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Posted on June 8th, 2012, by

In the contemporary world new technologies play increasingly more important role. It is not a secret that the modern society may be characterized as a post-industrial society where the main value is not material wealth but information and knowledge since it is due to information and human knowledge people can produce and multiply their material wealth and progress intellectually and spiritually. At the same time, new technologies produce a profound impact on different spheres of life changing them completely, including the most conservative ones. In this respect, education is not an exception.

It should be said that the modern education is characterized by the wide implementation of innovations and new technologies which improve the process of learning and its effectiveness and contribute to the creation of new methodologies which change the traditional way of learning. No wonder, new ways of learning are growing more and more popular. Among the innovative ways of learning may be named e-learning which became particularly popular in the late 1990s-early 2000s with the development of IT and Internet and the growing popularity of distant learning.

At the same time, e-learning, being a new phenomenon, is not always adequately perceived by specialists as well as by the public. As a result, there are numerous arguments concerning the effectiveness and necessity of the use of e-learning. It is worthy of noting that opinions vary from pointblank acceptation and admiration to total rejection of e-learning as ineffective and destructive. This is why it is necessary to carefully analyze the current situation and find out what advantages and disadvantages e-learning has and what its perspectives are.

The current situation and e-learning

On analyzing the current situation, it is possible to estimate that e-learning is not just a modern and ”˜fashionable’ trend but it is rather a natural necessity that targets at the improvement of the existing system of learning. In fact, e-learning is a natural reaction of the modern education on the substantial changes that take place in the modern world. It should be said that nowadays it is simply impossible to ignore e-learning and its perspectives since this will lead to the gradual degradation and backwardness of education. It is necessary to underline that the development and progress of e-learning is motivated and determined by objective reasons.

In this respect, it should be said that the development of new technologies, especially IT and computing, and growing ”˜informatization’ of human life poses new demands on learning and education. In such a situation, traditional learning cannot fully provide learners with ample opportunities to constantly progress and acquire new knowledge, skills and abilities. Traditional learning is simply unable to prepare students to the new conditions of life which are rapidly changing. The reason is quite obvious ”“ traditional education rather provides students with basic academic knowledge and develops only essential skills ad abilities which in the course of time become useless as the surrounding world changes. In the past, traditional education was sufficient since the rhythm of life and the temp of changes was not so rapid as it is at the present moment. In stark contrast, nowadays, often educators face a problem when the knowledge, skills and abilities they teach their students become out of date within a few years.

Naturally, in such a situation, the only way out is the preparation of students to the new lifestyle and mode of learning. To put it more precisely, the major goal of the modern education is not just provide students with some basic knowledge, skills and abilities, but rather develop their abilities to learning. Nowadays, students should be able to find the information and acquire the knowledge they need throughout their lifetime and without any external assistance from the part of educators because it is practically impossible to provide each individual with a lifetime educator. In other words, learning gradually transforms in the self-learning, i.e. learning without substantial assistance from the part of educators.

Obviously, in this respect, e-learning seems to be simply essential because it provides students with ample opportunities to learn without being constantly in contact with educators. At the same time, e-learning develops essential skills and abilities since it is closely related with the use of the newest technologies and, consequently, it naturally prepares students to the using of the most sophisticated tools to acquire new information and knowledge.

Benefits of e-learning

Naturally, e-learning, being a progressive phenomenon in the modern education, has a number of benefits which actually predetermine its popularity and wide use in the modern education. It should be said that e-learning is considered to be as a very effective alternative to traditional learning which may be used not just as a substitute of traditional learning but may also perfectly accomplish it.

Speaking about benefits of e-learning, it is primarily necessary to point out that teachers traditionally target at the motivation of their students since it is extremely important that learning process was motivated and conscious. To put it more precisely, students should be motivated to learn since the high motivation is one of the major conditions of the successful learning. It seems to be obvious that if students are not interested in the learning process and they do not have really motivating stimuli to learn they naturally lose any interest to the subject and learning process at large. As a result, the effectiveness of learning decreases dramatically.

At the same time, they should learn consciously that means that they should realize what they are actually learning and what they are learning for. This is closely related to motivation and has similar effect on the effectiveness of learning since if students perfectly realize that they need education they learn more willingly and are more interested in the learning process.

At first glance, it seems as if there is no direct correlation between such notions as motivation and e-learning.

However, e-learning can be an extremely effective tool to increase students’ motivation and make them conscious learners. It should be said that e-learning provokes a profound interests of students since it is a really innovative tool that is quite easy to use and, what is more, e-learning is close to the interests of children since it involves the use of computers, different software, etc. which modern students really enjoy to use. At any rate, e-learning may be much more interesting to students than traditional learning when a teacher works with a class of students and, as a rule, the material is delivered in a trivial way.  Consequently, students often feel boring from traditional learning process which is rather a sort of obligations than a really useful process that can help them in their life.

Also, it is necessary to remember about the fact that teachers working in conventional classroom have to constantly cope with the problem of the lack of attention from the part of their students. It is an undeniable fact that it is extremely difficult for a teacher to keep the attention of the entire class for a long time. In such a situation even the use of various methodological approaches targeting at the provisional relaxation in order to recapture the attention of students cannot be fully effective. As a result, the lack of attention leads to the decreasing effectiveness of learning.

