E-learning is a term that encompasses all forms of Technology-Enhanced Learning or very specific types such as on-line or web-based learning. The communication technologies are categorized as asynchronous or synchronous. When participants engage in the exchange of ideas and information without having both participants involved at the same time, it is asynchronous activity. Blogs, Wikis, and e-mail are examples. Synchronous activities occur with all participants joining in at once, as with an on-line chat session or a virtual classroom or meeting. Virtual classrooms and meetings can often use a mix of communication technologies.

E-learning is naturally suited to distance learning and flexible learning, but can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face teaching. The term Blended learning is commonly used. There is currently a trend to move toward blended learning services, where computer-based activities are integrated with practical or classroom based situations. In addition to virtual classroom environments, social networks have become an important part of e-learning. Social networks have been used to foster online learning communities around subjects as diverse as test preparation and language education. Some examples of e-learning courses are: Pre-GED Science, Pre-Algebra, Pre-GED Reading, Money Management Series, Basic Computer, Reading, Poetry or Drama.

Benefits for the individuals involved:
Improved Performance

A 12 year analysis of research by the U.S. Department of Education found that higher education students, in on-line learning, generally performed better than those in face-to-face courses.

Increased Access

Instructors of the highest calibre can share their knowledge across borders, allowing students to attend courses across physical, political, and economic boundaries. Recognized experts have the opportunity of making information available internationally, to anyone interested at minimum costs.

Convenience and Flexibility

In many contexts, e-learning is self-paced and the learning sessions are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Learners are not bound to a specific day/time to physically attend classes. They can also pause learning sessions at their convenience. High technology is not necessary for all on-line courses. Basic internet access, audio, and video capabilities are common requirements.

Develop Skills

E-learning enables learners to develop essential skills needed in the 21st century, required in their discipline, profession, or career, for knowledge based work, by embedding it within the curriculum. E-learning is moving rapidly to being a predominant form of post-secondary education.

Valley Adult Learning Association has given me wings. I was hired here in September as a computer instructor/outreach support worker and while I came onboard with a solid skill set, VALA has opened more doors of opportunity to me by improving many of my essential skills as well as reinforcing the importance of teamwork, leadership, and communication in the workplace. VALA doesn’t just open doors; they help remove the roadblocks to success and lifelong learning!

Beth Caldwell