Many people wonder what exactly e-learning is, what its main features are and what it can bring to teaching and learning compared to traditionally used methods.
To be able to explain clearly what e-learning is, it is convenient to start from the beginning, answering precisely that question.
What is e-learning?
E-learning, contemplates the use of computer technologies and the Internet to offer a wide range of solutions that facilitate learning and improve performance. That is, to carry out the teaching-learning process to each of the students through new technologies, devices and appliances that we each have at home, such as computers, tablets or even smartphones.
E-learning, eliminates the physical relationship between student and teacher, since they only contact through the technical means that each platform has. With this learning model, the student is the central focus and all knowledge revolves around him. As the main character, each person can choose what knowledge he or she wants to acquire, at what time and in what way, something that had been impossible until the advent of distance learning.
What is an e-learning or LMS platform?
In order to carry out distance education, it is necessary to have a platform, the place where it is possible to generate or upload content. This is the common point to which all students enrolled in a curriculum that contains a contracted platform can access. There they can access the contents that the teacher or tutor uploads.
In other words, an LMS is like a social network where users interact. Teachers are the ones who manage and shape it through tasks and content, although there are also spaces within most platforms that are available for students to share any opinions or work they have done.
There are many styles of platforms that offer different functionalities, so it is best to be clear about all . The advantage is that each entity interested in offering distance training can choose the type of platform that best suits their needs.
Types of e-learning platforms
There are two main types of LMS (e-learning platforms): free software and commercial or proprietary platforms. All of them usually focus on these two premises, regardless of the amount of resources or added tools offered by each individual platform.
Free software platforms are used to provide open training at no cost. Generally, they are developed by educational institutions that want to offer a series of courses or training to those who want to. Some of these platforms, not all, are open source, which establishes free access and that the user is autonomous to manipulate the software. Some of the open access platforms are as equipped as the commercial ones, while others are very basic.
Commercial platforms are paid, it is necessary to pay a certain amount to the company, either to the one that developed the platform or to the distributor. Since they are paid, the platforms are usually much more elaborate, and users know in advance that they will find the contents and training they are looking for.
Basic characteristics that all e-learning platforms must have
The functionalities that an e-learning platform can offer to users could be infinite, but there are a number of features that must all be met in order for it to function optimally and for the user experience not to be impaired.
- The platform must be capable of receiving and reproducing all types of content, regardless of who created it or the methods used. It should even be possible to incorporate content from another platform.
- It has to do with the previous feature. The contents can be reused in other courses or in other contexts, and even information can be added, making the contents always updated.
- The contents present on a platform are never stable. Every time someone accesses them, their activity is recorded so that, when they access a document again, they can continue reading it from the place where they left it. Also, the tutor or instructor can know if the students are accessing the contents or not. This is a way to ensure that no user misses any essential lesson or document.
- Always available. This is the basic feature of distance learning. Both students and tutors will be able to access the content at any time of the day, managing their schedules and the time they want to spend on their training.
- The e-learning platforms are prepared to deal with technological advances, preventing the contents or their accessibility from becoming obsolete.
- The platforms keep growing. It is always possible to increase the amount of content, courses and the number of students who can access it.
- Optimization. All the above-mentioned features make the teaching-learning process beneficial, since it involves cost savings, reduces learning time, allows users to organize themselves better and makes the quality of learning also increase.
When choosing one platform or another, the needs of the institution in question must be taken into account, but it is essential to ensure that it has these minimum characteristics. Otherwise, you may encounter problems that make it difficult to develop the courses.
Complementary communication tools to e-learning
Critics of e-learning argue that with distance learning, the essential communicative factor in teaching is lost. Although it is true that the best communication is personal, face-to-face, sharing the same space-time, there are many tools that enable communication between tutors and students in distance education.
- E-mail. It’s an asynchronous communication tool. Some platforms include an e-mail messaging system in the system itself among the enrolled students.
- Chat. Enables real-time communication. There are platforms that include an internal chat.
- Videoconferencing. Finding a video conferencing system on an e-learning platform is more difficult. However, there are many applications, such as Skype or Google HangOuts to make them. They are useful for tutoring between the student and the instructor or for clarifying doubts in real time and speaking, which always makes everything clearer than through chats or emails.
- Forums. They serve to organize group tasks or discussions, in which all students and instructors of each course can participate. .
- Notice board. If you need to communicate something to all users at once, the key is to have a bulletin board. As a rule, this communication tool is also integrated into all platforms on the market. Useful for announcing key dates, such as evaluations, or reminders that the whole user community should take into account.
- Social networking. It is an external communication tool, but very useful to publicize the courses present on the platform or more information about the entity that offers distance training. In addition, it allows interaction with people who are not users of the platform, but who might be interested. In the social networks you can also create groups of students or jobs to communicate or meet easily.
All these tools are very useful and up-to-date, so almost everyone knows how to use them. They are a good alternative to direct communication, showing that it is possible to carry out effective and functional communication also in distance education.
