Sunday, September 6, 2009

WIDENING REACH: For e-learning to be effective, ensuring that the learning process is right is important.

Classrooms without teachers, no textbooks, and learning that could happen anytime, anywhere — this was the promise e-learning started with. But how much of that has been achieved? Education Plus spoke to experts in the field to understand the current scenario of e-learning in India and what the challenges are in adopting it.

A catch-all phrase that included any form of technology-assisted learning, e-learning was poised to revolutionise the process of education. “After the big bang, people expected the big bang to continue,” says Vipul Rastogi, president, Enterprise Solutions (India), NIIT, which offers e-learning solutions, talking about after the initial buzz on e-learning how the journey was expected to be. In place of the big bang, there is a “silent revolution taking place,” he says.

The sectors which are entering the field of e-learning serve as a testimony to the growth of e-learning. Telecom, banking, finance, and government are rapidly moving towards e-learning, he says, adding that the primary driver is not just to decrease cost but also to increase reach. Universities are also looking at e-learning modules to supplement their regular curriculum courses.

In this context, it becomes necessary to understand how effective e-learning courses are. Three to five years ago, e-learning was ‘good to have’, rather than ‘must have’ in universities and corporate houses, says Rajesh R. Jumani, chief marketing officer, Tata Interactive Systems, which offers e-learning solutions.

The focus was on the “look and feel” rather than the learning. More simulation-based training based on games are being incorporated in e-learning. And a high level of acumen is required to develop such e-learning modules.

The most difficult question to answer is how effective is a training programme,” says Mr. Jumani. The audience has to be understood, says Mr. Rastogi. There is a difference between the way a 10+2 student understands a concept versus the way a professional working for 10 years understands it, he says. Hence, there are two layers to a successful e-learning programme — the technology component and the learning component.

In India, e-learning courses could be made more popular through availability of broadband connections at competitive rates, regional language-based content for technical subjects, two-way interaction for doubts, and performance feedback with students, says S. Giridharan, CEO, EdServ, a education firm.

The real India, the bottom of the pyramid, still lacks education and guidance to a proper career,” he says.

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