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E-learning : The silent revolution

(By Sudhir Sharma)

Learning Management systems (LMS) or e-learning has resulted in a paradigm shift in education systems. E-learning is defined as Internet-enabled learning that involves the convergence of the Internet and learning. The rapid development of Internet has facilitated its growth. E-learning uses the concept of distance learning but at a faster rate. Traditional distance learning was conducted by mailing the course contents and then student is left alone to study till the test. On the other hand e-learning provides faster learning at less cost, an access to large number of learning resources and an accountability for all participants. It is made up of several components, including content delivery in multiple formats, management of the learning process and a networked community of learners, trainers, content developers and experts.

E-learning should not be just a machine based method for teaching and will be only effective in engaging all the participants when it has a human touch. The learning can be on any level, elementary school, college, or corporate. E-learning is gaining popularity because of the obvious advantages it offers -

  • It minimizes travel

  • Open for working people

  • Career oriented training easily available

  • There is no time constraint

  • Little infrastructure needed

  • Provides innovative and interactive learning

The future of e-learning looks extremely bright. Worldwide revenues for e-learning will be more than $23 billion by the end of 2004 this represents an increase of over $21 billion in five year. North America represents the largest opportunity for corporate e-learning and account for two-thirds of worldwide revenues. Western Europe represents the fastest-growing market, increasing its revenues at a compound annual growth rate of 97% from 1999 to 2004. Currently non-IT contents of e-learning, account for over 54% of revenues as compared to 46% from the IT contents.

India entered this expanding and lucrative field, a little late. But thereafter India has made good progress in the field of e-learning. Only last year (2003) Indian government launched an ambitious project of e-learning and e-governance and $ 2660 million (Rs.12, 0000 million) will be spent in next four years. Aim is to take e-learning to schools in every district across the country. This project will ultimately cover 0.6 million (6 lakh) schools in India. Computer labs would also be set up to aid the learning process, where students can use multimedia and other software to enhance their learning capabilities. Government and industry will fund this project. Another major e-learning project was launched in 2003 by Karnataka government. The Government of Karnataka and IBM India signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote e-learning within the state. IBM has the global expertise in providing e-learning services and setting up e-learning infrastructure. IBM will develop an e-learning platform for BITES (Board for IT Education Standards) for higher technical educational institutions in Karnataka. The e-learning platform with the Government of Karnataka will create one such eco-system and develop educational institutions in the state as Centers of Excellence". Next few years will determine whether or not the dream of making e-learning available to our billion strong population becomes a reality.