Imagine the scene. Your kids are sitting at home on their computer, reviewing an experiment they did earlier at school. They share information with their class-mates via a chat room and submit their assignment over the internet before heading out to the park. Later, they sit down with mum and dad to check how they did.
One of the features of e-learning is the way it allows collaboration at all levels. Students research and submit assignments and share information with each other from anywhere with an internet connection. Teachers upload study material and provide feedback to students and parents can immediately monitor the progress of their children. Mums and dads can also review student assignments, teacher grading and comments, check test scores, track class and school schedules, and share opinions and concerns with teachers and the school.
‘It’s a common complaint from businesses all over the world that schools are producing students who lack the skills employers need,’ says Mukund Patel, chief officer of education infrastructure at GEMS Education. ‘IT is a crucially important part of many jobs now, and that’s a trend that will only continue. You don’t only use a computer at work for two or three one-hour sessions a week, so schools can no longer offer only two or three IT lessons a week.’
So does e-learning deliver all that it promises? Magdy El-Komy, ITWorx education/engagement manager, points to the success of a pilot project conducted a few years ago at a school in Kent, England. The school reported students in Year 10 doing AS-level work two years ahead of schedule, while others were even working at Year 13 or first year university level.
The key to this success lies not in rewriting the curriculum but, rather, in enhancing the learning and teaching process. ‘I think technology has offered us the opportunity to quite radically re-think the way in which pupils learn and teachers teach,’ says El Komy. It’s a system that’s especially useful for expat students, who can find their school year interrupted by travel.
There is the potential, too, that e-learning will save schools money. By making the school paperless, it streamlines the registration process and eliminates the redundant work associated with grading and exams.
Only time will tell whether e-learning will become the norm, but one thing is certain – technology is here to stay, so the sooner schools get online, the better.