E-learning platform and educational development
Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and directed research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators, but learners may also educate themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. The methodology of teaching is called pedagogy. Education is commonly divided formally into such stages as preschool or kindergarten, primary school, secondary school and then college, university, or apprenticeship. A right to education has been recognized by some governments, including at the global level: Article 13 of the United Nations‘ 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes a universal right to education. In most regions education is compulsory up to a certain age (Wikipedia, 2016).
However, in many areas there it is difficult to gain access to education because of the absence f infrastructural facilities to facilitate learning technologically. This brings about a slow rate of educational development. But with the provision of an E-learning platform, it will be possible to overcome the challenges of barriers such as distance, high cost of education and rich academic content and learning materials in the provision of learning. This will bring about high rate of academic development as experienced in developed nations. E-learning platform refers to the technological basis on and tools with which e-learning can be delivered or supported. It is in view of the importance of e-learning platform for e-learning and its role in educational development that necessitated this paper
E-learning is an important instrument in the new Higher Educational Environment in the digital age which creates student-centered learning and educational practice, offering new more flexible learning methods. In the advancements of the 21st century, integrating the learning-teaching practices to the latest information and communication technologies would be indisputable to achieve high results in learning and educational process. Ngaia, Poonb, & Chana (2005) stated that E-learning system supports external collaborative activity (i.e. domestic students can consult with foreign students) rather than internal collaborative activity (i.e. two domestic students consult each other in physical space), which makes it an effective web-based technology. E-learning system is a capable system for educational systems, especially for interactive activities which is increasing among students all over the world for improving their knowledge. The tremendous development in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) has paved the way for e-learning. Use of computers in education sector can be traced back to the early 1980s when simple word processors were in use. The Internet has revolutionized the computer and communications world like nothing before. This brings us great learning opportunities by having access to large amount of information with benefits in terms of time and cost savings (Ketema & Nirmala, 2015).
The modern educational technology facilitates design, delivery and management of educational activities for learners. This could be face-to-face in a lecture hall, online, or combination of both. Imparting education in this way is termed as e-learning (electronic learning) i.e. learning through information and communication technologies. E-learning facilitates distance learning and provides means to learners to access learning material any time and at any place. A learning management system (LMS) is the software application that facilitates e-learning. Various commercial as well as open-source LMSs are available today which are being used in educational institutions. Traditional learning involves setting up infrastructure of school/college and hiring of faculty and staff. Students have to attend school/college in order to learn. In the rural areas, development of such institute and hiring of full-time faculty requires a lot of resources. Professionally trained educators mostly prefer to work and reside in urban areas. Consequently, the population of rural areas is deprived of quality educators and thus quality education. The current work proposes development of e-learning centers based on ICT to provide good quality education with up-to-date learning material in rural areas. The model employs latest educational technologies that will improve the education standard and will provide means to introduce educational technology to learners. The learners will have a chance to get familiar with latest technologies which will give them deep understanding and effectiveness in using it. The study will promote e-learning platforms and also the development and
usage of open-source technologies (Ketema & Nirmala, 2015).
The Concept of E-Learning
In essence, e-learning is a computer based educational tool or system that enables you to learn anywhere and at any time. Today e-learning is mostly delivered though the internet, although in the past it was delivered using a blend of computer-based methods like CD-ROM. Technology has advanced so much that the geographical gap is bridged with the use of tools that make you feel as if you are inside the classroom. E-learning offers the ability to share material in all kinds of formats such as videos, slideshows, word documents and PDFs. Conducting webinars (live online classes) and communicating with professors via chat and message forums is also an option available to users. There is a plethora of different e-learning systems (otherwise known as Learning Management Systems, or LMSs for short) and methods, which allow for courses to be delivered. With the right tool various processes can be automated such as the marking of tests or the creation of engaging content. E-learning provides the learners with the ability to fit learning around their lifestyles, effectively allowing even the busiest person to further a career and gain new qualifications. Some of the most important developments in education have happened since the launch of the internet. These days learners are well versed in the use of smart-phones, text messaging and using the internet so participating in and running an online course has become a simple affair. Message boards, social media and various other means of online communication allow learners to keep in touch and discuss course related matters, whilst providing for a sense of community.
