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by Ayman Nassar
(Data Center Manager)

Electronic learning systems have been around for a long time, and have taken different forms over the years. Computer-based training has been one basic form of e-learning where the trainee would install a computer-based training software on a workstation and go through a self-paced self-training program. Over the years, e-learning applications introduced remote learning capabilities where trainees could access the educational content and material stored on a central server across a private network. Further progress in e-learning systems enabled the trainee to access not only the educational content, but also receive information from an instructor through video and audio capabilities. Latest improvements in e-learning systems allow trainees to perform real-time interaction with the instructor, fellow trainees, and even third party participants such as an invited industry partner or research center.

Today, e-learning systems can use the public Internet infrastructure and advanced security, groupware, and collaboration engines to offer flexible educational experiences.

Economic Value of E-learning

E-learning can boost an organizationís access to knowledge through the reduction of cost and time required for knowledge acquisition. Several studies in the industry show that a business can reduce training costs by at least 30 percent using company-wide educational portals and e-learning systems.

The economic impact of e-learning is huge on rural areas and small towns that do not have easy access to subject matter experts and classroom facilities, in addition to the benefits in the areas of retraining new workforce members or individuals seeking career changes. Other benefits include support for physically challenged individuals, and it acts as a catalyst to encourage all types of people to enter new fields of knowledge.

Institutions of higher education, K-12 schools, museums, and research centers can all benefit from e-learning. E-learning offers students high flexibility in course selection, registration, and cancellation. It also allows students to attend the instruction session at their convenience both in terms of location and time, a very valuable option for working parents, vocational workers, professionals, and others who have tight schedules and other responsibilities. Over the five years from 1995 to 2000, the percentage of 2-year and 4-year higher education institutes in the U.S. offering distance education course has increased from 33 percent to 56 percent.

E-learning allows educational institutions to share resources and facilities at off-peak times, a new concept in collaborative education and distributed computing, besides sharing databases, content, information, and educational material among these facilities.


The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 19, No. 3

Spring 2004