E-learning technologies: new opportunities or stumbling blocks for education?

Maryna Dibrova, outreach and community manager at Unicheck, believes we owe the boom in online learning technology to its convenience, flexibility and availability

Tech-based education is no longer the future, but a new reality and an integral part of online learning. Technical solutions like Zoom, Canvas LMS and Google Classroom, which have been widely used for online education purposes, are being tested with renewed vigour. The COVID-19 pandemic is the one to blame. While the education community is summing up the current results, we’re wondering about the actual impact e-learning technologies have on education.

New opportunities for traditional education and the enhancement of e-learning

E-learning technologies are the means of collaboration among educators, students and parents. There’s no better way to extend the learning process beyond the classroom than to implement proven edtech tools and systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic became a powerful trigger in forcing traditional education, educators, institutions and edtech companies to adjust to new conditions. Today, over 1.57bn children and youth in more than 190 countries have been moved from the classroom due to school closures. While unfortunate, this new reality has helped e-learning technologies quickly react to arising pain points of education and e-learning.

E-learning as an integral part and a back-up plan for strategies of higher institutions

The traditional academia we got used to has given way to e-learning technology. Advanced services empower institutions to offer a more immersive experience in learning and teaching online, far beyond the classroom.

The percentage of public and private college enrolment is continually growing, which creates a demand for remote teaching. According to Moody’s Investors Service, in the US alone, distance learning enrolment has grown by 38% in the past five years.

Global e-learning markets are predicted to triple in revenue growth: from US$107bn in 2015 to US$325bn by 2025.

Education has become more affordable and accessible

We owe the booming of distance learning to its convenience and availability, regardless of the student or higher institution’s current location. Here are the core benefits of technology-enabled learning:

  • Being location independent, students can implement their knowledge in real-life situations.
  • A giant resource base that’s not limited to specific institutions.
  • E-mentoring and other complementary services are made available anywhere in the world.
  • Continuous learning and mastering of life skills are essential in the digital world: creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration, information management, adaptability, curiosity and reflection.
  • Virtual science facilities, such as textbooks, training manuals and virtual labs, are accessible to all.
  • Learners can share their practices with others and receive real-time feedback.
  • Students have access to a more personalised and student-centered approach.

Edtech companies improve their products according to the demands of educators and students

Edtech providers allow general, higher institutions to adopt technology in education rapidly. There are various distance learning solutions. Online learning platforms, for example, offer learners the option of taking ready-made courses without proctoring. Notable online school representatives include Coursera, Udemy, edX and Udacity, offering both broad and narrow topics.

E-learning marketplaces, unlike online courses, provide peer-to-peer communication with educators who organise classes and support learners the entire way. Some of the best online resources include Google Classroom, WizIQ and Shift.

Video conferencing software is a way for university communities to conduct lectures or workshops. Docebo, Zoom.us, ezTalks, etc. are among the most renowned video conferencing apps.

Plagiarism detection software is now available to prevent students from copying and pasting. Unicheck, an advanced online plagiarism checker, is considered to be a promising tool both for students and education professionals.

The option of digital assessment and feedback is a must during distance learning. Here are a few services that can be useful: Gradescope, Kahoot!, Canvas, Blackboard Learn, Survey Anyplace and Nearpod.

Designing modern and engaging learner experiences

Learner engagement is the key to success and retaining an audience. At the same time, interactive technologies are added to strengthen the educational process. Online learning technology can mix various student-centered approaches like virtual tours, simulators, games, quizzes, personalised tests, learning progress tracking and more.

IBM, for instance, provides student forums, group assignments and live sessions. To keep the learning experience more engaging, they utilise simulators, interactive videos, assessment styles and gamification methods.


Image source: Freepik


Possible challenges facing the future of education

Not all institutions, parents, educators and students are ready for instant change and new conditions. This lack of readiness can lead to feeling strained and worried about the future of educational institutions, in general, and the process of education, in particular.

The closure of universities and colleges due to student shortage and economic crisis

Some public and private institutions have already claimed to face demographic and debt issues. There are defunct universities and colleges all over the US. Long Island’s Dowling College, for example, ceased operations in summer 2016 due to a US$54bn debt. Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in turn, is currently searching for a strategic partner and cannot accept a full freshmen class for this fall.

As of 2019, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center noted a decrease of two million students compared to the 2011 postsecondary fall enrolment peak. Iowa, alone, forecasted an enrolment downfall of nearly 7% for local universities and colleges beginning in 2024.

Building a culture of integrity to keep student conduct intact

The world of academia must switch from a focus on e-cheating and misconduct to efforts on building a culture of integrity where students can thrive. Here are proven ways to help address academic dishonesty:

  • Clarifying why academic integrity matters

Educators should place an academic integrity statement on each assignment and when writing their course description for each syllabus/LMS.

  • Personalised teaching

Institutions should provide an adaptive learning environment for the varying needs of students and how they retain knowledge.

  • Designing assessment methods

Assessments should be designed to thoroughly cover students’ strengths and problematic points.

  • Establishing a positive relationship with students

Educators should ensure students feel seen, whether they’re involved in a group lecture or a one-on-one tutorial. To do so, teachers need to make their subject matter relevant and meaningful and provide students with learning outcomes for each assignment.

  • Open dialogue on integrity and misconduct

Regular handouts and/or infomercials can help raise awareness among students to address misconduct by seeking help from the designated support centres.

  • Use technology

Technologies like Zoom’s video conferencing app, Unicheck’s plagiarism checker online tool and Gradescope’s digital assessment and feedback service provide the feeling of online proctoring along with invisible accountability. The use of these services can prevent students from copying/pasting and result in boosting a culture of academic integrity instead.

Poor learning effectiveness in the conditions of constant online learning

Offline education is always a social process, as learners are continually mastering their socialisation skills. The COVID-19 pandemic affected young people of all ages by separating students and sending them home.

While some students and teachers feel comfortable being online, others feel unsure of what’s to come. The mass rush to constant online learning, a need for personal connection and a heightened sense of responsibility in all areas, may lead to poor learners’ effectiveness and affect overall outcomes.

To stabilise education, professionals must assure students that e-learning technology will not fully replace peer-to-peer learning experiences as remote teaching is meant to merge traditional academic practices with compelling digital solutions.

Altering learning experiences

Despite tough restrictions, online learning technology is going to stay the course by enhancing teaching methods and self-education. Applying distance learning solutions, institutions can revolutionise experiences for educators and learners. On top of that, feedback received during lockdown has helped academia consider new methods to implement once they resume face-to-face teaching.

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