The education industry worldwide has been a witness to an ever-increasing phenomenon of distance education enrollments over the past decade. Almost all institutions of higher education have created high-profile programs for distant learners and a new E-learning industry has emerged (Farhad Saba, 2005). The evidence of substantial increase in the number of students availing E-learning courses can be found in Lokken, Womer, Mullins, (2008) stating that in the past year, a dramatic increase of 10% on an average occurred in the areas of online orientation and online tutoring assistance for the distance education students. A major consequence of such a change has been the spread of higher education to a huge base of people from various age groups, income classes and different geographical regions.
An important point under consideration for the institutions, and indeed for all benefactors is has E-learning been a source of positive impact and valuable addition to the distance education modules or is it a whimsical phenomenon in its nascent stage. Many Institutions of Higher Education are resorting to e-Learning as a means of solving authentic learning and performance problems, while other institutions are hopping onto the bandwagon simply because they do not want to be left behind (cited in Mapuva and Muyengwa, 2009).
The positives of E-learning courses for distance learning students are far too many to be easily neglected. As cited in Singh, O’Donoghue, Worton (2005) E-Learning acts as an incentive for distance learning students as it provides them with a comfortable environment wherein learning takes place through group discussions, online activities and therefore, they spend more time preparing questions and responses. Moreover, as has been maintained by Holley (2002) E-learning courses for distance learners improve their performance in assessments and also prepare them for working in an IT-based era. The virtual environment that is created through an e-learning facility acts as an interface between the user and the course material thereby bridging the gap of a lecturer. Brown, Cromby, Staden (2001) agree to the view that E-learning adds up the disabled learners under its reach enabling them to further their education from home.
But time and again, lecturers and academicians have been skeptical about the success rate of distance education when compared with that of traditional educational setup. As cited in Mapuva and Muyengwa, (2009) although eLearning environments overcome the traditional time and space constraints, universities must be cautious when deciding if modern distance learning environments should replace the traditional methods, as students recognize the benefits of the eLearning environments but only when combined with traditional formats. Students who have access to networked computers may have the opportunity to experience a more flexible learning process but students and indeed higher educational institutions could fail to benefit from this opportunity, due to students not being able to afford or gain access to a computer (Shaba 2002). Also, the cost of implementing and executing various E-learning courses is substantial and is passed on to the distance learners who already are unable to spend time, money and energy on such educational pursuits.
Clearly, there is a trade-off between the positives and the negatives of E-learning for distance learners. For students who want to study at Harvard Business School or Stanford University or any such institution of his dreams but given the cost of study at these institutes or other personal circumstances that deters him from attending the classroom courses, E-Learning comes to the rescue of such students. Volery (2000) suggests the broadening geographic distribution, flexible learning environments, and variety of educational models that are offered by distance learning facilitate improved education, and he points out that if universities do not embrace this technology (E-Learning), they will be left behind in the pursuit of globalization and technological development and excellence.
- Saba, F., 2005. The Future of Distance Education: Research, Conceptual Development and Practice, 19th Annual Conference on Distance Learning and Education, [online]. Available at: http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/ proceedings/03_29.pdf [Accessed 30 April, 2011].
- Lokken, F., Womer, L., Mullins, C., 2008. Tracking the Impact of E-Learning at Community Colleges, 2007 Distance Education Survey Results, [online]. Available at: http://www.immagic.com/eLibrary/ARCHIVES/GENERAL/AACC_US/ I080318L.pdf [Accessed 30 April, 2011].
- Singh, G., O’Donoghue, J., Worton, H., 2005. A Study into the Effects of E-Learning on Higher Education, Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 2(1), pp.3-15.
- Mapuwa, J., Muyengwa, L., 2009. Conquering the barriers to Learning in Higher Education Through e-Learning, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(2), pp.221-227.
- Holley, D., 2002. Which room is the virtual seminar in please?. Education and Training, 44(3), pp.112-121.
- Brown, D., Cromby, J., & Standen, P., 2001. The effective use of virtual environments in the education and rehabilitation of students with intellectual disabilities. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(3), pp.289-299.
- Shabha, G., 2002. Virtual universities in the third millennium: An assessment of the implications of teleworking on university buildings and space planning. Facilities, 18(5), pp.235-244.
- Volery, T., 2000. Critical success factors in online education. The International Journal of Educational Management, 14(5), pp.216-223.
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