In the fast-paced world of e-learning the available technologies to make a course exciting are always changing, and course content can and should be updated quickly to give students the very latest information. This is especially important if the e-learning training is being given to employees in a sector where keeping up-to-date on industry developments is of the utmost importance. This is one of the reasons why many businesses are now offering training via e-learning – other reasons includes low costs and the ability for employees to study in their own time and place. Overall, traditional learning is expensive, takes a long time and the results can vary. E-learning offers an alternative that is faster, cheaper and potentially better (Epignosis LLC, 2014).
E-Learning Model for E-Learning Services
In today’s globalized world, Internet is the driving vehicle for content delivery systems. Internet has eliminated the language and geographical barriers and facilitated in establishment and growth of international education community. The tremendous development of ICT has influenced the education environment. It has brought educational technology in learning environments and provided new opportunities to get introduced to new horizons. The full benefits of e-learning can be explored by carefully designing and implementing e-learning environment. E-learning provides a collaborative learning environment to students and increases their engagement, motivation and helps them to become self-directed and independent learners. Effective e-learning can help in spreading of modern education, improve the quality and equip learners with skills that lead them to contribute to better socio-economic development. The proposed model is based on three entities, namely LMS resource center, e-learning center and learners. E-Learning is to revolutionize the learning process by usage of ICT resources. E-learning is generally used in distance learning, but it can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face learning. Learning models are described below Saroiu, Gummadi, Dunn, Gribble and Levy (2002).
There are three main learning models. A brief description of each is given below:
Traditional learning: Students have to attend lectures in a classroom. There is a face-to-face interaction between teachers and students. Use of multimedia presentations can enhance the learning experience of students.
Distance learning: Teachers and students are at different places for all or most of the time. Students are provided with pre-recorded, packaged learning materials and interaction between students and teachers take place through some form of communication technology. This model also requires special organizational and administrative arrangements in order to provide an effective learning environment.
Blended learning: It is the combination of traditional learning model with e-learning solutions. For example, learners attend a face-to-face session at the beginning and at the end of a program, with learning activities occurring online in the middle (Garrison and Kanuka, 2004).
E-Learning Management System (ELMS) Platform
LMS is the software used for managing e-learning with a delivery mechanism, providing access to resources, tracking and assessing the academic activities. LMS provides an environment in which learning contents are developed and organized by instructors. Interactions between instructors and students take place through communication tools. Most of LMSs are web-based in order to facilitate online access to learning content. Features offered by LMS include user management, content management, activity tracking, file storage, storing of grades, reports generation, and communication tools (chatting, forums, discussion groups, email, teleconferencing, and so on). A typical LMS with some features is shown in Figure 1 below.
Instructors use authoring and publishing tools to create and publish learning contents. Courses are made more interesting and easy to understand with the help of enriched multimedia examples. The environment offer collaborative learning by assigning tasks to students, making assessments, assignment of grades, active participation with synchronous or asynchronous communication tools, such as chatting, discussion groups, forums, email, video conferencing, and so on. Access to learning resources is restricted to enrolled students. LMS is the core of proposed e-learning model as it will serve as platform for all learning activities. Ketema & M. Nirmala (2015).
According to Epignosis LLC (2004), a LMS will allow you to manage every aspect of a course, from the registration of students to the storing of test results, as well as allowing you to accept assignments digitally and keep in touch with your students. In essence, the LMS is the backbone of most e-learning activities. LMSs are built on various platforms, commonly PHP, .Net or Java and they will hook up to a database such as: PostgreSQL, MySQL or SQL Server. There are many LMSs out there, both commercial and open source. In a corporate environment such a system can be used to monitor staff, and keep records of appraisals and training. Whether your course is run for a few learners over a long period of time, or for many over a shorter period, a Learning Management System makes your life easier and helps your course run smoothly. A good LMS will also have a reporting system so you can access information that would be tricky to gather yourself. LMSs do vary in the features they offer, but most systems are likely to have some or all of the following features:
Easy GUI: GUI stands for Graphical User Interface. Most LMSs offer customization options for the interface to allow the user to give a unique flavor to his learning platform. Although the GUI is there to make the environment more aesthetically pleasing, it’s also meant to be functional.
Customization: Aside from the GUI an LMS will oftentimes offer several different options for customization to tailor the system to your needs. Language options, notification settings and other important features can be changed to suit the way you want your LMS to work for you. This is great because one LMS can be used by many different types of users, each with unique preferences.
