What are the benefits of eLearning? Pro & cons, popular solutions
eLearning – learning a skill using electronic (and often online-based) materials – is quickly shaping the future of how we boost our own career prospects and general knowledge. Adopted by both full-time students and professionals, eLearning can be used either exclusively or in conjunction with more traditional learning methods. Hence, what are the benefits of elearning? Are there any disadvantages? What are the best solutions?
1. Traditional Learning vs eLearning
The main difference between traditional learning and eLearning is, of course, the way that learning materials are consumed by students. Taking a traditional teaching model and trying to deliver it electronically is a surefire way to fail, so students learning online instead work through a body of prepared learning materials at their own pace.
The environment will – generally speaking – consist of an online platform where students can log in and access the materials (textbooks, videos, apps, quizzes, memos from lecturers, and so forth) needed to study their chosen course.
Interactivity – Collaboration and discussion between students still happen, but it tends to happen, more or less, exclusively in chat forums within their learning portal. The course instructor will often enter debates as necessary and facilitate the conversation, guiding it in the right direction, as well as giving feedback to students on ideas and considerations they may share out in the open.
Initiative – It’s imperative that students on eLearning courses use their own initiative to work through materials. This also means that it’s up to them to devote extra time and focus towards parts of the course where they’re experiencing difficulty.
Course material – Of course, the benefit of elearning is that these materials exist as soon as the student is admitted to the course, as opposed to traditional learning environments where they will often need to capture the essence of their course tutor’s verbal presentations through quickly written notes.
2. The Benefits of eLearning
There are several huge benefits for students using eLearning courses. These include:
✓ Cheaper Cost of Studying
Obviously, one of the biggest appeals of eLearning is that it can be done flexibly. Rather than needing to enrol in a full – or part – time course and find a way to finance it through either savings or a job that fits around their college schedule, students can now fit their learning around their existing job and commitments. Likewise, they are likely to see significant savings in money they would normally have spent commuting to college and buying food on campus.
✓ Reduced Learning Time
Additionally, studies have shown that learning time in online environments is reduced by as much as 60%. This is because students can work at their own pace, and those who aren’t having difficulty with the course can speed ahead. Likewise, others who are struggling to keep up can receive individual attention from the course tutor without impacting the progress of those around them, meaning that the environment benefits everyone involved.
✓ Better Results
Studies have also shown that “eLearners” generally have a better attitude towards training as opposed to those in traditional learning environments, while they are also likely to score better in tests and evaluations, and even retain learned information for significantly longer.
Of course, it goes without saying that flexibility is an inherent benefit of eLearning. Students can learn 24/7, whenever suits them, while also working from remote locations. Likewise, the original course material can be revisited at any time should a quick refresher be necessary.
✓ Enhanced Collaboration
Another benefit unique to eLearning is that, by its very nature, it encourages group discussion and collaboration. There are far more opportunities for students to start conversations relating to their course, and quieter students who wouldn’t normally participate in verbal discussions may find it easier to do so in an online platform.
3. Disadvantages of eLearning
Of course, no learning method is without its own disadvantages. With eLearning, a few of the most common hindrances may appear in form of:
▶ Isolation of Students
Yes, for all of the flexibility and saved costs which are unique to eLearning, one must also remember that students are likely to experience periods of feeling isolated from their classmates. Studying alone, and having to find the time to do this, requires a significant level of focus and maturity. Luckily, the online discussion forums mentioned above can remedy this to a certain extent.
▶ Low Motivation
Following on from the above point, it’s not hard to believe that students who feel disconnected from their learning environment can start to lose motivation, especially as the course goes on. Despite this, there is evidence of improved retention and pass rates when compared to students in conventional learning environments.
▶ Issues with Technology and Computer Competency
Students who aren’t particularly confident or interested in technology may also find that their learning progress is hindered due to issues they experience personally (for example, if their computer or tablet develops a fault, or if they are suddenly unable to connect to the internet). Unfortunately, there is no quick solution to this; however, it is becoming increasingly common for coursework to be stored in the cloud, meaning that failure of physical hardware shouldn’t have much impact on a student’s progress.
4. Types of eLearning Solutions
There already exist a myriad of fantastic eLearning solutions. One of the most popular models is what’s called a MOOC, or a Massive Open Online Course. This is when an organisation makes their learning materials available for free online.
A notable proponent of this method of open learning is Harvard University, who publish many of their own recorded lectures on YouTube. Another popular and well-known provider of free courses is edX.
Aside from MOOCs, several commercial platforms are also notable for their online courses. The benefit of companies like this is that they tailor content specifically for eLearning, meaning that the information is often easier to digest and more comprehensive than sporadically recorded traditional classes.
Notable in this field are names like Udemy, Coursera, Udacity, Lynda or FutureLearning, SweetRush and El Design. Access to materials from these providers usually requires a financial investment.
Resources and courses
If you wish to browse a few courses or learn a specific skill we recommend to check out
- our reviews on popular online speed reading courses
- or the best Udemy courses for reading improvement and personal development.
5. Benefits of eLearning – Summary and Verdict
While eLearning is likely going to become more commonplace as students learn to adapt to this newer method of gaining knowledge, traditional environments are going to exist for a long time yet. For those of you who need a way to work around your current commitments and slot in an hour or two of learning at odd times, it’s perfect.
However, those students who are willing to invest the time and money required to enter physical classrooms and be present for verbal lectures will have the benefit of social learning and, additionally, will likely find it harder to lose motivation as time goes on.
What are the benefits of eLearning for you? Share your experience with online learning in the comments below.