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  • 1. FACTORS AFFECTING THE EMERGENCE OF E- LEARNING by Enrique Guevarra, MEd Introduction “ Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence” . Abigail Adams (1744 - 1818), 1780 . Learning is a vital word for any human being since life’s meaning is attached to it. In the field of pedagogical context , learning is one of the most imperative mental functions of human being that acquires any form of knowledge through apparent information (Learning 2008) . Moreover, in a broader spectrum learning can be in various types which include non-associative , associative , imprinting , observational, play, multimedia, e-learning and m-learning. Incidentally, in this essay I am predisposed to elaborate one form of learning which is e-learning. It is a subject matter that stirs up my attention since doing my postgraduate studies in University of Technology Sydney (UTS) . In this essay, I strongly argue that there are technological, economic, socio-cultural and political factors affecting the emergence of e-learning in the recent and modern times. It is argued that there has been an extraordinary demand of learning in this 21st century of which conventional face to face learning can’t embrace the challenge since learners are more inclined to have control in their learning in the digital environment ( Spender and Fiona 2002) . E-learning , I would say is a significant change of educational policy that leads to the formation of a “Knowledge Economy” (Spender and Fiona 2002 , p. 25). Apparently, education in the past is more focused on the basic skills in reading , writing and arithmetic , in contrast to the kind of education in our present times where it is paying attention on general capabilities such as learning to learn in order to deal with the predictable technological change (Roblyer 2006). Along this line, Hirsch has identified two theories of learning which is of great help in setting up the parameters of learning. Topping the list is the directed instruction which is
  • 2. mainly anchored in behaviorist theory and the information-processing branch of the cognitive learning theories. The other one is the inquiry-based learning notably known as constructivist. Under such circumstances, technology applications such as practice and tutorials are under the former theory while problem solving , multimedia, production and web-based learning could either be directed instruction or inquiry-based learning (Roblyer 2006). In the succeeding pages , the essay will unfold the various forms of technological, , economic , socio-cultural and political factors that steer towards the emergence of e-learning. e-Learning Defined E-learning is a method of education with the aid of computer technology of which in most universities the mode of learning is done rarely on face to face method since teaching and learning could be done online (Electronic Learning). Furthermore, “it is about the transmission of learning content using information technology and often refers to delivery using intra or Internet. The actual learning which involves identification of information, conceptualising and making meaning to enhance user’s knowledge base, understanding and skills, as well as finding the time and space for learning is left to the individual” (Choy 2007, p. 1) Since e- learning has been in existence for a significant number of years, apparently benefits have been laid over the span of time, enabling its stakeholders to enjoy every good thing it brings. Citing some of the advantages of e-learning are as follows: 1. Cost Reduction a. The reduction of the overall cost of learning ( teacher’s salaries, venue rental, student’s expense on transportation , accommodation and food)(Kruse 2004). b. The reduction of student’s spending in tuition fees by 40 to 60 % ('eLearning Benefits' 2008) 2. Convenience and Portability a. Courses are taken by the learner in his own pace that does not require his physical attendance since he can download the e-learning material and have access to it in his preferred time. He is not bounded by time and space ('Worldwide
  • 3. Learn' 2008). b. Self-pacing for slow or even quick learners which reduces stress and tension thus increasing sense of satisfaction (Kruse 2004). c. Enables the instructor to develop materials using world wide web resources; allows to communicate information in a more technology fashion savvy approach in text, image , audio and video formats; retains records of discussion through threaded discussion on bulletin boards ('Benefits of e-learning') 3. Elasticity a. Instructor-led or self-study courses are student centered thus accommodating learner’s needs and preferences. Under such conditions, instructors can use tools best suited for their teaching styles.