Enrollment: The system may allow students to enroll online and keep track of their details, course progress and test results for you. It may also allow students to pay their course fees online via credit card, debit card or PayPal.
Virtual Classroom: Your LMS may integrate with whiteboard systems for virtual classroom sessions and help you to schedule sessions too. It may offer you the ability to send out invites or reminders for classroom sessions and integrate with an online calendar system or with Outlook.
Communication: Your LMS system should also have built in functionality for communicating with your students, such as sending out a bulk email to everyone on a particular course, to individual students or to students studying a particular pathway. You should also be able to schedule automatic emails which can be very useful for notifying students of an upcoming test or virtual classroom session. A LMS may provide you with a chat room or a forum that you and your students can use.
Course pathways: With LMS, users should be able to specify the details of a course with a flexible work flow to set students on certain ‘learning pathways’.
Reports: Any good LMS will have a reporting system you can tap into, generating reports that you can export into Excel, and also offering you graphical representation of your data for ease of understanding.
E-Learning Platform and its Role in Educational Development
According to Epignosis LLC (2014), with the introduction of the computer and internet in the late 20th century, e-learning platform and tools and delivery methods expanded. The first MAC in the 1980′s enabled individuals to have computers in their homes, making it easier for them to learn about particular subjects and develop certain skill sets. Then, in the following decade, virtual learning environments began to truly thrive, with people gaining access to a wealth of online information and e-learning opportunities. By the early 90s several schools had been set up that delivered courses online only, making the most of the internet and bringing education to people who wouldn’t previously have been able to attend a college due to geographical or time constraints. Technological advancements also helped educational establishments reduce the costs of distance learning, a saving that would also be passed on to the students – helping bring education to a wider audience. In the 2000′s, businesses began using e-learning to train their employees. New and experienced workers alike now had the opportunity to improve upon their industry knowledge base and expand their skill sets. At home individuals were granted access to programs that offered them the ability to earn online degrees and enrich their lives through expanded knowledge. E-Learning aids in educational development in the following ways:
No Boundaries, No Restrictions
Along with locational restrictions, time is one of the issues that learners and teachers both have to face in learning. In the case of face-to-face learning, the location limits attendance to a group of learners who have the ability to participate in the area, and in the case of time, it limits the crowd to those who can attend at a specific time. E-learning, on the other hand, facilitates learning without having to organize when and where everyone who is interested in a course can be present.
Designing a course in a way that makes it interactive and fun through the use of multimedia or the more recently developed methods of gamification (further discussed in later chapters) enhances not only your engagement factor, but also the relative lifetime of the course material in question.
This is directed to both learners and teachers, but there is a good chance that whatever your role you had to pay exorbitant amounts of money at some point to acquire updated versions of textbooks for school or college. While textbooks often become obsolete after a certain period of time, the need to constantly acquire new editions is not present in e-learning.
Convenience for Professors and Lecturers
With e-learning the lecturers and professors have the ability to host a guest lecture without having to spend much money. It can be done virtually, with cameras for both the lecturer and the students, and with the use of microphones to facilitate the same level of interaction that would be possible if the lecturer were physically present in the room. The added benefit comes in when we are able to replay the lecture and gain even more out of it. Students that missed out can view the recording, or students that attended can watch it again to further their understanding.
For Ketema & Nirmala, 2015), other ways E-learning promotes academic development are:
- The effectiveness of e-learning is closely related to how the technology is used as an educational tool. Students learn best with e-learning when interactively engaged in the content. Using technology can motivate students, particularly under-achieving students, to learn.
- Tutorials in subjects such as engineering and science significantly improve student performance. The Mavis type tutorial and the word processing software play a significant role in order to improve the students writing skills.
- Providing technology on its own has little impact on achievement. Substantial effort must be put into infrastructure, teacher training, curriculum development, assessment reform, and formative evaluation.
- The pedagogy often shifts from a teacher – centered classroom environment to a more learner – centered environment, allowing more effective use of technologies.
v.) Teachers gain confidence, self-esteem and renewed motivation in e-learning environments.