E-learning resources to create infinite content
The possibilities for creating and sharing content offered by e-learning platforms are also numerous. By making use of new technologies, it is possible to share all kinds of multimedia files, as well as create chats and internal discussion forums to enrich the students’ experience, being able to share their conclusions or doubts with the rest of their classmates or with the tutors or teachers of each course.
The most common didactic resources offered by an e-learning platform are
- Many of the contents are presented in electronic format, usually in PDF, a classic.
- Audiovisual materials. Audiovisual resources, such as computer graphics, podcasts, videos, images, etc., can be included in the contents in order to complement the information. Especially, the a very important role in distance learning.
- Opening tasks. On e-learning platforms, the tutor or instructor can open new tasks, in which he or she can detail the essential requirements and instructions for performing the task. An expiration date can be assigned to the task, so that students know the deadline for submission. When that date passes, the assignment is closed and it is impossible to make any changes. This is a way of checking that all students are doing the activity within the time allotted. In addition, the teacher can evaluate the activity in question from the same publication.
- Tests and quizzes. Another didactic resource available in e-learning, are the tests through the platform. The tutor can publish a test with an expiration date. For example, the teacher could announce that the test will be open on Monday, between 16:00 and 18:00. The students will have to enter the platform at that time and take the test. After 18:00, the task will be closed and it will not be possible to access it.
In order to support all these resources, e-learning platforms must have a number of indispensable features. Without them, it would be impossible to optimize online training courses and the experience of the students would not be good.
An e-learning platform, must be clear and intuitive to facilitate learning, as well as supporting different types of content and resources. To facilitate access to courses and training, the platform must be able to run on any mobile device. The platform must contain a good security protocol that guarantees the data protection of all the students, as well as the present contents and the monitoring and evaluation tools of the students, since, if all these files are lost or the personal data of the students are filtered, the consequences could be very serious. Finally, as a tool for delivering training, it must also have learner monitoring and evaluation systems in place.
Different e-learning profiles
- Corporate e-learning training: it is designed for , customers or distributors. It offers several advantages compared to traditional training. Thanks to distance training, companies will be able to save that 60% in transport and accommodation costs for their employees. In addition, it is possible to train many more people simultaneously, as the courses are not limited to small groups. The courses given can be consulted by the students as many times as they want.
- Academic training: for academies or schools, e-learning is a great tool to complement face-to-face classes or to offer greater flexibility, implementing semi-presential teaching modalities. In addition, for these academies, distance training is a great advantage, since it allows them to expand their business outside the locality.
- Training to companies: consulting firms interested in offering specialized training to companies, find in and an important resource. Companies are increasingly demanding this type of training and it is necessary to give the client what he asks for. In addition, consulting firms can help their clients by helping them to reduce costs through this form of teaching-learning.
Now more than ever, in these times of change in which we must be prepared for teleworking and work-life balance, online training is in increasing demand. Here are 10 advantages that will get you started with e-learning as soon as possible.
Main advantages of e-Learning training
- The student participates actively in his or her learning process: e-Learning is a teaching system that requires a great deal of effort on the part of the student. In this way, in addition to acquiring theoretical knowledge, the student promotes key skills such as reasoning, responsibility and decision making.
- Training is adapted to the student’s learning pace: most e-Learning courses are quite long in order to adapt to the student’s reality. Therefore, this type of training allows any student to have the possibility of completing them at their own pace and taking the time they need to acquire all the knowledge.
- Follow-up by the teaching team: contrary to what many people think, online training does not imply that the student is alone. Through the online platform you can contact your virtual tutor to resolve any type of question and, moreover, the tutor can be permanently informed of the student’s progress.
- Time flexibility: this is undoubtedly one of the greatest advantages offered by e-Learning training. The student enjoys great time flexibility without having to attend classes in person. Thanks to this, the student can combine his personal and professional life with his training, with total freedom.
- Crossing geographical barriers: another of the great benefits of online training, and one that more and more people around the world are opting for, is that there are no geographical barriers. A student’s training offer is not limited only to the area in which he or she lives, but courses and programs from institutions on all five continents are just a click away.
- Minimization of costs: flexible hours and savings in travel, impacting on a reduction in costs for the student. Compared to classroom training, an e-Learning course can be 30% cheaper.
- Multitude of online resources: e-Learning courses offer a wide selection of tools, resources and materials that help the student during the whole process of his training, such as videos, extra materials, and direct contact with the tutor…
- Updated content: Today, we live in a world that is in constant movement. Therefore, a book on a certain subject can become obsolete in a matter of months. However, in an e-Learning course, the team of teachers hangs exactly the contents they consider most appropriate. In addition, they also have the possibility of being updated at any time. In this way, the student has the security of acquiring knowledge that is completely up to date.
- The e-Learning training starts at the moment the user chooses it: in the classroom training, the courses are governed by very specific dates and schedules. However, in e-Learning training, students have the advantage of accessing their course at any time, at the time that seems best to them without any ties. The only requirement they have in order to access the course content is an Internet connection.
- Partner interaction: the fact that it is an online course does not prevent partners from interacting. Most of the e-Learning platforms offer the possibility for all the students to be in contact through a forum where they can discuss, solve doubts, etc.