WikiEdProfessional eLearning Guidebook/An Overview/Contemporary trends in e-Learning
The growing interest in e-learning seems to be coming from several directions. These include organizations that have traditionally offered distance education programs either in a single, dual or mixed mode setting. They see the incorporation of online learning in their repertoire as a logical extension of their distance education activities. The corporate sector, on the other hand, is interested in e-learning as a way of rationalizing the costs of their in-house staff training activities. E-learning is of interest to residential campus-based educational organizations as well. They see e-learning as a way of improving access to their programs and also as a way of tapping into growing niche markets.
The growth of e-learning is directly related to the increasing access to information and communications technology, as well its decreasing cost. The capacity of information and communications technology to support multimedia resource-based learning and teaching is also relevant to the growing interest in e-learning. Growing numbers of teachers are increasingly using information and communications technology to support their teaching. The contemporary student population (often called the “Net Generation”, or “Millennials”) who have grown up using information and communications technology also expect to see it being used in their educational experiences (Brown, 2000; Oblinger, 2003; Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005). Educational organizations too see advantages in making their programs accessible via a range distributed locations, including on-campus, home and other community learning or resource centers.
Despite this level of interest in e-learning, it is not without constraints and limitations. The fundamental obstacle to the growth of e-learning is lack of access to the necessary technology infrastructure, for without it there can be no e-learning. Poor or insufficient technology infrastructure is just as bad, as it can lead to unsavory experiences that can cause more damage than good to teachers, students and the learning experience. While the costs of the hardware and software are falling, often there are other costs that have often not been factored into the deployment of e-learning ventures. The most important of these include the costs of infrastructure support and its maintenance, and appropriate training of staff to enable them to make the most of the technology (see Naidu, 2003).