Challenges of E-Learning
According to Ketema & Nirmala (2015), the following are the problems of E-learning:
Problems related to ICT Pools and Class Delivery: Limitation of ICT Pools is to provide the e-learning training to students across all the departments of each school due to students-class ratio assumes that five ICT centralized Pools with nearly 80 PCs for about 17,000 students. Even among these PCs, some of them are completely out of order, have no internet connection, frequent failure of operating system as well as some demanding application software like flash player, adobe player, internet downloader etc. The pools also are not well organized with multimedia kits, frequent power interruption since there no UPS batteries or a standby generator, appropriate Lab assistants; for example the lab attendants have no ICT background in their qualification and poor lab usage scheduling.
Problems Related to Instructors: Absence of rules, regulations and policies regarding the Intellectual property rights of lecturers related to e-learning in the University, to implement it as a learning teaching strategy in the curriculum. Lack of motivation and awareness about e-learning approaches and even some of them come up with resistance due to expectations of compensation and incentives by considering preparing of their course materials and implementing of the learning teaching processes as an additional tasks.
Problems Related to Students: Majority of students come from rural side of the country, have lack of interest and frustration to work on the platform particularly during at start up sessions due to lack of basic computer skills and experience to e-learning technology.
The Future of E-learning
According to the E-learning organization, Epignosis LLC , E-learning is here to stay. As computer ownership grows across the globe e-learning becomes increasingly viable and accessible. Internet connection speeds are increasing, and with that, opportunities for more multimedia training methods arise. With the immense improvement of mobile networks in the past few years and the increase in telecommuting, taking all the awesome features of e-learning on the road is a reality with smartphones and other portable devices. Technologies such as social media are also transforming education constantly. Several e-learning trends give us a view to how e-learning and learning tools will be shaped in the future:
Micro-learning focuses on the design of micro-learning activities through micro-steps in digital media environments, which already is a daily reality for today’s knowledge workers. These activities can be incorporated into a learner’s daily routines. Unlike “traditional” e-learning approaches, micro-learning often tends towards push technology through push media, which reduces the cognitive load on the learners. Therefore, the selection of micro-learning objects and also pace and timing of micro-learning activities are of importance for didactical designs. Micro-learning is an important paradigm shift that avoids the need to have separate learning sessions since the learning process is embedded in the daily routine of the end-user. It is also perfectly suited for mobile devices where long courses can be overkill.
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to engage users and solve problems.
Personalized Learning is the tailoring of pedagogy, curriculum and learning environments to meet the needs and aspirations of individual learners. Personalization is broader than just individualization or differentiation in that it affords the learner a degree of choice about what is learned, when it is learned and how it is learned. This may not indicate unlimited choice since learners will still have targets to be met. However, it may provide learners the opportunity to learn in ways that suit their individual learning styles and multiple intelligences.
This paper has presented the concept of E-learning platform and its role in educational development. It is imperative that new e-learning technologies should be adopted in order to provide modern educational teaching methodologies and collaborative learning. E-learning platform play important role by introducing new teaching and learning practices thus revolutionizing the educational system. The use of E-learning tools in primary, secondary and higher institutions is on the increase, and learning management systems (LMSs) are future of educational technologies with a great amount of new possibilities. Considering the increasing popularity of e-learning, it is quite worthwhile to offer such facilities in rural areas and other regions with low level of educational development in order to reduce the digital divide and promote literacy and high level of educational development.
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Epignosis LLC (2014). E-Learning Concepts, Trends, Applications. Published by © Epignosis LLC, All rights reserved. 315 Montgomery Street, 8th and 9th Floors San Francisco, California, CA 94104 United States of America (+1) (646) 797-2799
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This paper is focused on E-learning platform and educational development. E-learning is the use of Internet technologies as well the pedagogical approach of advancing the scalability of knowledge and performance. Due to the fast growth of Information Communication Technology, the impact of E-learning for educational development is very vital. Information and communication technologies tools and techniques in the field of E-learning facilitate the easy administration of education both in institutions and organizations. Learning management system is one of the key tools used in educational institutes to facilitate e-learning. There is remarkable digital divide among urban and rural areas due to the absence of E-learning platforms. The overall goal of E-learning platform is to provide a cost-effective learning environment equipped with latest technologies for learners to have an opportunity to get insight into new information and communication technologies and e-learning environment. At the end of this paper, readers will gain a basic understanding of e-learning platform and its role in promoting literacy or educational development.