Chapter 4. The Teaching Process

Electronic Learning (E-Learning)

Electronic learning or e-learning has become an umbrella term for any type of education that involves an electronic component such as the Internet, a network, a stand-alone computer, CD/DVDs, video conferencing, websites, or e-mail in its delivery. [Figure 4-12] E-learning comes in many formats. It can be a stand-alone software program that takes a learner from lecture to exam or it can be an interactive web-based course of instruction that involves a mixture of mandatory class attendance with e-mail discussions and assignments. E-learning can be as basic as an online college course taken via e-mail or as sophisticated as refining flight techniques in a helicopter simulator.

Time flexible, cost competitive, learner centered, easily updated, accessible anytime, and anywhere, e-learning has many advantages that make it a popular addition to the field of education. Predictions are that more and more learning will take place via e-learning.

E-learning is now used for training at many different levels. For example, technology flight training devices and flight simulators are used by everyone from flight schools to major airlines, as well as the military. Fixed-base operators (FBOs) who offer instrument training may use personal computer-based aviation training devices (PCATDs) or flight training devices (FTDs) for a portion of the instrument time a pilot needs for the instrument rating. Major airlines have high-level flight simulators that are so realistic that transitioning crews meet all qualifications in the flight simulator. Likewise, military pilots use flight training devices or flight simulators to prepare for flying aircraft, such as the A-10, for which there are no two-seat training versions. With e-learning, sophisticated databases can organize vast amounts of information that can be quickly sorted, searched, found, and cross-indexed.

Due to the active nature of e-learning, the overall learning process is enhanced in several ways. Well-designed programs allow students to feel as if they are in control of what they are learning and how fast they learn it. They can explore areas that interest them and discover more about a subject on their own. In addition, e-learning often seems more enjoyable than learning from a regular classroom lecture. The main advantages are less time spent on instruction compared to traditional classroom training, and higher levels of mastery and retention.

Distance learning, or the use of electronic media to deliver instruction when the instructor and student are separated, is another advantage to e-learning. Participants in a class may be located on different continents, yet share the same teaching experience. Distance learning also may be defined as a system and process that connects students with resources for learning. As sources for access to information expand, the possibilities for distance learning increases.

While e-learning has many training advantages, it also has limitations which can include the lack of peer interaction and personal feedback, depending on what method of e-learning is used. For the instructor, maintaining control of the learning situation may be difficult. It also may be difficult to find good programs for certain subject areas, and the expense associated with the equipment, software, and facilities must be considered. In addition, instructors and students may lack sufficient experience with personal computers to take full advantage of the software programs that are available.

Improper or excessive use of e-learning should be avoided. For example, a flight instructor should not rely exclusively on a software program on traffic patterns and landings to do the ground instruction for a student pilot, then expect the student to demonstrate patterns and landings in the aircraft.

Likewise, it would be unfair to expect a maintenance student to safely and properly perform a compression check on an aircraft engine if the student received only e-learning.

Along with the many types of e-learning, there are a variety of terms used to describe the educational use of the computer. While there are subtle nuances to the different terms which include computer-assisted learning (CAL), computer-assisted instruction (CAI), computer-based training (CBT), and computer-based instruction (CBI), this handbook will use the term “computer-assisted learning” in the following discussion.

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