The education sector is undergoing a great transformation and will continue to change also in the coming decades. How will all these changes affect how we learn, what we learn, where we learn, and why we learn?
The CEF, an organization that facilitates learning, is adapting to the new realities. Recently we established a new team that will be dealing with e-learning, and gradually we want to develop a modern, targeted and innovative platform, transforming the CEF’s content from all four thematic areas – Public Financial Management, Tax Policy and Administration, Central Banking, and Leadership – into e-learning formats. Online learning solutions will enable us to engage a broader group of stakeholders to learn together and develop timely, customized, and cost-effective solutions to the reform challenges. Our goal will remain to stay focused on providing a lively interactive environment with the same participant-centered and experience-based approach that we offer participants face-to-face.
As I am myself part of the new team, I wanted to know more about the crucial factors that shape us in how we learn, and how the internet has become one of those factors. Transformation involving internet in the learning process has been gradual. The brick-and-mortar learning format used to be the only way to deliver knowledge over centuries. A teacher standing physically in front of the classroom and explaining content to students – this is how we all know it goes; this is how people have been learning five hundred or thirty years ago or even today.
However, only about 15 years has passed since the internet became an inevitable part of our lives. It has changed life significantly, opening up a whole new dimension for performing activities that people do in everyday life. And as there are a lot of concerns about personal data safety, information credibility, its indiscriminating throughput and lack of control of what can be published and found in the parallel universe of the World Wide Web, there are also obvious benefits that outweigh many weaknesses. One of the brightest and noblest cases of how internet can bring positive impact to people’s lives is its usage in education.
Distance learning was invented and practiced before the online era, but it really spread wings only with growing internet usage. It is not well known that actually the first distance education course was conducted almost 200 years ago back in 1840 by Sir Isaac Pitman. At that time, distance learning was represented by sending texts on postcards and receiving them back from students (Wikipedia). Nowadays distance learning means electronic learning (online learning or e-learning), and typically involves using a computer to deliver a part or the whole of a course, whether at school, at a mandatory business training or as a full distance learning course.
In the early days it even received a bad press, as many people thought bringing computers into the classroom would remove the human element that some learners need. But as time has progressed, technology has developed and now we embrace smartphones and tablets in the classroom and office, as well as use a wealth of interactive designs that make distance learning not only engaging for the users but also valuable as a lesson delivery medium.
Today, there seems to be a universal agreement that the worldwide e-learning market will show fast and significant growth over the next three years (Docebo 2014).
The year 2012 saw a boom in online learning technology investment (Docebo 2014). Many universities entered the e-learning marketplace, using non-profit models, leveraging their knowledge of the traditional classroom and applying this to the online learning environment. In particular, the MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) market has grown vigorously.
The results of the 2014 survey Grade Level – Tracking Online Education in the United States, performed by the Babson Survey Research Group, show that the proportion of academic leaders who report that online learning is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy has grown from 48.8% in 2002 to 70.8% in 2014 (Allen and Seaman 2015). While this is still a young market, the demand is there and it is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.
E-learning today represents a common way for gaining all kinds of new knowledge and skills. It already penetrates all segments of potential learners: it is used in grammar schools, high schools and universities as well as by entrepreneurs from small start-ups, not-profit ventures, governmental and non-governmental institutions to big corporations. E-learning is also well known and used in international development arena. The World Bank Group, for instance, has been conducting MOOCs on the Coursera platform on different developmental topics, the most recent being the “Financing for Development” online course.
E-learning offers unprecedented opportunities. Not only is it enabling easier knowledge assessing because of its convenient and cheap format; it is becoming a creative polygon for educators and learning facilitators to apply different teaching methods, using various learning theories on one hand, and a user-friendly learning experience for learners, allowing them to adjust the pace, style, and time of learning to their own needs on the other hand. As it will be my role to explore different opportunities that online environment is offering us as learning facilitators, I am looking forward to explore this area more, get practical experience, and welcome learners on board with us.
Wikipedia. Distance Education: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distance_education.
Docebo. 2014. E-learning Market Trends and Forecast 2014-2016: https://www.docebo.com/landing/learning-management-system/elearning-market-trends-and-forecast-2014-2016-docebo-report.php
Dr. Elaine Allen & Dr. Jeff Seaman (Feb., 2015); Babson Survey Research Group, Pearson, & Sloan-C. Grade Change–Tracking Online Education in the U.S.—2014. Retrieved from Infographic: http://www.onlinelearningsurvey.com/reports/gradelevelinfo.pdf