Practical knowledge of methodological backgrounds in the field
of preparing e-learning content is one of the key requirements for those, who intend to implement e-learning solutions in everyday school practice. Necessity to fulfill this requirement is equally important when some elements of e-learning only support traditional learning processes as well as when one intends to introduce fully online courses.
Online classes differ significantly from the traditional lessons in a classroom or in a computer lab. They must also be more precisely planned and prepared. It applies particularly to all sorts of activities aimed at the learners, which must not only vary in their form and amount, but also should fulfill different needs of the individual learners as well as various learning conditions of educational processes.
Indispensable condition of making much of the possibilities that
e-learning brings to school or university is well designed learning content as well as various types of interactivity. But it is not enough. Equally important is also the form in which this
content is delivered to the learners. Moreover, including various means of knowledge delivery like, for instance, audio or video recordings not only enriches the form but also helps
to meet different learning styles and preferences. Diversity of means can also be supported by the use of graphics, photos, charts and tables or the animations. However, the proper
balance between form and content must be kept not only to avoid distraction of the learners by unnecessary “additions” but also to increase their motivation and engagement in learning
Efficiency of e-learning can be considered in many dimensions
but methodological and financial aspects seem to be most important among them. The first one is usually measured by the grades that online students get at the end of a course or
lecture. Final grades however do not indicate the extent to what means and methods applied in that process have influenced its real efficiency. Such information we can get only when the results of e-learning are compared with adequate content taught in traditional classroom.
Evaluation should accompany almost every important project at its various steps although it plays different role in each of them. Evaluation ex ante, for instance, usually precedes already planned activities and may be combined with SWOT analysis or Delphi prediction method. Its role is to enable appropriate design of planned activities. Another step of evaluation - mid term – is also called formative and is usually used for improving the project during its flow while ex post evaluation is aimed at improving the next edition of the project. This type of evaluation can also be called summative.
The choice of adequate teaching methods, both for academic and corporate e-learning depends on many factors. Some of them like: the objectives, scope, subject being taught or even the learning environment are quite obvious. But also motivation of the learners, size of group and last but not least – experience and skills of a tutor cannot be forgotten. Appropriate decisions should be based on the analysis of learning needs, which should be the first (although quite often disregarded) stage of the whole training process.
As far as e-learning is concerned, two directions of
standardization can be indicated. The first one refers to technological backgrounds of learning processes and the role of ICT as a means of knowledge delivery and the other one
is linked to organizational and methodological issues of those processes. In the first context following factors must be considered: functionality of e-learning platform, a bandwidth of
communication and transmission canals and interoperability of virtual learning environment. In this category such standardization bodies like: ADL initiative, LTSC IEEE or IMS Global Learning Consortium can be mentioned. Those previously competing organizations have finally joined their efforts, what resulted in recent years in common technical regulations based on SCORM specification.
Personalization in e-learning is to some extent the immanent feature of this type of education as it by definition should enable obtaining new skills and knowledge at individually chosen time and place. It cannot be denied, however, that significant change in efficiency of such processes can be achieved solely when not only the learning conditions are adapted to one’s individual needs but, first of all, the forms and methods of presenting learning content are applied and various types of activities and interactions are implemented. To achieve such goals quite often sophisticated solutions based on the use of artificial intelligence techniques are applied like in ITS (Intelligent Tutoring Systems) or in AHS (Adaptive Hypermedia Systems).
As we already know, efficiency of e-learning is one of the key issues of that type of educational activity. No wonder then that it continuously remains in focus of attention of various groups of professionals including e-learning platforms providers, designers of e-learnings standards and specifications and – first of all – course designers and the authors of learning content. Those interests have resulted also in creating the idea of RLO (Reusable Learning Objects) that stored in dedicated repositories would enable creating new courses from existing pieces of content.
In recent years e-learning has gradually but systematically become an integral part of tertiary education. To some extent it is a natural consequence of Bologna Process and increasing mobility of students in particular. Another important factor is the systematically growing role of the concept of “learning on demand” combined with the idea of “just in time” and “just enough” learning. Additionally, in Poland one of the recent changes in this area is the first official regulation of Ministry of Science and Higher Education allowing introduction of some elements of e-learning in universities teaching practices.