What are online courses?
Online courses, or e-learning, uses information and communications technologies to provide innovative ways to learn. It is often used interchangeably with Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) although the latter covers a broader area that includes technology enhanced classrooms and learning with technology.
Online learning is a recognised form of learning and one can earn diplomas, certificates and degrees through these programs. It has been embraced by traditional education institutions and many of them now have e-learning interventions available to their learners.
E-learning utilises various other media to enhance the learning experience and to enable efficient communication between students and tutors. These include:
- Printed materials such as manuals, books, etc.
- Video conferencing
- Online forums
- Online information
- CD's and DVD's
Benefits of taking online courses
Online courses gives you the flexibility to study at your own pace and from wherever you choose. A wide range of courses are available online and are generally not limited to any specific start dates or durations. The learner benefits from acquiring new knowledge and skills while limiting the impact on their professional and private lives. Organisations benefit because their employers receive the required learning without leaving their place of work for extended periods of time. There is therefore minimal impact on the business and its outputs.
Online courses are often, although not always, cheaper than equivalent classroom courses. Some of the reasons for the reduced cost can be attributed to savings related to classroom facilities, catering, printed material, travel, accommodation and a dedicated lecturer. E-learning also scales well in the sense that once it's created, it can be distributed to an infinite number of learners without significantly impacting overhead.
A further benefit is the borderless capability of e-learning. Thanks to e-learning, courses can be offered to people across the globe often reaching individuals who would have found extreme difficulty in taking classroom courses.
Online courses are also a very good way of supporting widely distributed software. Think of Photoshop or Microsoft Word as examples. People can become proficient users of these applications just through completing online courses. The benefit for the learner is obvious in that they get to enjoy economic and personal value in learning these applications. A major benefit for the software companies is that they can distribute their applications as widely as possible taking comfort in the fact that their consumers will take responsibility for their own learning.
Using electronic media for learning is becoming more and more valuable and practical. It enables a much further reach for companies that provide the training and it also makes it possible for remote individuals to acquire knowledge and skills. Training solutions are becoming ever more elaborate and with the emergence of virtual reality (VR) one could expect a giant leap in this area in the near future.