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Main Page - Educational approaches - E-learning

Related terms

Distance Learning, Distance education, Internet Learning, On-line Education, Virtual schooling, Web-learning.


According to Garrison and Anderson (2003) there is currently a technological revolution taking place in education and in particular, higher education. Some writers argue that this revolution will soon become as common in the business world as faxing and emailing (Henderson 2003). From CD-ROMs to taking exams on-line, if you are studying or undergoing training at school, university or even in the workplace, chances are you’ve come across e-learning.

There is a great deal of confusion over the exact definition for the term e-learning, however the Ferl Practitioners’ Programme (2005) argue that recently, more importance has been given to definitions that state it as any features of learning that involve the use of IT.

In schools e-learning can take the form of assisting traditional teaching methods, such as the use of electronic whiteboards and presentation software in place of the traditional blackboard. It can also be used as a tool to support individualized learning where pupils use computer or web based resources to support their learning at their own pace and level. There are some ICT courses available to school age children that allow them to complete a programme of study entirely on-line, such as the new DIDA course (Edexcel 2005) where students complete e-portfolios. Another method that is becoming more widespread in education is the use of Web-Blogs (Hastings), where students can keep an on-line record of their learning that can be accessed by peers and teachers.

In higher education and universities, e-learning is used in a way that allows students to learn both autonomously and collectively. A lot of Universities in the UK now offer courses that can be taken on-line, from bachelor degrees to masters level, that are designed to be studied and completed at the users level. Most Universities in the UK also offer their own e-learning methods for campus based students. These methods take the form of publishing lecture materials and resources on the web, having an electronic library catalogue that can be accessed from outside the campus, creating forums where students can have on-line discussions and having on-line tutorials.

In 2001 UKeU (United Kingdom e-University) was created by leading UK universities in conjunction with leading technology companies to allow international students to complete degree courses on the web (UKeU). The project failed after 3 years, attracting only 900 students. Critics cited an emphasis on the technological aspects of the project amongst its failures along with a lack of successful marketing (Samuels 2005), although, from the perspective of any ex-student, there is a more obvious reason. The majority of students who go to university, especially overseas students, do so not only to achieve a degree but also gain valuable ‘life experiences’ that no amount of internet based study can teach them. In higher education, a combination of traditional teaching methods (lectures, tutorials etc) can be enhanced by e-learning so that its students are able to use technology to move forward at their own pace (autonomous learning) and use methods of e-learning to facilitate learning as a group (collective learning).


(References below that are 'Electronic resources' can be accessed via an Athens Account)

Edecxel (2005) Digital Applications for IT Users : What is DiDA?, http://www.edexcel.org.uk/quals/gnvq/ict/awd/dida/ri/what-dida/ (Visited 9-July-05).

Ferl Practitioner Programme (2005) Demonstrating Transformations – What is E-Learning?, http://ferl.becta.org.uk/subsite/fpp6/html/whatiselearning/index.htm (Visited 9-July-05).

Garrison D & Anderson T (2003) E-learning in the 21st Century, http://www.netLibrary.com/urlapi.asp?action=summary&v=1&bookid=93172 (Visited 9-July-05, requires Athens authentication).

Hastings P., Weblogs In and Around the Classroom http://mywebspace.quinnipiac.edu/PHastings/classroom.html (Visited 10-July-05).

Henderson A (2003) The E-learning Question and Answer Book, http://www.netLibrary.com/urlapi.asp?action=summary&v=1&bookid=80859 (Visited 11-July-05, requires Athens authentication).

Samuals M (2005) UKeU: the sorry tale of elearning scheme, http://www.itweek.co.uk/computing/analysis/2076034/ukeu-sorry-tale-elearning-scheme (Visited 9-July-05).

UKeU, About UKeU, http://www.uichina.com/ukeu/ukeu_index.htm (Visited 11-July-05).

Useful Links

Blogs in Education
A useful site full of resources to get you blogging!
http://awd.cl.uh.edu/blog (Visited 20-July-05)

A free community of educators, learners and committed education experts who are working together to create quality materials that will benefit teachers and students around the world - focussed on K-12.
http://www.curriki.org (Visited 12-Jan-07)

DfES - e-Strategy
A link to the Department for Education and Skills strategy for e-Learning in Schools.
http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/e-strategy (Visited 20-July-05)

e-Learning Centre
A site containing a collection of reviewed material, resources and links related to e-Learning.
http://www.e-learningcentre.co.uk (Visited 20-July-05)

Education Guardian - e-learning
pages dedicated to articles and research around e-learning from The Guardian.
http://education.guardian.co.uk/elearning (Visited 20-July-05)

Schools e-Learning Showcase
This page is a list of links to great websites that have been designed by schools as e-Learning tools.
http://www.e-learningcentre.co.uk/eclipse/showcase/ideas-schools.htm (Visited 20-July-05)

Wikipedia - Supporting Learning Online
Very useful page with great links that cover all aspects of e-learning from basic FAQ’s to links to free e-learning software.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-learning#Pedagogy_of_e-learning (Visited 20-July-05)