In contrast, e-learning makes it possible to minimize this problem. It should be said that e-learning implies the use of computers which are not just a useful tools that may be used as a source of information, means of communication, etc. but they also are supporting tools teachers can use in their work to keep their students in tonus. To put it more precisely, computers help teachers to maintain the highest concentration of students in the process of e-learning. In fact, the system can control the motivation of students and their concentration.

For instance, if students do not perform very well, the system can try to offer additional encouragement stimulating students’ interest to the learning. On the other hand, if students do perform very well, the system can try to offer more complicated lessons enhancing the learning. In such a way, the students who perform well would have an opportunity to face a new, more difficult challenge and, thus, they will maintain their concentration on the learning process and will be interested in it. In fact, in such a situation, e-learning system turns to be more flexible than conventional ones to a significant extent due to the support of teachers by computers.

At the same time, such a multiple influence on student from the part of teachers, which involves not only personal impact of teachers but the assistance of the system as well, contributes to the higher engrossing of students by learning process. Naturally, this inevitably contributes to better academic results of students and their performance.

Also, it is necessary to remember that the schedule used in the e-learning process may be more flexible compared to conventional learning. At any rate, students have an opportunity to learn at any moment and at any place they like without such severe restrictions that they face in a traditional classroom and traditional curriculum implies. In such a way, students are more independent in the e-learning process compared to conventional learning and, what is more, they acquire essential skills of relatively independent learning due to such flexibility of the e-learning.

Finally, it is necessary to underline that e-learning is significantly cheaper compared to conventional learning. This factor is extremely important, especially in the modern world when education grows more and more expansive. In this respect, the higher education is particularly expansive. In such a situation, e-learning may be viewed as a good alternative to traditional learning for students who want to receive higher education and save costs.

Limitations of e-learning

Nevertheless, e-learning is not an ideal way of learning. Regardless the numerous benefits, e-learning still has a number of substantial limitations that make it impossible to speak about e-learning as the way the modern learning should chose pointblank. On the other hand, it is quite natural that e-learning has certain limitations and drawbacks since it has been implemented only for a relatively short period of time in the modern education. This is why it is hardly possible to fully assess the benefits of e-learning and reveal all possible drawbacks.

At the same time, nowadays, it is possible to estimate that the spread of e-learning does not fully meet the potential of e-learning. In actuality, e-learning is not accepted as an alternative to conventional learning and nowadays it is rather viewed as an additional tool but not a substitute or alternative to conventional learning. However, it is necessary to emphasize that e-learning is a constantly growing phenomenon and the current limitations in its spread may be explained by the innovative nature of the phenomenon. To put it more precisely, the lack of experience in e-learning evokes certain apprehension from the conservative part of educators, while the relatively recent implementation of e-learning in educational practice results in the lack of technological and educational resources to fully support the spread of e-learning. In other words, there may be the lack of equipment, essential software and hardware to effectively support e-learning as well as there may be the lack of thoroughly developed educational programs destined to be used in e-learning process.

As a result, the number of e-learning courses is limited and, naturally, this deprives students of an opportunity to select from such a variety of courses that traditional education offers to them. Obviously, this is a serious drawback since the lack of the large number of e-learning courses puts e-learning in a disadvantageous position. At the same time, this problem also evokes another problem, the problem of the lack of the variety of topics e-learning addresses.

In such a situation, students have just few courses and topics they can chose from if they prefer e-learning to conventional learning that, naturally, makes such learning less perspective for them and deteriorates their chances in the labour market.

However, even those e-learning courses that are available to students are, as a rule, shorter in duration than conventional courses. This is actually another serious problem since the question concerning the quality of such learning naturally arises. It means that students have to acquire essential knowledge, develop skills and abilities in a shorter term compared to conventional learning. This is why it is possible to presuppose that students’ real knowledge, skills and abilities would be on the lower level compared to students who attended the same conventional courses, instead of e-learning.

It is equally important to remember about the social contacts and interaction of students with their peers and educators. Obviously, on selecting e-learning solely, they practically deprive themselves of an opportunity to learn in traditional conditions. As a result, they do not directly interact with their teachers and do not spend a lot of time with their peers in the process of learning that is quite important to learning process but it is even more important to their socialization. The latter is particularly significant if e-learning is used at the early stages of the development of students.

However, it is rather a potential threat than a real problem or limitation of e-learning  since it is not used at large scale and, as it has been already said above, e-learning is not viewed as a substitute or alternative to conventional learning but rather as an additional tool that can increase the effectiveness of the learning process at large.

Conclusion: perspectives of e-learning

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that e-learning is growing more and more popular in the modern world. In fact, e-learning may be viewed as an effective tool that can enhance the learning process and students’ performance. At the same time, e-learning provides students with essential knowledge, skills and abilities that prepare them to the rapidly changing life and further learning during their lifetime. On the other hand, e-learning is currently significantly limited in its use. Basically, this results from the lack of the variety of e-learning courses and their quality that may be caused by the lack of the experience and practice of e-learning and the insufficient amount of educational programs developed for e-learning specifically.

Nevertheless, it is still possible to speak about great perspectives of e-learning. First of all, it is possible to presuppose that the popularity of e-learning will grow progressively along with the development of new technologies and increasing spread of e-learning. In this respect the cost of e-learning may become one of the most important factors, especially in relation to higher education. In such a way, e-learning may gradually become a real alternative to the conventional learning. At any rate, it is obvious that e-learning will become a constituent part of education making it more accessible to a larger number of people without financial and social limitations.

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