“eLearning is changing. And we will see new models, new technologies, and designs emerge. So, let’s drop the “e” – or at least give it a new and broader definition” — Elliot Masie (the educational expert who coined the term eLearning to define online learning). Ranked as the number 1 personality on eLearning Industry’s Movers and Shakers list in 2017, Masie has made it pretty clear — the market for online education is constantly evolving — resulting in rapid growth of eLearning. And this phenomenon has not started NOW. Although the term eLearning was coined in the 1990s, the concept has been in practice since the 1800s.
Hard to believe, right? Well, today, we will illustrate how growth of eLearning has progressed to date. And this phenomenon has not started NOW. Although the term eLearning was coined in the 1990s, the growth of eLearning has progressed over the years. We will also outline how the past has paved the way to the current NOW. And how the growth of e-learning will evolve in the future. Let’s dive into the growth of eLearning over the years.
Growth of eLearning: A Brief Overview of its History
Isaac Pitman, in the 1800s, used to teach his students shorthand through correspondence. He believed that learning does not need to have physical proximity.
In 1924, the world witnessed the invention of the first testing machine, which allowed learners to test themselves.
A time jump to the 1950s and Harvard professor, BF Skinner, introduced the teaching machine — which could impart programmed instructions to students.
Then, in the 1960s, the world witnessed the first computer-based training program (CBT) at the University of Illinois, USA. Institutes across the US eventually adopted the CBT program, named PLATO-Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations.
The original online programs were used only to deliver information to learners. But with the onset of the 1970s, the technology became more interactive. In the UK, the Open University wanted to reap the maximum benefits from the growth of e-learning. They wanted to use tools to enhance their existing distance learning design.
Previously, the Open University used to share course materials via post or mail. But with the invention of the Internet, it started including interactive components in its courses. It additionally began introducing faster communication mediums like eMail.
The Early 1980s
In the early 1980s, people saw personal computers making an appearance. These devices were then equipped only with read-only technologies – Web 1.0. However, when Apple came up with its Macintosh computer in 1984, offering better graphical and text support, the world of online learning saw a drastic transformation. Teachers could create their own software and tutorials while corporates started developing computer-based educational materials and learning games as well.
In1990, we had the Multimedia PC, aka MPC, complete with a CD-ROM drive. This means that the devices can play audio and video in sync. Microsoft Powerpoint was another popular feature that lecturers instantly adopted, executives, teachers, and students. MPCs were able to use video, audio, graphics, and animation to create an interactive experience.
Finally, in 1999, Elliott Masie coined the word ‘eLearning’ at his TechLearn Conference at Disneyworld.
The Growth of e-Learning NOW (2000 Onwards)
With the boom of the World Wide Web in the early 2000s, CD-ROMs became obsolete. Now that we had high-speed Internet, enhanced multimedia features, broadband, and LAN, creating online content became an effortless task.
Bluetooth allowed short-range connectivity to devices like phones and printers and enhanced browser technologies, lending a seamless user experience. Trainers were now easily able to deliver online classes, and students started enrolling for distance education programs.
In 2004, the Web 2.0 concept was widely circulated by Tim O’Reilly at the O’Reilly Media Conference. This jump from the original read-only Web 1.0 allowed learners and trainers to interact, create, contribute, communicate, and collaborate via social media, forums, Wikipedia, and blogs.
The Adobe Flash video was introduced in 2005, which brought in more flexibility to online content creation. With less bandwidth, users were now able to embed and play clips instantly. Of course, when YouTube was launched the same year, the market for the growth of eLearning saw tremendous pace.
2008 saw the launch of the mobile web, with the introduction of smartphones. Internet-enabled tablets and Apple’s iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad lines transformed the way developers created educational software and the manner teachers disseminated knowledge.
In 2010, HTML’s introduction, coupled with CSS3 and JavaScipt, gave rise to browser + device compatibility, tailored online content, and embedded multimedia.
April 2013 marked the launch of Tin Can API, a version of SCORM. It removed the browser’s requirement, accelerated mobile learning, promoted team-based training, introduced cross-domain functionality, and allowed simulations and gamification — resulting in further growth of eLearning.
Currently, the market for eLearning features multiple Learning Management Systems, each with different specifications. Blended learning has become a norm — both in educational institutes and corporates.
Growth of eLearning: The Future
eLearning solutions have currently progressed to become the first choice when it comes to training employees. Some of the trends that will rule this technology are the transition from desktop to mLearning and micro-learning. Tech-savvy learners prefer mobile-based modules since bite-sized learning leads to higher retention rates.
Augmented and Virtual Reality solutions have made the VR experience a household term now. If corporates integrate AR and VR in their eLearning modules, the opportunities are endless. Learners get a more interactive experience, but they can also absorb information just like in the real world.
Personalized and subscription-based eLearning will help organizations slash extra costs and deliver more focused content, which stresses their core values. Several leading organizations are also deploying deep Learning and AI as a service. Finally, the growth of eLearning will heavily depend on big data and algorithms. Of course, in addition to LMS, xAPI is increasingly gaining importance. This eLearning specification allows corporates to collect data from a gamut of online and offline training activities.
In an increasingly data-driven world, incorporating the right tools shall pave the way for a complete online training experience, leading to a massive growth in eLearning. Do you have any additional thoughts? Do not forget to drop a comment below!
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