If nothing else, the concept of eLearning has captured enough media attention to warrant a thorough questioning. In a society that demands higher productivity while reducing the time that everyone has to better himself, eLearning seems to be the perfect match of convenience and efficiency that the education industry is looking for.
In Australia, eLearning is already a $3 billion industry with a 2.4% annual growth rate from 2013 to 2018. The industry employs over 20,000 people, including a new class of expert that has the ability to specialise in day one job skill training and flexibly move programs to coincide with new educational or employment standards.
Wider access to the Internet has helped the eLearning industry expand. Proponents of the industry say that it must expand even more to counteract the rising unemployment rate. Because of the flexibility and immediacy of eLearning, many educators believe that it is the answer to a fast moving, fully globalised market.
However, this relatively new initiative definitely has its detractors in the Australian educational landscape.
The Resistance to eLearning – The Old Guard Makes its Case
First of all, education in general is highly labour intensive. Currently, the eLearning industry is spending $10.83 on wages for every $1 in capital costs. The hardware infrastructure required to push the industry into an expanded market will also cost a great deal, and many companies say that government subsidies will be necessary for steady growth.
There is also some resistance to the idea of teens using eLearning systems rather than participating in the traditional face to face educational setting. Proponents of this view say that although eLearning may be more efficient for some students, the social skills that must be developed during this pivotal age cannot be practised behind an isolated computer screen.
There are more than 1,000 companies (and growing) in the eLearning business that offer digital education services exclusively. These companies range from accredited grammar school programs to highly specialised continuing adult education programs. However, aggregated statistics on the success programs are spotty. However, it may be a positive sign for the eLearning business that the Australian Bureau of Statistics is implementing an eLearning system to train its own employees.
The Best Argument for eLearning – The Industry Teaches Itself
Undoubtedly, the eLearning business has evolved to address the concerns mentioned above. Virtual reality, gamification and social communities have all played an important part in moving the industry ahead.
Virtual reality has been of vital importance in STEM eLearning initiatives. The increased engagement reduces the negativity that is normally associated with the more difficult math and science
topics introduced to young students during the later high school terms. VR also allows a student to repeat difficult lessons as many times as necessary for a full understanding. VR increases the overall interaction by expanding the field of exposure back into the third dimension, and it has proven to help students retain more information than traditional digital learning.
Gamification keeps students engaged by tapping into the competitive spirit, connecting students learning remotely through leaderboards and goal sharing. Younger students are reminded of the video games they play at home in their spare time, and continuing adult education students are inspired in the same way that the annual office bonus might pique higher productivity.
Social communities have begun to address the problems of isolation that many opponents of eLearning have taken as their number one issue. Students are drawn into a “digital classroom” of sorts that allows them to ask questions of each other, collaborate on projects and build friendships in the same way that they would in a physical classroom.
The eLearning Bottom Line
The bottom line – eLearning is here to stay. Although there may be problems of infrastructure and funding now, the advantages of the industry have been well documented. As the industry matures, it will undoubtedly create new solutions from expanding technology and from the necessity of sharing knowledge without reducing productivity.
The future of the economy depends on the ability of the education industry to adapt to the modern digital learner. Starting an eLearning program during pivotal 10-12 Year schooling gives Australian students an undeniable advantage over their peers – modern employment is all digital, and many of the best new jobs are remote.
Educators who leverage on eLearning technologies can equip their students to the changing demands of the job marketplace and global workforce. Although there is criticism to endure, educators who are quick to adapt to eLearning technologies will reap the benefits of mastering this new mode of learning delivery – and get better student success rates.