Online e-learning has become a very effective tool for new and ongoing training in organizations. This system provides training in a very cost-effective and timely manner without disruption of normal operations. Online e-learning can be utilized to deliver relevant content together with different types of support and services. Aids to effective online training could include electronic whiteboards and video conferencing, web conferencing, real-time polling, and other collaborative technologies that add to the overall online training experience.
Making online e-learning interactive must be a primary goal, since by doing so, the online experience becomes much more like an actual face-to-face classroom experience. Earlier versions of e-learning largely consisted of static one-way presentations, and were inferior to an actual classroom; today the technology exists to add a highly interactive and collaborative element to the online e-learning environment—which makes it not only equivalent to a physical classroom in every way, but makes it superior.
Traditional classrooms hold the attraction of being not only educational, but a social experience as well. Part of the classroom experience is interacting with others, holding discussions about the subject matter, and working together on projects. Online e-learning now permits these experiences to continue in the academic cyberworld.
The same level of collaboration enjoyed in the physical classroom, can also be enjoyed in the virtual one through technology such as shared whiteboards, instant messaging, web conferencing, and multi-link video feeds. Collaboration can easily be achieved between students at multiple distant locations through relatively simple tools like private wikis or basic cloud-based applications like Google Apps .
In addition, participating during the actual class session is possible with other common tools. Most online e-learning environments include tools to allow the instructor to encourage participation. For example, students may be able to click on an icon for the virtual equivalent of raising one’s hand and make a comment or ask a question in real time. Instructors may also use tools such as polling to get instant feedback from the student audience as a whole.
The online e-learning environment need not be one in which students listen only. A VoIP component or an integrated phone bridge makes it easy to allow for everybody to have a voice. The instructor can further control the voice feedback by taking advantage of features that regulate participation. For example, if multiple students wish to speak at once, they are put into a queue.
The technology is now widely available to create a highly interactive online e-learning environment, but it is up to the instructor to take advantage of those features and use strategic techniques to encourage participation. Instructors should use the technology to encourage broad participation, and also to encourage students to work together on projects remotely outside of class. Furthermore, instructors will do well to hold “virtual office hours” where they can be reached by web conference or instant message by students, in much the same way as instructors hold office hours at a physical university.
By taking advantage of these technologies and a few simple techniques, the online e-learning experience can be the functional equivalent of a regular classroom, with added benefits of easy connectivity and sharing.