('New Dimensions in Education : Benefits of E-Learning' 2008) b. Learners can choose from a variety of interactive self-paced courses and an extensive library e-references ('eLearning Benefits' 2008). c. Allows learners to choose materials relevant to their level of knowledge and interest thus encouraging them to browse sites using the hyperlinks which provide pertinent information they seek ('Benefits of e-learning') 4. Increased Retention a. E-learning brings excitement to the learners thus higher learning retention is imminent ('New Dimensions in Education : Benefits of E-Learning' 2008) 5. Increased Collaboration a. Sharing of technological tools among learners and instructors is prevailing since they could have the collaboration online('New Dimensions in Education : Benefits of E-Learning' 2008). b. Interactivity among users is taking place which keep them pushing through training (Kruse 2004). Even though that e-learning has come to a rescue for a more comprehensive manner of learning experience, setbacks have been identified to this effect. To mention some are as follows: 1. Financial cost a. The initial investment of putting up e-learning into action is indeed cost demanding (Kruse 2004) b. Software needs to be updated regularly and content making is labor intensive,
  • 4. thus online learning is cost taxing ('Disadvantages of e-learning' 2004) 2. Technology concerns a. There is an apprehension of technology issues in the area of : infrastructure accomplishing its goals, justification of additional technical expenditures, compatibility of software and hardware, technophobia among learners and the unavailability of required technologies (Kruse 2004) b. Complex management of computer files and software learning material. It could be frustrating as well if the internet signal is sluggish. ('Disadvantages of e- learning' 2004) 3. Social and Cultural Issues a. Technological communication advances such as e-learning can reduce social and cultural interaction which is mainly brought by body language mechanisms and peer to peer learning ( Kruse 2004, ‘e-learning Advantages and Disadvantages’ 2007) b. Learners may feel isolated from their teachers and peers ('Disadvantages of e- learning' 2004) 4. Learners Concerns Learners of meager interest in online learning may lag behind ('e-Learning Advantages and Disadvantages' 2007) Compelling Factors Behind Emergence of e-Learning Technological Trends Although the existence of internet technology is still more than 12 years, the development of such technology has never stopped growing in leap and bounce. One significant change is the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 ( Sinclair , McClaren , Griffin 2006) . According to them, the former is considered to be using the framework of architecture of presentation since one could simply download information from the website without necessarily altering the site. Unlike Web 2.0 that allows anybody to be coauthor and publisher of the websites since they could interact with their peers online, thus it is referred to as Architecture of Participation. Web 2.0 theories led to the growth and advancement of web based
  • 5. communities and hosted services like social networking sites, video and audio sharing sites, wikis and blogs (Web 2.0 2008). Mayes (2000) considers this phenomenon as convergence of primary, secondary, and tertiary courseware (the blending of concepts, objects or people through technology). This has been corroborated by a concept which suggests that communicative media is making a breakthrough in the learning and teaching environment (Laurillard 2002). However, for maximum learning to be achieved, the concept of feedback by teachers must take place. Another remarkable event taking place in e-learning is the transformation of the learning environments. In Learning Environment 2.0, learners and teachers alike are collaborating in the learning process that makes them designers of the environment rather than merely being shaped by it ( Sinclair, McClaren , Griffin 2006). My personal experience on this regard is imminent in my E-learning Technologies course this spring semester of which our teacher empowered us to create our own e-learning pedagogy based on our perceived needs. The task is quite challenging since we are given the liberty to utilise any form of e-learning technologies that best suit our requirements. In view of these technological developments, lies the excitement or anxiety of what e-learning brings in the future. Hedberg (2006) foresees two possible challenges of e-learning in the days ahead. Initially, he discusses the shifting nature of e-learning landscape which is exemplified by rapid changing of technologies, software and marketing mechanisms. Apparently, this prudence makes resounding reliability considering the trends of technology in modern times. The other challenge is the possible difficulty of teachers to take advantage of the capacities of ‘disruptive technologies’ as they continue to initiate change. Economic Factors The lack of workforce in the corporate world will pave way for people to patronise e-learning especially so, that internet is exponentially growing in coverage. Between 1999 and 2008 , an astonishing growth of worldwide online users are
