e-learning: Complementing or replacing face-to-face learning?

If we stop to think about the world we lived in 20 years ago, we are bound to be able to point to a number of substantial differences. However, few of them will be comparable to having almost every imaginable piece of information at a click of a button, in our trouser pocket. In this context, the education system is like a large ship that is struggling to change its direction in order to steer in line with the demands of the future, which have much more to do with information management than with information retention.

As students leaving university, we can question the real value of all the money and time invested in our education, largely linked to the now obsolete paradigm of memorising concepts and mechanising exercises. What is the point of all the classroom hours, tuition, accommodation and management costs, when we can access all of this much more cheaply and without leaving home?

Classroom training: the learning experience

When you go to school, college or university, you are not only paying for access to all the knowledge that the curriculum promises: you are gaining access to a favourable physical environment, where people with whom you share interests will push you to acquire study habits and discipline that you would most likely find difficult to develop on your own. Regular attendance at classes helps you to interact with other people of the same age, follow a regular timetable, encourage your creativity and stimulate your personal growth beyond the purely technical.

E-learning: the efficiency

E-learning is aimed primarily at those people with an innate curiosity and desire to learn, for whom learning is a daily challenge. These are people who have the organisational and time management skills, as well as a clear focus on what they want to do, usually as a result of previous face-to-face training. Numerous studies defend the effectiveness of this teaching model, concluding that students achieve the same or better results than with face-to-face teaching. Behind this is the possibility to stop and rewind an explanation as many times as necessary, the resolution of doubts via chat or videoconference or the level of attention of the students during the lessons.

But e-learning is much more than that, it is the tool that makes available to the general public all the technical knowledge that until recently was treasured by the small portion of the population that went to university. It is the democratisation of education, and it achieves this through price competitiveness: while the average university course can cost between €100 and €1,000, online education costs an order of magnitude less, from free to €10 – €50 per course.

e-learning and entrepreneurship

In my experience as an intern in large companies, I have rarely had to deal with problems that were not defined: I always found a boss or a colleague who was an expert in the field to guide me or provide documentation on the matter. At i2U, on the other hand, the day is rare when we are not presented with a technical challenge for which we need to ask specific questions. In this sense, digital learning is a fundamental pillar in my professional development, allowing me to combine work and learning, while substantially improving the value contributed to the company. All this new knowledge is based, to a large extent, on the foundation I developed at university.

In short, with the advent of the internet, a powerful ally and competitor has emerged for face-to-face training. At a time when tablets, mobiles and computers have become an increasingly important part of our daily lives, it remains to be seen how schools and universities adapt to the challenges offered by digital learning centres. What is clear at the moment is that the curious are in for a treat.

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