It might take another decade or even longer, but e-learning is set to someday become the premier method acquiring an education. It’s all in the economics: brick and mortar campuses are costly things to keep up and running. Once enough universities start significantly cutting back on their real-world spending in favor of focusing their efforts on web based methods of learning, demand for this new, cheaper, more efficient system will steam roll over traditional learning environments. Right now, the technology and Internet environment are just not quite there yet to make online college as typically a rewarding experience as regular campus learning, with the exception of a few top online schools. But the signs are already pointing to online learning dominance due to the gadgets and networks we use today.
Consider the implications of the following two relatively recent inventions:
When sitting inside a classroom or lecture hall, the smartphone is a distraction. But when taking an online course it becomes your connection to your education. Smartphones are making it easier for people to access and digest information on-the-go, and that obviously includes information in the realm of academia. The smartphone turns any room into a potential work station for students to keep track of their assignments and grades. As smartphone technology becomes more sophisticated, the mobile learning possibilities will only increase.
THE TABLET COMPUTER
We can simply call this one the iPad since most competitors have left, are legally banned from being sold, or are too crappy to mention. But if the smartphone turns any room into a workstation, the iPad can turn any room into a classroom. Teachers and students can share interactive projects and additional media remotely and in real-time with the use of the iPad. The technology is a little pricey and the apps are still a little too prototypey, but the concept of the iPad isn’t going anywhere and is only going to improve as time goes on.
Yet these intrinsically communicative gadgets are nothing without the social networking revolution that has swept our globe in the last five years. It’s coupled with this new trend that technology will truly come to benefit educators and students alike. Consider the academic benefits of the following:
Once again – in a traditional classroom Facebook is a distraction. But when taking online courses, it’s an invaluable tool. Whereas you’d typically be complete strangers with fellow students in online classes – only familiar with their names and basic biographical information they provide on the site – Facebook allows you to get to know these otherwise faceless people as intimately as you would in a real classroom. This lets you have that cushion of co-student support you otherwise miss out on by not attending a traditional campus.
Twitter can keep any classroom continuously connected in effective ways. Whether a class is online or in a lecture hall, Twitter allows a professor to make updated changes to the curriculum in real time and even send out relevant links he or she encounters throughout the day. This can even be applied to the students only, who can send each other links to helpful resources when they find them.
Technology is bringing the globe together. This means classrooms online can consist of people from all walks of life, and this is only going to become more and more practical as time goes on. Online classes are hit or miss today, but someday soon they might be all we have. With the technology sure to be there too, chances are they’ll be all we ever need.