  • 6. recorded from 158 million to 1.464 billion (Brenner 2008). Global E-commerce in 2003 reached at $ 1 Trillion (Learnframe 2000) . Moreover, because of the economic potential for e-learning is tremendous , a growing number of giant technology companies like AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, IBM, Oracle, AT&T and Sun Microsytems are investing into advanced products and services suited for e- learning education which is pegged at $2 Trillion global education and training industry . Unpretentious calculation will tell us that any business related to information and communication technology will obviously bring them into heights of financial success (Learnframe 2000). Another notable factor that shapes the ever-increasing opportunities of e-learning is in the outsourcing and privatization schemes of companies and organizations. Over the years, there has been a shift from a hierarchal organizational structure towards establishing a network of suppliers, customer and outsourcing partners that can provide services at the required time (Learnframe 2000). In U.S. alone, 90% of multinational firms outsourced some business in 1995 compared to 60% in 1992. This figure translates into a tremendous outsourcing total revenues of $100 Billion in 1996 to nearly $300 Billion in 2001( Learnframe 2000). Certainly this creates opportunities for e-learning since workers have to upgrade their skills to meet the demands of times. There can be no better way to enhance the expertise but thru online learning where convenience, portability and other prevailing benefits will be gained. The issue on globalization to my mind is one of the controversial concerns in this generation. The current financial crisis in the US does not only wobble their own country per se but brings significant adverse effects in the global community. Reasonably this happens because nations are interconnected with other nations. Globalization has been defined as “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations, a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology” (Endowment ). Businesses from various parts of the globe can join the international markets easily through virtual connection of information technology of which business transactions and resource sharing are done online (Learnframe 2000). As a result, this scenario creates more opportunities for IT literate workers.
  • 7. E-learning then plays a vital role on this regard. Socio – Cultural Factors Societal concerns have dramatic impact for the surfacing of e-learning. Lynch argues that in US alone , there has been a significant change of the nature of the families, workplaces and other areas of life that for me triggers the learning need of the people ( Learnframe 2000). It is noted also that in 2000 , 76 million Americans ( Generation X ) were aging, posing opportunities for the Generation Y. No reason at this point of time, more and more opportunities are in place for the young generation in the workplace which were previously held by the Generation X. It has been observed in Lynch study that a significant number of adults are coming back to school which is previously held taken for granted in the recent years. Generation X in exodus numbers are coming back to school for retraining purposes thus prolonging longevity in the workplace. Parents and grandparents for that matter will spend more in education for their children for education now becomes a high priority. Apparently, this is stimulating for any consumer oriented education products such as e-learning. Even the ethnic makeup of US is believed to be 40% of the entire population by 2050. In California , one fourth of the entire student population are less English proficient. This scenario requires intensive technology-based training on English languages and culture. ( Learnframe 2000). Political Factors Because of the promising future of e-learning, governments in various countries have taken bolder steps and initiatives for the development of e-learning in their respective nations . US Secretary Riley has presented a plan to the US Congress that pushes for the effective use of technology in Elementary and Secondary education for the school children to be better equipped and educated for the demands of the new American economy (Riley 2000). To catch up with more developed countries in e-learning, Taiwan has adapted a Six-Year National Development Plan, Challenge 2008 that seeks to expand the market demand by having its applications promoted to other pursuits, such as on the job training and e-commerce of agriculture and fishing (Carr-Chellman 2005). However , study
