The Place of e-Learning in the Contemporary World Essay

The Place of e-Learning in the Contemporary World


            The place of e-learning in the contemporary world is an issue that has never ceased generating a lot of storm and controversy all over the world. Not only is its applicability and relevance being questioned but also it own meaning to different settings and applications. While the term itself has come in with different meanings and variants, it is basically what its value in society is that has raised the most storms. So, regardless of the presentation of the concept as E-learning, elearning, Elearning, eLearning, it is the same concept (Rosenberg 2001). In certain cases, the concept has been referred to by use of words like Computer Based Training (CBT), Web Based Training (WBT), and/or Internet Based Training (IBT)  There has been a clear separation into two of the opponents and proponents of e-learning, a trend that has made the overall view of the system to be marred in uncertainty.

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While there is a general agreement that technology is playing a very critical part in the development of the world in general and different sectors and industries in particular, a lot has to be done to make this development both sustainable and affordable (Homan & McPherson 2005). For of what value can any form of technology be if it cannot be afforded by those who need it most or if it cannot be sustainable?

Overview and Implications of the Situation

The education sector in the world is one area where a lot of technological advancement has tended to move in the recent past implying that it is a possible tech-intensive area. However, the issue has been that this technology, applied mostly in the form of e-learning, might not really be what the education sector requires (Homan & McPherson 2005). It has therefore become relevant that a lot of focus has to be placed on what the critical issues have been raised regarding e-learning so that a more informed and generally agreed upon solution could be reached (Beamish et al. 2002). The main underlying issues in this debate range from what really e-learning is to what its relevance to education is. For many are lost as to the exact meaning of e-learning, what it covers and doesn’t cover, and so what its implications are for the education systems in the world. Another key issue has been that there is no clear demarcation of which areas, geographically, are more likely to benefit from e-learning programs (Mutula 2002). This is because there have been cases where this and other education technologies have been applied only for the target populations to fail to benefit from anything thereof because of the program’s failure to be in line with the underlying regional, cultural, and technological frameworks. For instance, while e-learning might have a lot of success in a modern urban center, the same might fail to be as effective in rural settings for lack of the required basic infrastructural frameworks (Clarke & Hermens 2001).

Similarly, educators still are divided on the effectiveness of e-learning in achieving the learning objectives intended. A typical point in consideration here is education theory, where it is believed that for there to be maximum learning, the leaner ought to be able to interact with the community (social interaction) as well as with other peers. For young learners, it has been proved that their learning is an issue which must be approached very closely and keenly. One leading education theorist – the Russian Lev Vygotsky –  brought forth a key aspect in learning which has further made the place of e-learning for the very young to be rather less important. He described a scenario that the learning of a young child taken place in a zone called the zone of proximal development (ZPD) which is the distance between the level of learning that a child can have on his/her own and the level or extent of learning that the same child can have when there is the help of a mentor or peer (Lee, Owens & Benson 2002). Unless this zone is identified and used to encourage learning, then there is no way the child can learn. Therefore, his analogy in principal casts aspersions at e-learning which does effectively eliminate the presence of a peer or instructor. This means that age and approach to the learning process must be considered before any form of educational program embracing the use of technology like e-learning can be applied.

            Still on age, there is still rampant illiteracy in most parts of the developing world which effectively renders such areas less suitable for such a type of technology because an illiterate person is the least likely to benefit from technological use (Dawson, Preece & McLoughlin 2003). E-learning is one such technology. In the fight against illiteracy, e-learning has been cited as an ineffective method because it makes participants even more likely to miss out on the key concepts of the lesson. Instead, a presence of a physical instructor is a key requirement for them (Wentling & Park 2002). In Africa, for instance, where adult education literacy programs are a common phenomenon, e-learning can only serve to complicate matters for them and make their learning process a whole tedious affair. This is because they do not really want to buy into the idea of having lessons conducted using electronic media. In the developed world, there are still controversies in the applicability of e-learning to schools and institutions of higher learning (Waight & Stewart 2005).

For instance, distant learning, while hailed in some parts as helping cut costs of travel for educators and learners, has been cited as offering poor quality learning as the physical absence of the instructor makes learners to be less effective (Prensky 2003). The absence of a classroom setting further takes away the alluring atmosphere that is required for effective learning. Therefore, unless these and other issues are approached clearly and handled carefully, then it will not be easy for all e-learning programs to bringing about the results they are designed to bring. They will, instead, remain as stumbling blocks instead of being the stepping stones for development in the education sector. There has to be an appraisal of the current success and failure of e-learning programs all over the world so that its place in society can be ascertained (Dawson, Preece & McLoughlin 2003). Is it just a mere waste of time and other resources or is it a real worthwhile venture? Does it really bring about the desired results or it is a technology that is just being imposed on some communities who might never really benefit from it? These ought to be carefully reviewed by an analysis of literature on e-learning.

