E-Learning With new technologies emerging


With new technologies emerging on the marketplace regularly, e-learning has become a dynamic and complex field. In fact, e-learning can no longer be treated as a separate entity in education. Technological tools are integral to the learning process, and arguably have been since the personal computer was developed. The main e-learning hardware currently being used include the personal computer, the handheld computer or PDA, and proprietary technologies designed specifically for academia. E-learning software is an even broader field, including applications ranging from databases to full instructional programs. E-learning is relevant in public schools, in higher education, and in professional development programs. As e-learning is becoming commonplace, the future promises enhanced standardization. E-learning will also become more robust as both hardware and software becomes more powerful. E-learning will minimize achievement barriers, especially among populations that do not thrive in a traditional academic environment. Finally, making e-learning mainstream will help educational institutions, government agencies, and corporations cut costs.

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The standardization of hardware and software remains one of the greatest obstacles to e-learning. Currently, the tools used vary from institution to institution and often from student to student. As e-learning becomes more sophisticated, it will be imperative to standardize both hardware and software. One method of standardization includes relying increasingly on remote servers and using the Internet as an information delivery tool. Relying on the Internet for access to e-learning applications bypasses the need to standardize software and hardware to a large degree. Thus, using the Internet as a primary tool for e-learning and not just for the World Wide Web will help institutions cut costs in their e-learning programs. Using the Internet for e-learning activities will allow developers, teachers, and students to access the same applications and the same content but on different machines. In the same way that Mac OS and Windows can both access the same Web pages, hardware and operating system differences will become irrelevant. Already, e-learning has shifted much of its attention to the online environment. For example, students can access their school’s scholarly database, course material, and even quizzes online. No matter if the student has a PDA or a desktop, the same content is being accessed.

Even Web-based applications will become more standardized in the future to allow for more robust e-learning. Currently there are a few signs that the e-learning industry is shifting towards standardization. Ebsco and other academic databases differ in terms of their search functions but are used across multiple platforms. Many institutions are using the Blackboard Academic suite. Blackboard is one of the most promising new developments in e-learning. The Web site includes intensive tutorials, applications designed specifically for mobile devices like iPhones, and functions like Blackboard learn, Blackboard transact, Blackboard connect, and Blackboard mobile (Blackboard 2010).

The current lack of standardization is frustrating, especially for lecturers and instructors who might work for more than one institution. Students who transfer from school to school are also at a disadvantage because they often need to re-learn new e-learning tools. The effort expended on re-learning e-learning tools could be better spent studying actual course material, which is why standardization is the future of e-learning. Standardization does not necessarily mean the stifling of competition among e-learning providers. Rather, a broad consensus regarding interactive learning tools can be reached so that each manufacturer can offer their proprietary technologies that match universal specifications. Especially because e-learning takes place over broad geographic regions, the future of e-learning depends on a greater standardization of applications. E-learners, educators, and content providers will be located in different countries around the world. When e-learning relies not on the Internet but on proprietary hardware and software, standardization will become requisite.

Naturally, the future of e-learning entails more powerful software and hardware. In every domain of the technology sector, hardware and software becomes more powerful as well as more ergonomic and user-friendly. Some possible ramifications of increased power include the ability for students to multitask, load larger files, and interact with resource-intensive applications on smaller devices including handhelds. Brandon (2010) points out that Apple has recently hinted that future generations of iPhones are going to be powerful enough for multitasking. The availability of iBooks will allow students to read course material from their smart phone (Brandon 2010). Portability is the wave of the future in all information technologies including those related to e-learning. Therefore, manufacturers will find ways to make smaller devices more powerful and conducive to the demands of educators and their students.

E-learning allows students to interact with course content in multiple ways, such as via multimedia. With less of an emphasis on verbal assessments, many students who struggle with verbal learning will find they can excel at the more flexible e-learning assessments. One of the core benefits of e-learning is social justice. Social justice and access to education is facilitated by e-learning. Moreover, e-learning is by definition available across geographic boundaries. Bates & Bates (2005) point out that e-learning is most important for developing countries: “It is in these countries particularly that we are likely to see new models of education emerging based on e-learning and distance education,” (p. 14). To adapt current content to suit the needs of students and teachers in developing nations is far more cost-effective than building whole new brick-and-mortar educational institutions.

Bates & Bates (2005) note that organizations have yet to perform effective cost-benefits analyses of e-learning functions. In the future, more detailed financial analyses will reveal both the costs and benefits of e-learning. Bates & Bates (2005) claim that mixed-mode e-learning is likely to become the new model for education. Instructors will therefore rely not just on technology nor just on traditional classroom formats. If this is the case, then e-learning can present financial threats. For example, most institutions will expect their instructors to fulfill multiple roles as educator and as e-learning provider. Educators will find themselves burdened by the extra act of creating e-learning materials that correspond with their coursework.

If e-learning in a mixed-mode institution is the future of education, then Clark & Mayer (2007) offer specific tools for the development of effective digital content. The content of future e-learning materials will avoid redundancy, for instance. Instructors will learn how to use digital tools and technologies as separate tools or enhancements to existing content. The future of e-learning is strikingly diverse, too. Each instructor and each institution is bound to strike upon a unique winning formula.


Bates, a.W. & Bates, T. (2005). Technology, e-learning, and Distance Education. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Blackboard (2010). Web site retrieved April 17, 2010 from http://www.blackboard.com/

Brandon, B. (2010). Apple’s iPhone OS 4.0: What Will it Mean for Mobile Learning? Learning Solutions. April 8, 2010. Retrieved April 17, 2010 from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/444/apples-iPhone-os-40-what-will-it-mean-for-mobile-learning

Clark, R.C. & Mayer, R.E. (2007). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning, 2nd Edition. Pfeiffer.

Little, J. (2010). 5 Tips for Knowledge Gardeners: How to Grow a Collaborative Learning Community. Learning Solutions. April 7, 2010. Retrieved April 17, 2010 from http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/443/5-tips-for-knowledge-gardeners-how-to-grow-a-collaborative-learning-community from Rosenberg, M.J. (2001). E-learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age. McGraw-Hill.

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