E-learning technologies

Technology forms the backbone for developing the content and delivering it in the preferred mode of access by the learner. E-learning is greatly influenced by developments in IT and ICT. Today, we have a variety of technologies that deliver content on phones, handheld gadgets, laptops, desktops and other devices. In fact, we are witnessing an interesting phase in the evolution of technology as many devices are converging into smarter handheld gadgets adding to the excitement of online and mobile learners.

Extract from the book: Chapter 5 (section on e-learning technologies)

E-learning technologies have come a long way in the last few decades. Content development and delivery, that were dependent on technical skills like computer programming, have evolved as simple and user-friendly activities that
can be accomplished with What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) tools, with minimum or no use of programming knowledge. Content authoring tools used for creating CBTs are replaced by versatile content management systems
that can be used as a collaborative environment for content development and learning management.
 
The power of computer networks has an all-pervading influence in the way we use Internet technologies. In general, growth and convergence of technologies have not only expanded the capabilities of software applications of different kinds with better access, it has also lowered the cost of hardware and software infrastructure. The evolving options to deliver e-learning have opened up new avenues for engaging with learners in the form of virtual classrooms, collaborative learning networks and immersive learning environments. Some of the technologies and tools that are in use today include: EPSS, smart phones, iPods, PDAs, MP3 Players, DVDs, websites, social networking sites, discussion and bulletin boards, e-mail, blogs, Wiki, chat, computer-based testing and assessment, animation, simulation and games, LMS, LCMS and podcasts.

We need to understand the use of different technologies from a holistic perspective. E-learning uses ICT as a medium
to develop and deliver learning experiences. Earlier (in chapter 1), we learnt about the difference between IT and ICT.
This difference was marked by a shift from IT as information processing on independent systems to ICT as a major development in communication, collaboration and connectivity, enabled by technology.

Use of ICT in e-learning involves a wide range of technology and tools – both proprietary and open source – that can
develop and deliver content.

One of the ways to understand these technologies is by classifying them into categories like: hardware, software and computer networks.
  • Hardware consists of the computers, servers, storage devices, smart phones, PDA and network infrastructure such as routers, modems, hubs and so on.
  • Software includes applications and tools that are used for content authoring, publishing and administering content, testing and assessment. In fact, most e-learning courses run as software applications on environments like LMS, LCMS or portals.
  • Computer network refers to groups of interconnected computers classified by various types of networks, developed using wired and wireless technologies. Networks could be private or public, depending on scope and coverage of area, for example, LAN, WAN, VPN, Intranet, Extranet or Internet. Wired connection technologies use wires, cables and fiber optics, while wireless connections can be made using satellites, cellular communication or Bluetooth.
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