  • 8. reveals that Taiwan’s e-learning infrastructure is not directly proportional to the growth of the e-learning industry development. On the other hand, China has been in the stage of major change of which education is one of those priorities with e- learning being viewed as playing a central role . UNESCO has even featured China’s informationisation program as converting the massive population into indispensable human resources. Moreover , Huang et al. illustrate the implementation of the technological infrastructure of China and it’s extensive growth lead a significant number of students entering education. The government is regarding seriously the shift of a learning journey which is more student- centered that builds up lifelong learning, problem solving, team building and communication. European nations have initiated information society policies that foster knowledge-based society thus adopting in 2002 the E-Europe ( Commission , 2000 -B) whose main objectives are as follows: “cheaper, faster and secure internet; investing in people and skills ; and stimulate the use of internet” ( Rodrigues 2004, p. 41) . In 1999 Australia’s Federal, State and Territory Governments and non government education providers developed the National Goals for Schooling which endeavors to produce students of confidence and creativity and productive users of information technologies and its implications to society ( White . On this regard a national action plan was created –‘Learning for the knowledge Society: An Education and Training Action Plan for the information economy’ that covers three important areas which include people, infrastructure and online content, applications and services. Conclusion: Having cited in the preceding pages of this essay the advantages, disadvantages and implications of e-learning, I am strongly persuaded that the benefits of e- learning outweigh the setbacks. I consider e-learning not only as a sheer platform of learning nor a technological trend, but a lifestyle for everyone to enjoy. Conventional learning is too small for the increasing demand of learning globally. The compelling forces of technology, economics, society and culture, and politics
  • 9. that drive e-learning to flourish and sprout significantly are to be reckoned squarely. They create a domino effect in various lives’s endeavors, of which e- learning gets an overwhelming impact. In the context of the pedagogical milieu, teachers and learners have to be globally competitive and equipped by exploring transformative learning where they both are co designers and participators of the learning environment ( Kalantzis and Cope 2008). Finally, the world is getting smaller like a diminutive village where collaboration of knowledge and wisdom is done through e-learning, a process that goes beyond the borders. References: AL-Hunaiyyan, A.A.-H., Nabeel; Al-Sharhan, Salah 2008, 'Blended E-Learning Design: Discussion of Cultural Issues', International Journal of Cyber Society and Education, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 17-32. 'Benefits of e-learning', E-Courses Assumption University, viewed 4 November 2008 <>. Brenner, R.C. 2008, 'Interesting Internet Facts ', viewed 6 November 2008 <>.
  • 10. Choy, S. 2007, 'Benefits of e-learning Benchmarks: Australian Case Studies', The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 11-20. 'Disadvantages of e-learning' 2004, E-learning, viewed 6 November 2008 <>. 'e-Learning Advantages and Disadvantages' 2007, About, viewed 6 November 2008 < and-disadvantages.html>. 'eLearning Benefits' 2008, Exomedia, viewed 4 November 2008 <>. Electronic Learning, Wikipedia, <>. Endowment , C., A Student's Guide to Globalization, viewed 15 November 2008 <>. Kruse, K. 2004, The Benefits and Drawbacks of e-Learning, viewed 24 October 2008 <>. Laurillard, D. 2002, ' Communicative media ', in, Re-thinking University Teaching: A conversational framework for the effective use of learning technologies, 2nd edn, Routledge, London. Learnframe 2000, Facts , Figures and Forces Behind e-Learning, viewed 6 November 2008 <>. Learning 2008, Wikipedia : The Free Encyclopedia, viewed 4 November 2008 <>. 'New Dimensions in Education : Benefits of E-Learning' 2008, World Wide Learn, viewed 4 November 2008 < essentials/elearning-benefits.htm>.
  • 11. Rachel Harris , J.H.a.A.M., 'Impact of e-learning on learner participation, attainment, retention, and progression in Further Education: report of a scoping study', p. 8. Riley, R.W.H., Frank S.; Roberts, Linda G. 2000, e-Learning : Putting A World- Class Education at the Fingertips of all Children, in U.D.o. Education (ed.)Washington D.C. Roblyer, M.D. 2006, Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching, 4th edn, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Spender, D.S., Fiona 2002, Embracing e-learning in Australian Schools, Commonwealth Bank. Web 2.0 2008, Wikipedia, viewed 9 November 2008 <>. White, G. 2003, 'E-learning - Key Australian Initiatives', paper presented to the Polish E-learning Conference, 23 February 2003. 'Worldwide Learn' 2008, New Dimensions of Education : Benefits of E-learning, viewed 4 November 2008 < essentials/elearning-benefits.htm>.
  • 12.