Annotated Bibliography of Four Sources

1.      Human, G & McPherson, C 2005. ‘E-learning in the corporate university.’ Journal of European  Industrial Training; Volume: 29; Issue: 1; pp 75-90

Summary of the Central Theme and Scope of the Article

            The main theme of this article is to further inform on the ongoing debate of the role of e-learning, or rather its place, in the modern world, particularly with a focus on what is referred to here as the corporate universities. It is worth noting here that these are not the universities that are commonly known or the highest institutions of learning. Instead, corporate universities are used here to mean all those learning organizations – from banks through corporations to government agencies – which use different approaches to impart some form of learning to their staff whether in academia or the corporate world. The theme is also central on the development of e-learning as a tool not only applicable in the academic circles but also in  the corporate world.

It presents this theme in the manner in which many corporations are in dire need of enhancing their capacity to equip their staff with the relevant skills that are deemed critical to their productivity. The authors are of the view that e-learning ought to be more embraced in the corporate world than even in academia because while the academician has a host of other learning methods at one’s disposal, the corporate worker is not really able to have such choice. Instead, there is only the option of using a learning tool that can allow for the minimal spending of time as such ones are super busy.

Purpose, Methodology (Design, Participants, Setting, Analysis), Results, and Conclusion

            The article uses three organizations to shed light on the trends which e-learning has tended to follow lately, with an overview of some of the challenges that have been experienced along the  way. There is a highlighting of the key challenges, and a proposition, based on the case studies, of the solutions to these challenges. The case organizations are picked from different sectors for a wider scope of the issue to be taken into consideration. After the research was conducted, the results showed that although there is a lot of potential for growth of e-learning around the world although it is facing challenges that are largely due to the different contexts. That is, different corporations face different challenges in implementing the program. A common one is the sophisticated nature of e-learning. Another is the inability for e-learning programs to be embraced for failure to contribute to the development of these co prorate universities. There has to be a change of the general approach to e-learning if it can keep expanding farther there are many areas that needs to incorporate the technology, and many others that need an expansion of the existing technology. The study focuses on these three organizations and uses the empirical data collected to ascertain the potential of e-learning in corporate universities.

Comparison to Other Works

            Compared with other works in this paper, this particular article is more supportive of e-learning and seeks to have a lot of effort put in place to have it expanded to the furthest limits. It is also more concise compared to the third article in that it employs a lot of empirical data use. It is, therefore, more reliable a source and can serve well as a reference tool for policy formulation than the third article.

How the Article Informs/Supports e-learning

            The article uses real-life data and information to project the place of e-learning in the corporate world. It also goes a step farther and identifies the main challenges that have made e-learning to be less progressive and so taken by some opposed to it to mean that it is either unsustainable or too expensive. Through its information, the planners can be able to come up with appropriate tools and address the mentioned problems as this is the only way through which success can be achieved in developing e-learning.

The Intended Audience

            This article is intended specifically for corporate universities as defined in this paper. They are the ones that are in the direst need for information technology as the power of staff is dependent on their education and skills which in turn can be best imparted by such technology as e-learning which saves time and travel and so corporate costs. It is also targeting  the policy makers, both in the private or public sector, so that they can have a clearer understanding of where the resources ought to be placed and how this is to be done.

2.      Mutula, S 2002. ‘E-learning initiative at the University of Botswana: challenges and

 opportunities.’ Campus-Wide Information Systems; Volume: 19; Issue: 3; pp99-109

Summary of the Central Theme and Scope of the Article

            There can be the saying of all things but unless a practical example is offered to provide insight and real-life basis for certain points of view, then there is really no success for any study. That is why this article is critical in this theme – addressing e-learning from the viewpoint of a person who is actively involved in the area of policy making and implementation – a university professor. The theme of the article being to investigate the applicability of e-learning in the University of Botswana, the article serves as a link between what is thought and what is done. This theme is critical as presents an entirely new setting for investigation – Africa. Technological growth and its application is dependent so much on the context in which it is being applied.

