Monday, November 06, 2006

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Technology based training

Distance mode of learning has a wider reach compared to conventional classroom teaching and unlike the former, is not bound by operational constraints such as geographic considerations. Though classroom teaching using blackboard is still the most favoured mode closely followed by those dispensed using slide presentation, and A/V tools, rapid advances in technology in general and Internet technology in particular has shaped e-learning as a truly viable alternative to the traditional approach to learning.

Until recently, course content delivery was purely an instructor lead one-a classroom mode-where the deliverance was through a direct correspondence between a human medium and students. It required dedicated human lecturers instructing through the means of blackboard, OHP, and A/V presentations. Such mode of deliverance is characterized by a two-way communication resulting in effective learning.

Apart from distance problems, scheduling was another major constraint whereby the aspiration of many who could spare only part of their routine life in pursuance of academic interests was severely limited by the few seats available in evening colleges that are geographically distant if not totally isolated or which required additional time for conveyance.

Various teaching methods currently available include:

o Lectures using blackboard
o Lectures using presentations
o Lectures using audio-visual tools
o Distance education through Television
o Distance education through post and
o Learning through Web.

Effective learning is the ultimate goal and it can be only through the availability of a two-way communication mode. Put in other words, learning could be effective only by a two-way interaction whereby clarity of the concepts being presented can be achieved. Applying this logic, the fourth and fifth of the above-mentioned modes (which are essentially one-way) can be struck off the list. The first three require the intervention of a human lecturer, guide or moderator who facilitates interaction with students.

We are particularly concerned with the last of the above modes of learning-e-learning. This presents new approaches, a limited two-way communication though, namely, synchronous (chat) and asynchronous (email, discussion boards).

The exact definition of e-learning goes this way-a formalized teaching and learning system specifically designed to be carried out remotely by using electronic communication. It includes the use of a multitude of media and techniques for learning such as text, graphics, animation, sound, email, video, chat rooms, discussion forums, online tutorials, simulations, etc.

E-learning scores over conventional teaching methodologies in that it is not limited by geographic considerations and is situationally apt where traditional approach fails or has trouble operating and is cost-effective. It is more flexible in terms of time as well and can be delivered virtually anywhere. E-learning reduces training time by 50% and travel cost by as much as 40%. E-learning is delivered to the learner on demand and courses that could be disseminated include both instructor-led and e-learning formats. The focus has now shifted to the Web as the preferred medium of interaction and learning because of cost considerations and ease of access.