E-learning or Electronic Learning, is a term that broadly refers to all sorts of learning and training received and imparted through the aid of computer based technology. In recent years, E-learning has received a tremendous boost in the form of online education – an Internet based E-learning mode. Nowadays, E-learning and online education could mean one another, but in a strict sense, E-learning does not necessarily need to include the use of Internet. However, for all practical purposes, the thin line between E-learning and online education is smudged due to the huge popularity of online education. So, now, E-learning, distance education and online education could mean one and the same.
One of the main advantages of online education or distance E-learning is the asynchronous method of teaching and learning involved. Meaning, the teacher and the student do not have to be present at the same time to teach and learn. This allows for greater flexibility, as students can work on assignments whenever they want in their free time. However, not all online education programs are asynchronous. Many online programs are synchronous, too, where teachers and students are assembled at the same time, like in a traditional classroom, but the only difference is that each member of the virtual classroom can be located anywhere in the country or world. This mode of learning offers greater benefits as students can get access to educators from around the world and also interact with their peer group spread across the country and world.
Not all online education programs need to be 100% based only on the Internet. There are online education programs that provide opportunities for both on-campus and online learning at the same time. These are called blended or hybrid programs, and they are advantageous for students in programs where some direct interaction via a real classroom is required. For example, a biology student, though he or she can study online for the most part of the program, they will need to be in a classroom or lab to conduct tests and experiments.
Distance education has been around for more than a 100 years. In the early days, before the advent of computers, distance education was carried out through mails. This changed to CDs and DVDs after computers started playing a more important role in our daily lives. The Internet has changed and revolutionized everything, including education, and online education is gaining in popularity and growing at such a rate that it soon promises to replace traditional brick and mortar colleges as valued centers of learning.