For instance, it seems that e-learning is still not applicable in Botswana because the country does not have the infrastructure and the political goodwill to do so. In a sharp contrast to neighboring South Africa, Botswana lags behind in its education systems for it cannot afford to have a sustainable e-learning program in place, whether it is distant learning or other forms of e-learning. Therefore, although e-learning is acceptable and sustainable in most developed countries, it is desirable but not viable in the developing world as this case shows. It is, therefore, very important that policy makers are keen in seeking to have subordinate programs that will help deal with or ease the problems that hinder the expansion of e-learning in developing nations.

The Intended Audience

            This article is also generalized in a way but it is easy to tell that it is aimed at policy makers who need to realize the need there is in Botswana and by extension the developing World for appropriate information technology programs in the education sectors there so that learning can be improved. It also targets donor communities and investors, who are better placed to help the country and other turn around its fortunes by funding and investing in educational e-learning programs. The political class are also targeted as they hold the mantle for the policies formulated in the country and only they can provide the impetus needed for enhancing technological development in the area of education.

Purpose, Methodology (Design, Participants, Setting, Analysis), Results, and Conclusion

            The article seeks to highlight the steps that Botswana has taken in its bid to develop its higher education systems. It also seeks to portray the impediments that hinder this initiative, thereby ensuring that the target audience can respond appropriately based on valid information. It uses the method of observation to bring to the  fore the issues facing the university as far as ICT and technology in education are concerned. Being a staff member at the university, the author is best placed to inform on what he sees and experiences; and can therefore wisely give the benefits and limitations of using e-learning in higher education.

Comparison to Other Works

            The article is significant in that it offers a real situation from the point if view of an insider. This renders the study more reliable and real. It is an article that is written plainly and simply, and the writing style can appeal to all. It does not use any complicated data analyses to convey its points but simply presents the facts as observed. In this light, it is very ideal.

How the Article Informs/Supports e-learning

            The article supports the subject matter in that it gives its benefits and merits from a real-life situation. It also helps bring forward the understanding that context is very important in determining the workability of any e-learning program.

3.      Prensky, M 2003. ‘e-Nough! “e-Learning” is a misnomer – it’s mostly just “e-Teaching.” For any teaching to reliably and consistently produce the results we want, we still have a lot to learn about learning.’ On the Horizon; Volume: 11; Issue: 1; pp 26-32

Summary of the Central Theme and Scope of the Article

This article specifically deals with the issue of what e-learning really is. Its main theme is that there has been a lot of debate about the applicability and appropriateness of e-learning when actually people do not have a clear understanding of what e-learning is. There is therefore a need to have this understanding entrenched in the people so that e-learning is set apart from all other forms of learning like e-teaching. There is an argument that most of what call e-learning is actually e-teaching because the focus has been so much on the teacher or instructor as opposed to the learner. Then, the article adds, there has to be a differentiating between the various forms of learning so that there can be a real understanding of e-learning. Unless there is a clear understanding of e-learning brought about by a clear distinction between it and other forms of learning, then the risk is that the evaluation – negative as well as positive views – might be misplaced. One cannot really shoot at what one is not sure of. Neither is it ideal for blame intended for one object to be directed a totally different one.

Finally, this article presents the theme of learning. It argues that most of the literature available is not at all the critical issue of how learning is done but rather on the less important subject of how the learning process is carried out by grouping a host of people in groups so that they learn as an entity and not as an individual. It presents the argument that this is not really learning but “herding” which is one of the many challenges that face e-learning. This is because herding brings into the learning process many problems which in turn make it difficult for the learner. Therefore, so says the author, e-learning can only be successful if it can be approached on an individual level or one-to-one tutoring. In the view of this, what the article brings forth is that for as long as there is herding, e-learning can never really be taken as a successful program.
The Intended Audience

This article is rather general in its approach at the topic, thereby making it rather difficult to pinpoint any particular audience. However, based on the subject matter, it is true that among those targeted are the policy makers who are involved in the designing of education programs in different countries. It also targets educators, who need to know hoe best to approach e-learning for a greater realization of intended purposes.

Purpose, Methodology (Design, Participants, Setting, Analysis), Results, and Conclusion

This article is the result of purely secondary data which the author appears to have collected. This data is all meant to be used as a reference point and as a means to justify the assertions made. Although there is an absence of real empirical information which could have  lend a lot more authenticity to the article and the theme, these secondary sources cited are enough as they justify the entire work. There is a gathering of past writings on the subject, seeking to bring to the fore and to the understanding of the readers how the research was conducted. The purpose of the research was to inform the target audience of the missing link between the need for information technology in education and the challenges that hinder the realization of the intended goals once these programs have been put in place.

