their usual lectures or
lessons.

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