FACTORS AFFECTING THE EMERGENCE OF E-
by Enrique Guevarra, MEd
“ 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
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
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
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
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
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')
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
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,
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-
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
b. Learners may feel isolated from their teachers and peers ('Disadvantages of e-
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
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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
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.
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
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.
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