Rapid changes in technology have affected almost all areas of industry over the last decade: publishing, music, retail, television, business – and education has never been far behind…
The dramatic rise in online education in recent years has shown that web-based learning is a popular and effective accompaniment or alternative to traditional classroom tuition, and is a natural and positive progression for education. Learn Direct alone has provided 500,000 individuals with recognised qualifications via online open courses. According to a report by EDUCAUSE Centre for Applied Research, out of 274 higher education institutions that were surveyed, 80 percent offered courses that combined classroom-based learning with virtual sessions, and 71 percent offered entire online courses.
There are many advantages that support the increase in e-learning courses, perhaps the most obvious being the wider accessibility to individuals who, for varying reasons, may not have access to education. Individuals in employment looking for further professional training, parents who don’t have the time to take a course while raising a family and earning a living, individuals with disabilities that find accessing education institutions difficult or those living in rural locations, a considerable distance from their nearest learning establishment, are all examples of people who can now tap into education from the comfort of home and on their own schedule.
Arguably the biggest advantage of web-based learning is its reduction of overheads: not only the physical cost but also the time saved. As a provider, Ernst and Young for example found that not only were they able to reduce their training costs using web-based learning, they also reduced the time spent training by over 50 percent. Similarly, attendees of online courses also save, with zero transport or subsistence costs, and no need to take leave from paid work to attend.
In the US, it is expected that online learning will surpass classroom learning by 2015. According to online journal Sojel, 3.5 million students in the US were engaging in online learning within higher education by 2006. While the UK may be slightly more tentative when it comes to e-learning, it seems we’re not too far behind, and there is certainly a demand here for more affordable, accessible education at every level.
One of the latest companies to launch an online education programme in the UK is F&W Media International Ltd (FWI). Following in the footsteps of its American parent company, F+W Media Inc., who run a variety of online schools including How Design University and Writers Digest University, FWI have just launched the Creative University (http://www.creativeuniversity.co.uk), an e-learning programme catering for creative professionals and would-be professionals through a range of six-week online courses and one-hour webinars.
FWI’s Managing Director James Woollam explained, “The Creative University provides learning opportunities for busy creatives, on their own schedule and at their own pace, exploring topics that are key to their career growth and success. The programme combines world-class instruction with the convenience and immediacy of the Internet to create a state-of-the-art learning environment.”
Of course, no one is implying that traditional teaching should become redundant altogether – essential social development between children takes place in the classroom – but we should all feel excited and liberated that education options are being made readily available to all people, regardless of age or circumstance, with nothing more than a connection to the Internet.