E-learning refers to any structured learning content that is delivered electronically and is typically administered through a learning management system (LMS). It includes e-learning courses, quizzes, activities, videos, games, simulations, and lecture content that is either live or pre-recorded. e-learning is broadly categorised into synchronous and asynchronous e-learning. Asynchronous e-learning is self-paced and includes pre-recorded learning content, quizzes, games, etc. Synchronous e-learning takes place live, is led by the instructor, and taken at the same time as other learners, who happen to be in different locations. This online learning or live online training usually uses a virtual classroom or web conferencing platform that offers interactive features like chat, polling, and screen sharing.
The rise of e-learning in recent times has been meteoric. ATD's 2020 State of the Industry report states that tech-based learning methods, including e-learning, accounted for 56% of learning hours used in 2019. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced the global shut down of educational institutions and corporate workspaces, leading to an exponential increase in demand for online learning. The education and corporate industry have been rapidly adopting interactive classroom and video conference applications and other e-learning solutions to improve learning and working experiences. The corporate online learning market is estimated to reach $50billion by 2026. According to a Global Market Insights Inc. report, the market size of e-learning surpassed USD 250 billion in 2020. It is estimated to exceed USD 1 trillion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of over 21% between 2021 and 2027.
The benefits of online training are numerous as it allows for self-paced, remote, and independent learning. Due to the lack of constraints present in traditional classroom environments, these resources can be accessed by anyone regardless of their profession. Here are some key advantages of e-learning:
- Convenience and Flexibility
Traditional education resources and methods still dominate but e-learning provides a great advantage in terms of self-paced learning and is not restricted by schedules. Online courses provide learners the opportunity to integrate learning based on their busy study or work schedules, according to their own time. Online learning allows learners to access these resources remotely, at any time, and from any place in the world. It gives them the opportunity to achieve academic improvements, something that might not have been possible had they been bound by conventional learning environments. e-learning resources allow immense convenience as anyone with an internet connection can easily access them, irrespective of location and profession. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been a boon to many as several top-ranked universities like Harvard and Yale now offer some of their courses online, increasing the universal access to high-quality educational material.
- Lower Cost
Compared to the high costs often associated with traditional education, e-learning is more cost-effective to deliver. Whether it is for academic learning or training time, this mode enables faster, easier and continuous learning. It reduces training time (also called learning compression), especially in terms of the cost of the employees attending training courses borne by the organizations. High costs can deter individuals from pursuing the academic path or career progression they desire. A key advantage is the cost-effective alternative that online learning provides, in terms of reduced learning time and increased accessibility. This is also an ideal solution for large corporations as they can improve the skills of their employees and provide timely training, irrespective of the economic climate.
- Positive Impact on the Learner
e-learning has a demonstrable positive impact on students. With features such as discussion boards, chatrooms, polling, and scoreboards available for all participants to view, it motivates them to engage with others, voice their opinions and perform better, in an increasingly competitive environment. Research findings suggest that online learning has been shown to increase the retention of information, and takes less time to complete. On-demand access to educational content can help balance other work or social obligations that the learner might have, without affecting learning progression. It makes multitasking easier and creates a more comfortable, stress-free environment for individuals to gain knowledge.
- Gamification of Learning
e-learning has enabled the use of innovative solutions to continuously improve and gain new skills and knowledge. There has been a rapid increase in the adoption of gamification & AR/VR in learning solutions as these innovations have significantly enhanced the quality of the learning experience. Gamification has been incorporated into e-learning platforms and has helped in structuring courses in a manner that drives engagement and improves learner outcomes. Designed with a self-paced approach, it adequately equips learners to navigate the digital environment. Gamification and AR/VR-based applications help to cement skills learned by students and employees by allowing them to view the real-world applications of their newly gained knowledge using simulations. It offers feedback in real-time and motivates them to upskill in a fun, efficient, and quick manner. This helps students and employees stay relevant in a quickly changing environment.
- Lesser Environmental Impact
With the increased focus on encouraging sustainable practices in all industries, it is important to recognise the positive impact of e-learning on the environment. This paperless mode of learning and online training consumes a substantially lesser amount of energy, compared to traditional educational methods. The virtual assessment and storage of learning resources save millions of trees every year. In addition to lowered costs, it requires considerably less land and infrastructure than traditional brick and mortar educational environments need. Distance-based or remote learning and training also reduce or entirely eliminates commute times, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of learners and educators.