We introduced online learning and different sources in part I. However, there is more to know about online learning. In the second part, we talk about online and e-learning and what methods and forms are available.
What is online learning?
First of all, let’s clarify the different terms. The following is a brief overview.
- Online learning
Method for learning independent of time and place using digital media. Is often used as a synonym for e-learning.
Generic term that covers all forms of learning in which electronic or digital media are used 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 is able to intervene and control
- multicodality – different coding of information in text, images, animations or simulations
- multimedia – use of various digital media such as ebooks, video players, audio players, audio books or e-lectures
- multimodality – different ways of receiving information via sensory organs
Use of technological resources and processes to improve education in the classroom or remotely.
- Online courses
Series of courses on a specific topic, taught online with the aim to achieve a qualification.
- Distance learning
Teaching students who are not physically present in a class room. The difference to online learning is the focus, whereas, the latter focuses on the method of learning,
These are just a few of the most important terms briefly explained. The following terms can be subordinated to those mentioned above. 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
Online and e-learning, let’s look at the different methods and underlying technologies. Although fundamentally different, digital and online media can be used for learning. There are however differences in the way they are used.
Web- and computer-based learning: Courses and instructions with the computer as the main supplier. The multimedia learning content is installed with a learning program (learning software). Users learn independently of time and place and are not in contact with teachers or other students.
More recently, web-based learning took over. The learning offer is available through net-based modules. The difference is that the learning content is no longer on data media, but can be accessed on web servers and online.
Learning platforms: The next development of web-based learning are the learning platforms. These not only allow learning but also the exchange ofinformation in group chats and forums. This way, the students can deepen the topics/knowledge through exchange with other learners.
Teleteaching/Videoconferencing: Enables communication between learners and teachers by transmitting sound and images. Although the learners are physically separated, this method enables learning similar to classroom teaching.
eVideo: With the help of videos, which are partly based on video conferences, the learning content is transmitted with picture 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 situations. These show the learner the effects by changing reasonable parameters and conditions. Through free or targeted experimentation and observation, the user acquires the knowledge structurally. Simulations are often used when the representation of the real situation is too costly or too dangerous.
Game Based Learning: Game Based Learning (GBL) is the transfer of knowledge or the learning of specific skills by means of computer-based games. Through the playful elements, the learner’s motivation and joy is increased and interest is aroused. Thus, the learner is inspired to continue learning. GBL integrates the learning content with the game mechanics.
Differentiation Gamification: In contrast to GBL, Gamification uses game mechanics in a non-game context to promote a desired behaviour. For example, learners receive awards are given when learning goals are achieved.
Again, only the well-known and most important methods and technologies are listed. There are other methods and technologies which will not be discussed in detail here.
Forms of e-learning
With the help of these various technologies, different forms of online and more specific e-learning are available. One of the best known forms is virtual teaching. Therefore, the internet is primarily used to learn the content 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 and virtual learning. Another possibility is content sharing, whereby learning content is exchanged online. With the help of learning communities, groups of people with the same professional interests share knowledge via communication platforms. Whereby, everyone can contribute their knowledge and thus extend 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 sketches. The virtual classroom is suitable for teaching geographically separated students. Finally, there is micro learning, whereby, the learning content is taught in small units, often via mobile phones.
This article is also available in German here.