THE first device in electronic learning, called “Automatic Teacher”, was invented in 1924. Unfortunately, the creator, Ohio State University professor Sidney Pressey, who designed it as a self-scoring machine, did not taste success.

A century later, with the heavy use of computers and the Internet today, e-learning has become widespread, while its tools and delivery methods also expanded. Compared with the traditional classroom approach, where learning can only take place within the same space and same time between a teacher and his or her students, e-learning manages to bridge boundaries beyond time and space.

The transition of embarking in elearning should not be taken lightly. Focus should not only be given to the technology and content, but also the facilitator’s readiness and understanding of the technology, his or her style of delivery, and of course, the acceptance of the students.

Students who are motivated can greatly take advantage of e-learning, especially in terms of convenience and knowledge exposure. On the other hand, unmotivated students may drift away if not monitored properly, since e-learning lacks the face to face interaction with lecturers.

In recent years, e-learning has begun to be practised widely in higher institutions in Malaysia. Lecturers and students leverage on e-learning systems to make announcements, share presentation slides, conduct quizzes, forums and many more.

Having a one-stop online platform also allows lecturers to easily reach out to students, abandon the tedious manual method especially when it involves a large group of people. Students can also access lecture slides to “repeat” the lecture again and again. Before, the access to information may be limited to the duration of those classroom lectures.

The introduction of free online resources lately, for instance the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), can also be used as online resources in e-learning, and encourage students to be exposed to knowledge accessible worldwide. Furthermore, via e-learning, a lecture can still be carried out without having the lecturer to physically be in the classroom. Thus, many students and lecturers, especially the younger generation who are tech savvy, recognise this as a convenient way to support teaching and learning.

Challenges are faced by some of the…

This article first appeared in New Straits Times, 25 October 2016.

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