In the field of education, perhaps no other force is more powerful than eLearning and its associated technologies. Simply stated, the traditional definition of eLearning is the use of technology to support learning and teaching. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of interactive websites and blogs to support educational initiatives. It also includes in-classroom, and out-of-classroom technologies like tablet computers that students can use anywhere to complete assignments and read textbooks.
eLearning technologies have also been instrumental in creating a framework for distance learning that was unthinkable just a decade ago. If you are older than 30 and have ever taken what used to be called a “correspondence course” you may remember printed course materials that came via the postal service. Often there would be no interaction with any other students, and all assignments had to be completed in solitude, and then mailed back to the instructor who was usually hundreds of miles away. When the world wide web exploded in the late 1990’s this allowed people to communicate instantaneously via chat, email, and message boards. As web hosting technologies became more advanced and internet speeds increased this allowed additional functionality like live video chat and group conferencing to take place.
Although there is much promise in eLearning to improve the educational outcomes of students around the world, it is not a panacea for all problems associated with Education. In the early days of eLearning, some educational professionals thought the assistance of computers would help students acquire more knowledge. However, as most primary and secondary schools as well as institutions of higher education employ these technologies, they are finding that the main factor in whether students acquire knowledge is the effort they put into the learning process.
Today, eLearning is at the crossroads of widespread adaptation in the general public. In the prior decade these technologies were limited to elite schools due to their high cost of acquisition. In 2011 however many public schools and middle income families are able to purchase tablet computers, such as Apple’s iPad, as the cost decreases each and every year while the technological abilities of these devices only get better and better.
As eLearning progresses throughout the decades experts agree that one of the biggest remaining challenges is ubiquitous high-speed internet access. While many large metropolitan areas have excellent 3G coverage for high speed internet, rural and outlaying areas struggle with connectivity issues. Because most eLearning technologies rely on the internet and cloud based storage – connectivity is the defining issue for eLearning today.