E-learning is a modern educational trend which has caught the fancy of the general population. E-learning is mainly facilitated with the help of Information Technology tools and this has played a vital role in creating a paradigm shift in the way education is imparted to the learners. The e-learning practices have been incorporated by some of the most prestigious universities around the globe and this has helped in shifting the traditional classroom education to the electronic environment. The advancements in the fields of computer technology has revolutionised the world of personal computing and this is one of the major factors which is responsible for the wide scale popularity of the E-learning among the global student community (Rao, 2011).
(Masa’deh et al., 2015) has defined e-learning to be the education facilitated with the help of a digital device like PDA, tablets or computers which is intended to support the learning process of the students. There is a lot of research going on in order to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching through electronic medium. According to (Sife et al., 2007), the main advantage of e-learning is that it does not require the learner and educator to be present within the same physical environment or a face-to-face situation thereby providing a lot of convenience to the learners. The learners are able to learn what is being taught in the classroom sitting in the comfort of their homes and according to the time which they find suitable. (Tsang, 2007) has described that there are various terminologies which are being utilised to describe the online learning process and these are distance learning, e-learning, virtual learning and internet learning. Irrespective of the terms which are being utilised to describe the e-learning process, their characteristics remain the same. The learner is learning from a distance by utilising technology (internet and computer) to access the learning materials. The learners are able to obtain the necessary support which enables them to learn in an effective manner. The process of interaction between the learners and their tutors takes place with the help of technology. The traditional face-to-face teaching process is undergoing a radical change wherein the learning process is not necessarily being limited to the conventional classrooms (Song, 2010).
The contribution of traditional learning towards the present education system cannot be ignored at any cost and this has played a vital role in enhancing the learning process of the learners. In the traditional classroom setting, the learners are able to clarify their doubts instantly with face-to-face interaction with their tutors. According to (Al-Hassan, 2010), the manner in which the teachers teach their students invariably creates a lasting impact on their mind. The advantages of traditional classrooms arise from the fact that they help in the social interaction process among the learners and also between the learners and their teachers. The teachers are able to provide numerous opportunities to the learners to clarify their doubts which might arise in the course of their learning process and this enables the students to learn what is being taught in the class in an effective manner (Kattoua et al., 2016).
(Douglas & Der Vyver, 2004) have stated that the e-learning provides many advantages over the traditional classroom learning. The e-learning provides an innovative medium through which the teachers and lecturers are able to impart knowledge to a wide environment. This plays a very important role in increasing the learning efficiency of the students and it has helped in facilitating greater opportunities for a diverse segment of learners who have access to computers and internet. The e-learning has played a significant role in challenging the traditional relationship which exists between the learners and their educators where the educators are mainly enjoying a dominant position over their students who in turn become passive receivers of knowledge and information from their teachers (Liao & Lu, 2008). The online learning environment plays a vital role in empowering the students and this enables them to become active knowledge seekers. The students are able to participate in an interactive learning environment by capitalising on the available modern technologies like video conferencing, role-playing, personalised coaching, discussion board, online references and chat rooms (Tarhini, 2013).
(Liu, 2013) has stated that a Learning Management System (LMS) is considered to be an effective embodiment of the e-learning process where a software system is utilised for the effective delivery and management of the tutor-led training content to the students through the online medium. The LMS is playing an instrumental role in facilitating faster access to learning content which can be accessed by anyone from anywhere and at any point of time. The Learning Content Management System (LCMS) and Content Management System (CMS) are quite similar to the LMS. The LCMS can be considered to be a computer application which employs a multi-user environment wherein different subject matter experts, software technology developers, teachers can collaborate and share their expertise and knowledge for ensuring an effective and enriching learning experience for the learners (Song, 2010). They create and distribute the learning content which helps the students to succeed in their academics. The CMS on the other hand can be considered to be an online database of the course materials which could be accessed by the students.
In the year 1960, the Chant Royal Commission on Education in British Columbia found out that the student-teacher ratio in the public school classrooms were not ideal for an effective learning process. The student-teacher ratio was extremely high and this led to the viewpoint among many educationists that the students-teacher ratio needs to be brought down in order to provide an effective learning environment to the students. A survey held in 2005 amongst the administrators and teachers in Ontario College found out that nine out of ten teachers and administrators believed that reducing the size of the classroom would go a long way in having the biggest impact on the individual performance of the students. The e-learning environment plays a very important role in addressing this aspect. It provides an individualised learning environment to the students which enable them to learn according to their capabilities without any peer pressure (Holmstr?m & Pitk?nen, 2012).
(Tarhini et al., 2013) has stated that the web based e-learning does not necessarily require extensive computer knowledge on the part of the learners. It only requires the students to have formal knowledge regarding the computer software in order to mitigate the acceptance barriers. The e-learning process can be categorised into the following categories:
Self-paced independent study – In this learning process, the learners create their own time schedule and study according to their own pace which they find comfortable. They can review their course and study materials as long as they desire. If the students face any problems during their learning process, then they can participate in online quizzes to get their doubts clarified. This type of learning requires the highest levels of self motivation as there is no one to help the students in their pursuit of knowledge (Tsang et al., 2007).
Asynchronous Interactive – In this learning process, the students participate in the learning process along with their tutors and other students though not simultaneously. They attend the online classes by accessing the online tutorial until their course gets completed. In this learning process, the students are able to obtain the support and guidance from their teachers and lecturers. The classmates also have adequate interaction with each other and they can participate in group discussions to get their doubts cleared. This type of learning process plays a vital role in enhancing the critical thinking skills among the students and it is not as monotonous as the self-paced independent study (Walker & Johnson, 2008). Students are able to obtain an in-depth analysis of what is being taught to them and this helps in shifting the focus of education from being teacher-centered to being learners-centered. This type of learning helps to ensure a more democratic and egalitarian education system which makes thje leraning process more holistic for the learners.
Sychronous learning – In this learning process, the students have the liberty to attend live lectures or webinars (a seminar conducted over the internet) on their computers and they can clarify their doubts by asking questions though real-time live chat or email. This type of learning is the most interactive among the three online learning processes and the students are able to get the same experience which they obtain in the traditional classrooms. This learning process is extremely costly and thus there are only limited courses offering in this format (Tarkelson et al., 2011).
According to (Oyelaran-Oyeyinka and Lal, 2005), the success of e-learning largely depends on the ability to ensure an effective sharing of resources and information through the internet or other communication systems which are collectively termed under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Thus, it is extremely essential to ensure that continuous research and development takes place in the field of ICTs which would help in the development and creation of better technologies, thereby making the process of e-learning an effortless experience for the students in the near future (Al-Hassan, 2010).
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