From taking cooking classes on Youtube to earning entire degrees outside of a classroom, eLearning has grown from being a "last resort" option to a frontrunner for providing pathways to education.
Remote learning has existed in one form or another for centuries. In the 1960s, a number of US-based universities began pioneering what we now term electronic or eLearning, connecting students via a computer terminal and using this as a means of offering educational services to them. However, it wasn't until 1998 that the term eLearning was officially coined to represent all forms of education delivered via Information and Communication Technologies and new media.
The eLearning offering can range from informal (accessing "how-to" videos via sites such as YouTube) to systemic and longterm (earning a degree from a physical, educational institution via online learning) and a number of platforms are creating tools and services that target a younger audience, including those in developing regions. There are many perceived benefits to eLearning: a reduction in travel costs; flexibility; and the ability to provide educational pathways to those in remote areas.
A 2012 survey of the e-learning industry found that the worldwide market for e-learning products is set to grow from 35.6 billion USD in 2011 to 51.5 billion USD in 2016. In Asia, the eLearning market is expected to hit 11.6 billion USD by 2016 with Vietnam and Malaysia leading the growth charge in this region.
Looking to dip your toes in the eLearning pool? A number of organisations offer a broad range of educational services online that are targeted to everyone from children to adults, including:
Allversity takes an all-inclusive approach to online learning, hosting free tailored open courses via its digital domain that are designed to have broad appeal, from child to adult, beginner to advanced. The course offering is both steeped in tradition (math, science, history) as well practicality (health, agriculture, life skills) and Allversity works with a number of partners worldwide to deliver their programs in areas where internet access is scarce.
E-Learning for Kids: Run by a team of volunteers, this online platform is targeted towards primary aged children and offers courses designed to boost math, reading and science comprehension that complement scholastic studies. The courses are free and are offered in five different languages.
The Khan Academy offers in depth educational tools for children, adolescents and adults and has users dotted across the globe. The content is comprised of challenges, assessments and videos and is paced at the learning ability of each student and allows people to track their progress via stats and graphs. The array of topics covered includes math, science, humanities and history. Check out their online catalogue here.
Coursera takes a more age and knowledge-specific approach, offering tertiary-level courses free of charge. Coursera partners with a number of top educational institutions around the world, such as Yale University, the University of Lausanne and Copenhagen Business School, to put together a high calibre list of courses that broach topics such as nanotechnology, chemistry, computer science, humanities and much more.