Has e-learning forever altered the very definition of ‘education’?

Sep 8 / Manaal Shuja

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The omnipresent eLearning Giant. Online education: 1, School: 0

Not very long ago, the word education elicited some very specific images: stately brick buildings, Ivy League crests, cavernous lecture halls, the whole 9 yards. Education was described primarily through a lens of physical experience; going to college was a rite of passage one would be incomplete without. You had to be a certain way to get a certain somewhere: be witty, speak up in class, make friends, be punctual, multitask, play sports, get a job. You had to be everywhere at once.  

Now, with e-Learning platforms, learning has taken a highly streamlined approach. The Learning Management System (LMS) alone has revolutionized student life by bringing all that ‘school’ offers under a single all-encompassing umbrella. For students, LMS is an ultra efficient assistant telling them exactly what to do and when; for teachers, it is an essential hotline that not only compartmentalizes their tasks but also provides direct insight into students’ progress. Learners upload assignments and access course materials at their leisure while instructors monitor progress, update scores, make announcements and set deadlines - all done in a matter of minutes any time, anywhere.

Here is one principal reason why online learning is being lauded for its transformative potential: feasibility. Education no longer demands immense sacrifices such as spending lifelong earnings on costly private schools or entire paychecks on travel and living expenses. With e-learning, high quality education has turned into a privilege everyone can afford. The recent pandemic also drove home the importance of e-learning platforms like never before; but as the world wavers on the brink of normalcy, will online learning manage to hold on to its appeal? 

Not everyone wants to learn behind a screen. For some, the traditional classroom experience is a priceless one. They want to walk into a lecture hall, talk to the person sitting beside them, borrow a pen, raise their hand, turn in paper assignments, visit professors in their offices - the little things that on-campus physical learning allows students to enjoy. Most of all, people want to be seen and heard, and they don’t always believe e-learning is conducive to that. 

However, the way e-learning has proliferated worldwide suggests that it has truly managed to outshine traditional education: platforms such as Udemy and Coursera, with their dynamic approach and impressive course varieties, have established themselves as go-to’s for obtaining certifications and learning new skills. E-learning, together with social media, is a powerful tool that is altering and enriching lives every day - simply because it has made learning and teaching accessible to those who could only dream of it.