If lifelong learning becomes the norm, it must also be available everywhere and at all times. In today’s age of digitalization, in which technological innovations and renewals are growing exponentially, it is important not only to keep oneself constantly informed, but also to continue one’s education and to be able to demonstrate appropriate knowledge and skills. However, it is not always possible to take a long study or attend the necessary course. This is where online learning comes into play. But what is online learning actually? What methods are there and how are these trainings recognized?
In this article, we look at these questions and more, and provide useful tools and information for individuals as well as businesses who want to make online learning work for them.
What is online learning?
First of all, clarity should be provided on the various terms. The following is a brief overview:
- Online Learning
Method for learning independent of time and place with the help of digital media, often also used as a synonym for e-learning.
- E-Learning (according to Wikipedia)
Generic term that summarizes all forms of learning that use electronic or digital media for the presentation and distribution of learning materials and/or to support interpersonal communication. Although there is no fixed definition of the term, the following four characteristics can be identified:
- Interactivity – the user has possibilities for intervention and control
- Multicodality – different encoding of information in text, images, animations or simulations
- Multimediality – use of different digital media such as eBooks, video players, audio players, audio books or e-lectures
- Multimodality – Different ways of taking in information via sensory organs
EdTech is the use of technological resources and processes to enhance education. These can be used in the classroom or remotely.
- Online courses
An online course is a series of courses on a specific topic, which are taught online and aim to achieve a qualification.
- Distance Learning
Unlike Online Learning, which focuses on the method of learning, Distance Learning refers to the education of students who are not physically present in a school.
These are only some of the most important terms briefly explained. The other terms that follow can be subordinated to the ones mentioned here. For the sake of simplicity, the term e-learning is used as an all-encompassing term for online learning.
Methods and technologies of e-learning
Now that the terms have been explained, we will turn to the different methods and underlying technologies of e-learning. Although you can basically use different digital and online media for learning, there are also differences in the way they are used. These can be described as follows:
Web- and computer-based learning: computer-based training is about courses and instructions in which the main supplier is the computer. Here, a learning program (educational software) is installed with multimedia learning content. Here, users learn independent of time and place and are not in contact with the instructor or other learners.
Computer-based learning has been extended by web-based learning, where the learning is provided by the net-based module. The difference is that the learning content is no longer on data carriers, but can be accessed on web servers and online.
Learning platforms: The further development of web-based learning are the learning platforms, which, in addition to learning, make it possible to exchange information in chat groups and forums. Thus the learned can be promoted in the exchange.
Teleteaching/video conferencing: Enables communication between learners and teachers through the transmission of sound and images. Although learners are physically separated, thanks to this method, learning similar to face-to-face teaching can be facilitated.
eVideo: With the help of videos, some of which are also created based on videoconferencing, learning content can be transmitted with images and sound. These videos are thus perceived as a medium of information and communication and enable a high scalability of the learning content.
Simulations: Simulations are interactive visualizations of real-world situations that show the learner the impact by changing meaningful parameters and conditions. Through free or directed experimentation and observation, the user has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge structurally. Often simulations are used where the reproduction of the real situation is too costly or too dangerous.
Game Based Learning: Game Based Leraning (GBL) is the transfer of knowledge or the learning of specific skills with the help of computer based games. The game-based elements increase the learner’s motivation and enjoyment, stimulate interest, and inspire the learner to continue learning. GBL integrates learning content with game mechanics.
Differentiation Gamification: In contrast to GBL, Gamification uses game mechanics in a non-game context to drive a desired behavior. For example, badges are awarded when learning objectives are achieved.
Here, too, only the best-known and most important methods and technologies are explained; there are other methods and technologies that will not be discussed in detail here.
Forms of e-learning
With the help of these diverse technologies, different forms of e-learning can be applied. One of the best known forms is virtual teaching. Here, the Internet is primarily used to learn the content material and there is no face-to-face teaching. This includes webinars, video-based courses or even podcasts.
Blended learning is the combination of face-to-face teaching with virtual learning. Another option is content sharing, whereby learning content is exchanged online. With the help of learning communities, groups of people with the same professional interests can build up shared knowledge via communication platforms, whereby everyone can contribute their knowledge and thus expand the joint learning process.
The term Web Based Collaboration describes the collaboration on a learning task online. In addition, interactive whiteboards can be used, for example, to create and view joint sketches. For teaching geographically separated students the Virtual Classroom is suitable. Finally, the method of microlearning should be mentioned, whereby the learning content is conveyed through small units often via mobile phones.
Degrees and recognition of e-learning
Whether a degree or certificate is recognized in one’s own country should be clarified as far as possible before embarking on a course in order to avoid disappointment later on. In Switzerland, information can be found on the website of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI. Many online courses and offers today can be obtained free of charge and only for the degree or certificate must be paid accordingly. But here, too, caution is advised as to whether the certificate is also worthwhile for the further career. It is therefore important to first discuss with the employer whether a certificate acquired through online courses is worthwhile for professional development and is supported or not.
If one is looking for a career change with e-learning, it is also recommended to clarify with future employers or SERI to what extent a degree is recognized.
In principle, degrees, even if not recognized, can be mentioned in CVs and LinkedIn profiles if they support the current career path. This shows a future employer that you are continuing your education and are interested in expanding your knowledge and skills.
Advantages and disadvantages of e-learning
E-learning is not for everyone. These following advantages and disadvantages are therefore only a list of some points that come into question:
- Learning independent of time and place
- Self-determined learning and time management
- Large selection of topics
- Cost effective
- Consistent quality of teaching material
- Requires high self-discipline
- Lack of or reduced exchange with other learners
- Few possibilities for queries, often delayed answers
- Uncertainty whether certificate is recognized
- Technical requirements are necessary
E-learning offered many different ways to train constantly and everywhere. The different methods allow to find a suitable format for everyone. However, before deciding on e-learning, one should be clear about the benefits and the goal. You should ask yourself whether the training is just for your own interest or whether it is intended to help you take a further step in your career or even a career change (see also Employee development digital or analog). Based on this decision, it is easier to choose the right course and the appropriate format. It is important to consider the duration of the training, the time required and the financial resources one is willing to invest. The recognition of the certificate or degree should not be ignored. If you have never taken an online course before and you are not sure if this form of learning suits you at all, it is recommended to start with a simple low-cost course.
Selection of e-learning offers:
Codecademy: Learn programming online
Coursera:Obtaining skills, certificates and degrees online in collaboration with universities and companies
EdX: Over 2500 online courses from worldwide universities
LSE:London School of Economics and Political Science offeriert kurze und zertifizierte Kurse online an
Microsoft: Trainings and certifications for Microsoft products
Mooc: Affordable and flexible opportunity to learn new skills, and advance careers
Salesforce:Training for certification of various Salesforce positions
Udemy: The world’s largest selection of online video courses
Udacity:Tech trainings in collaboration with tech companies