The research concludes that it is actually not that e-learning programs are not loved or are loved but that they are marred in misconceptions. Not every person knows what it really is to get education or knowledge through e-learning; and so the program cannot be any effective. It cannot be successful. The author is of the view that this mystery that has surrounded learning is responsible for a larger share of the failures that e-learning has experienced.
Comparison to Other Works

Compared to the other works cited in this paper, this source offers a rather unique approach to the issue. For it is the only one that challenges the understanding which people have for the various forms of learning. Although it has very limited empirical data, it is no less effective in dealing with the subject matter.
How the Article Informs/Supports e-learning

This article sheds more light on the issue of e-learning. It makes a clear and succinct analysis of what makes e-learning programs fail to actually be as effective as expected, and instead blames the lack of effort by key stakeholders in the education sector and in government to demystify learning as a whole and e-learning in particular. Unless this is done, there can never be any hope of success in the future either.

4.      Waight, C & Stewart, BL 2005. ‘Valuing the adult learner in e-learning: part one – a conceptual model for corporate settings.’ Journal of Workplace Learning; Volume: 17; Issue: 5/6; pp 337-45
Summary of the Central Theme and Scope of the Article

            The central theme of this article is the presentations of the factors that influence the performance rate of e-learning programs. This time, however, the variants are different and the target sample is also different. There is an analysis of factors that hinder or enhance the applicability of e-learning programs in companies as opposed to the learning institutions. In essence, it is a matter of bringing to  the fore what the elderly experience when they are made to go through any e-learning program and why this observation is so. It explores the underlying causes, and effectively points out the areas that need to be focused on when dealing with the challenges of e-learning programs. There are ways through which different people in different settings are able to learn from different content. This article seeks to present the elderly as people who are increasingly becoming among the largest group of users of not only modern technology but user-specific  technology as well. Therefore, although every young is almost certainly likely to embrace technology due to nature of their very being, adults might not really be as responsive. Therefore, analyzing them makes it possible to have findings that are reliable and authentic.

How the Article Informs/Supports e-learning

            The article offers insights into what makes e-learning to be a challenging learning program for different age groups. It brings into perspective the issue of age as a key factor in applying any e-learning program. Finally, the article helps the audience appreciate the value of theoretical frameworks, especially the socio-cultural framework, in shaping all forms of learning.

Purpose, Methodology (Design, Participants, Setting, Analysis), Results, and Conclusion

            The main purpose of the research is to explore how an adult learner can be evaluated by e-learning teams to ascertain their level of learning not in the classroom or even social setting but in the corporate field. There is these of these adults as a reference point where they are analyzed in relation to a number of secondary sources of data collection – particularly theoretical frameworks. Social learning theories like that of Lev Vygotsky are referred to. There is a presentation of factors which have been found to influence e-learning among adults. These are antecedents, moderators, and championing factors. In addition, it is found that transfer, learning, and engagement are the main outcomes of e-learning. This essentially means that while using e-learning affair such people, then it is critical that such factors are considered and in their right context as they actually influence the learning process.

Although specific to adults, it is true that the findings can be applicable to others groups as well after a little alteration of the variables. The elderly, for instance, are just in need of social interaction if their learning process is to be successful. Therefore, it is important that social learning provisions are included in the entire learning process. There is the role that motivation plays in shaping the way any individual responds to whatever task is presented before one. This study focuses on adults who, although largely thought to be less influenced by the motivation they receive from other people like mentors and heroes in their lives, are proven to react to e-learning the same way a child can react to it. There is, therefore, a need for such mentors in all e-learning setting if the highest level of learning can be achieved. It is also important for other factors to be borne in mind while designing and implementing such programs for the highest level of efficiency to be attained.

Comparison to Other Works

            This article is rather not so instrumental in its applying of its findings because it is really difficult to link adult learning processes and those of other age groups. That aside, it is not really very common for adults to be on effective e-learning programs as they are deemed to have had some of education through other media before. However, it is a richly valuable source which can be utilized for comparison purposes; and leads as far as use of theoretical, proven approaches to learning is concerned.

The Intended Audience

            This article is also for a general audience who might want to find out the factors that hinder e-learning in the corporate sector. More specifically, it is intended for organizational managers who will need to implement e-learning to educate adult learners – their employees.

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