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The computer age: e-education, e-learning

By: ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO

Today, we can call the 21st century as the computer age, the era of e-education and e-learning. The term “e-education” or “e-learning” makes use of computers in classroom instructions and is always associated with computers. In fact, if an educational institution is not in it, instruction is not attuned to present day industrialized learning environment. The term itself refers to a new educational environment in which computers are used and students can view and access teaching materials, take exams, discuss lessons with the teacher, and hand in reports whenever convenient for them or based on scheduled submission of assignments. Computers for classroom use might be expensive, but it is a must for institutions to be competitive and stay in the industry. If they want to survive the competition, they need to invest in computers.
While the e-learning system has been implemented by many schools, colleges, and universities, its full utilization has yet to be nationally appreciated or maximized. Its use is done in mediated or teacher-assisted instruction (face-to-face), in blended learning, with flexible schedule, or pure online learning.
The people’s belief that learning through computer use means studying alone facing a computer should be qualified. I often confront myself with many comments from friends and parents of this type of misconception. It has to be explained and clarified so people will understand. This works, mostly, in online learning or e-learning by synchronous or asynchronous learning, according to Wikipedia. Synchronous learning occurs in real-time, with all participants interacting at the same time, while asynchronous learning is self-paced and allows participants to engage in the exchange of ideas or information without depending on other participants or their classmates in the virtual classroom.
Synchronous learning refers to the exchange of ideas and information, in the virtual classroom, with one or more participants during the same period. Examples are face-to-face discussion, online real-time live teacher instruction and feedback, Skype conversations, and chat rooms where everyone is online and working collaboratively at the same time in the virtual classroom. Since students are working collaboratively, synchronized learning helps students create an open and critical mind because they have to listen and learn from their peers. Synchronized learning develops online awareness and improves, not only student’s vocal or speaking skills but also writing skills.
Wikipedia further say that Asynchronous learning may use tech tools such as emails, blogs, wikis, and discussion boards. Likewise, it uses web-supported textbooks, hypertext documents, audio video courses, and social networking. Students have the opportunity to complete their work in a low stress environment and within a more flexible time frame. In asynchronous online courses, students proceed at their own pace working in the computer. If they need to listen to a lecture a second time, or think about a question for a while, they may do so without fearing that they will hold back the rest of the class. Through online courses, students can repeat failed courses without the embarrassment of being in a class with younger students. Students can avail of enrichment courses in online learning.
Studies show that educators started to make use of online learning as a result of several problems or parent concerns with the traditional system of education. Firstly, to attend to a prestigious school, it’s very expensive. In fact, even attending a regular college or university is likewise expensive. And, with all those budget cuts, busy classrooms, and course shortages, you won’t always get the chance to enroll in courses you need because they aren’t available.
This prompts millions of students, busy executives, and housewives around the globe to consider online degree programs. It opened great opportunities for everyone who wants to learn while working or staying at home attending to their children.
Online learning, or this type of education, enables one to learn whatever and whenever he or she wants without traveling away from home and not wrestling with traffic to go to the traditional school campus.
All it takes is an internet search for online courses one wants to enroll, and the online programs offered by some of the most prestigious universities from all around the world appear. The availability of a variety of online programs and courses is a huge advantage of this type of education compared to the traditional one. It doesn’t matter where you live and what you want to study – you can always find a suitable course or even a degree program that you can follow from home.
It is very comfortable and you can forget about attending classes for hours, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, and suffering from back pain by the end of the day. All lectures and needed materials are provided via online links, so one can easily access them from the comfort of his or her home. Also, one enrolled in the program will not take public transport or drive a car to get to campus and won’t have to spend money on gas, won’t have to get up early to get dressed for class… And, all one needs is a large desk, a computer with internet connection, and a comfortable chair.
Online courses look great on a resume because it will show potential employers that you’re committed to learning and you’re eager to obtain more knowledge and new skills. They also have the impression that you are a computer-savvy. In fact, hiring managers don’t see online degrees as inferior to traditional ones. As the saying goes a “degree-is-a-degree”. Most schools, colleges, and universities are offering online classes. Even Ivy League universities started offering online classes. If you obtain an online degree from a prestigious university, you’ll boost your career easily.
Online learning is self-paced learning. You will be training yourself to comply with targets, time tables, and deadlines. Self-paced learning means that the students can cope up with their deadlines at any time, and can arrange a learning schedule that meets their individual needs. A self-paced system enables people to make progress with a tempo that suits them. This type of system does not require attending live sessions; does not require driving to the campus; can access the materials at any time that works for the student. If you have to work or take care of your home and children during the day, you can study at night. Surely, that’s an advantage the traditional educational system cannot beat. When I was teaching online (I taught with Axia College, University of Phoenix for five years), my students came as far as Alaska, Hawaii, California, and other parts of the US). Online learning has no boundaries. What it takes is a computer with internet connection.
Online learning is definitely less expensive! The average tuition for online courses depends on multiple factors, so it varies from one program to another. If, for example, you want to enroll in the Big Data Specialization program provided by University California, San Diego through Coursera, you’ll pay $399. You also have an option to pay $49 per course. Financial Aid is available for learners who cannot afford this fee. My students from San Jose, enrolled in the New Learning Resources Online (NLRO) based in Mississippi, make use of the flexible online program. They are being given a chance to earn their high school diploma through online high school classes.
I taught in both traditional and non –traditional programs for more than 15 years, and I can safely say that online degree-programs are more convenient and cheaper than their counterparts in traditional education. Those are the two main advantages of online learning that lead many students to enroll in online courses when they want to earn a degree. The best thing about online learning is that you can learn in a relaxed manner while earning your degree. You only need the thirst for learning and a quick online search that will take you to the desired course. From that point on, you will be the master of your own education.
That’s the wonder of the computer… the internet! The wonder of e-education… e-learning!

(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ estiokoelpidio@gmail.com).

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