More and more people prefer learning online today. Not everyone has an opportunity to receive higher education in an old, long familiar way. If a person needs to get a second and the subsequent diplomas, he or she often resorts to e-learning, which has become quite affordable and commonplace. This way of learning is very convenient for adults in particular. However, e-learning has its advantages and shortcomings, which should be studied in more detail.
E-learning is characterized by the fact that the students study solely via the Internet by means of computer and computer technologies. They do not attend university, and in the majority of online educational programs, they visit university only for final (pre-graduation) certification in case of receiving PhD. Such programs are designed for adult students and, therefore, befit them most. Basic element of an electronic model of training is that participants of the process are the same, i.e. students and a teacher (Githens, 2007). However, in this case, teachers explain to the student less, and the latter have to study independently more. At the same time, communication with the teacher and classmates is also possible. The chat, forum and e-mail become the principal means of communication. In addition, there is also a “virtual classroom,” which is a mixture of chat and forum. In the virtual classroom, the teacher can give lectures or hold virtual seminars. In electronic model of learning, performance of group tasks plays a significant role; the student should not feel chained to the computer and have opportunities to develop teamwork skills (Morris, n.d.).
Each person has his/her own style of learning, which defines the optimal mechanism for his perception of the educational material. There is a certain percent of adults for whom the classroom form of education is the perfect mode of perception of training material. However, according to the researches, at least 80 percent of adult students can effectively perceive learning materials in any form. This means that the vast majority of adults are capable of learning effectively by electronic means but only in case adequate educational content is provided (Githens, 2007).
The main advantage of electronic training for adults is its flexibility. The student has no need to go to university every day. It is possible to be engaged in studies in any convenient place and at any time since there is always an opportunity to return to archive of messages in the forum and chat or to archive of lessons in a virtual class. The material is more structured and, as a rule, it is simpler to be perceived. However, flexibility of e-learning is a relative phenomenon. Students have limited terms of performance of their tasks. They can be expelled from online programs in case of non-performance of all necessary requirements. Thus, in e-learning, self-discipline and self-testing are important. Therefore, online education is more suitable for adults, and not all high school graduates can learn according to such scheme (Morris, n.d.).
Besides, e-learning is beneficial for adults due to many other reasons. For example, e-learning is available to everyone regardless of their age or health condition. The students can independently plan a place and time for the lessons, arrange online training according to the employment. At webinars, there is an opportunity to communicate directly; the teachers give feedback that helps adult students to understand the program better and to improve their knowledge (Grensing-Pophal, 2002). Besides, lesson can be recorded and saved on the computer; it allows to return to a lesson and repeat the studied material at any time convenient for a busy person. The considerable saving of time is the indisputable advantage of online learning. There is no need to spend time on visiting classroom lectures and stay in a traffic jam. Saved time can be spent on work or communication with family (Poisso, 2013).
The popularity of this form of learning is characterized by several reasons. When a student chooses a short-term program of training for professional development, he or she must attend the classroom, adhere to a strict schedule, listen to lectures and information already known to him or her, which is inconvenient. When training remotely, such problems do not arise. Every student sets a schedule of classes himself/herself and communicates with the teachers via the Internet and e-mail (Morris, n.d.).
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The continuous connection to the Internet is mainly needed for the realization of this mode of learning. When accessing the website of the university, personal page is offered to all students. This page contains the tasks to be performed, results of performance and the recommendations of the teaching staff. The student transmits the performed tasks via e-mail (Grensing-Pophal, 2002). On the site, students also can find all necessary books for learning, lectures, and textbooks. Typically, this system of learning is suitable for those who wish to have the second higher education, pass retraining, or raise the level of the professional knowledge. E-learning is especially convenient for adult people who have not enough free time to visit classes because of career or family circumstances (Poisso, 2013).
The degree of difficulty of learning depends on some factors: the student, the level and quality of available knowledge, and the specialty. The more knowledge is already available, the easier new material will be assimilated. The program of e-learning is selected for everyone individually, which gives the chance to reduce the learning period. Nevertheless, such education will not befit everyone. It is rather difficult to study new and unfamiliar material independently. This should regularly be done, but, as a rule, it is not easy to comprehend things that are not understandable. However, if this problem is solved, the online learning is an ideal option for a working person (Grensing-Pophal, 2002).