Today with the growing technology and infrastructure the power of the internet is improving and widening access to education. The internet has changed so much of what we do—from buying airline tickets to voting in elections—and that it’s high time for the education sector to catch up in this dynamic field.
The scope for innovation is truly vast. The web contains the biggest store of information available to anyone in the world, and the internet is the widest-reaching and most democratic communication medium. A considerable amount of valuable information is already available, and universities and schools are using online tools to improve this content. Many universities, either national or international are now posting video lectures, reading materials and other resources for free online. The range of materials covers everything from introductory videos and podcasts to advanced textbooks and detailed research—a true multimedia experience. Even I have my photography classes through e-learning, breaking the barriers of place and time.
However, it’s not enough just to have good content: it needs to be organized in a useful way and backed up with a solid teaching support network. It is difficult to test knowledge or prove capabilities without structured academic programs.
Features of e-learning
But this is where the internet can truly shine: an online course is not hampered by physical constraints or the high costs of full-time, contact-based learning. One teacher can easily oversee and support many students from anywhere in the world, and learning can be done at the student’s pace, with access to a wider range of materials, discussions, and resources than would be possible in a traditional physical learning environment.
The recent growth of e-books and tablet computers, like the iPad, is fuelling the drive towards digital education. For the first time, institutions are thinking of innovative ways to incorporate digital content into learning programs. The potential to reach a global audience is also significant. And online learning need not be static or impersonal: on the contrary, it offers unparalleled opportunities for interactivity and open communication among students and teachers.
Another attractive feature of online learning is that it is much more accessible than traditional tuition. Since resources can be spread instantly and for free to anyone in the world, learning is immediate, affordable and rewarding. It does not attract the hidden costs of contact based learning, like transport, material and stationery costs, which makes it valuable for less-privileged students. It also allows working people to gain the valuable education in the time available to them, so that they can increase their skills and improve their working lives.
Online education still faces many challenges—limited access to technology and low internet skills are considerable obstacles in the rural part of India—but the potential already exists. With the right educational approach, and with a solid support structure, online education could solve many of the problems that face education today: issues like lack of access to materials, lack of skilled teachers and children leaving schools to look after their families. For working people, it provides an affordable way to gain valuable skills and qualifications – and therefore better jobs.
Everybody including our government is optimistic that the Internet can dramatically improve global education, as it has already affected so many other aspects of our lives.