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Instructor Led vs e-Learning

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The wide spread of computer-assisted learning methods has led to the assumption that quite soon live instruction may be completely replaced by electronic media. This notion draws on parallels with other professional pursuits where the advent of technology changed the labor patterns dramatically, turning humans into supervisors of processes rather than doers. However, instructor-led tuition has some benefits that are irreplaceable. This essay will compare the two different ways of learning, exploring their relative advantages and disadvantages.

The main reason behind the rise of e-learning is its lower costs associated with this kind of studies. First, the electronic medium allows organizers to reduce instructors’ salaries, totally eliminate the cost of printed materials and rentals for classrooms. This, of course, does not apply to courses that offer a combination of e-learning with periodic in-class meetings, which calls for additional expenses.

Paul T. Walliker of Caterpillar University offers a detailed breakdown of costs associated with two different types of learning in his article “Cost Comparison: Instructor-Led Vs. E-Learning”. He demonstrates that e-learning entails higher development costs that stand in proportion 3:1 in relationship to instructor-led learning, varying in dependence to the developers’ preliminary acquaintance with the material.

However, this charge is more than offset by elimination of instructor cost per hour, payment for prep time and post-class activity, absence of class rentals and material expenses. In addition, calculations have to account for the fact that instructor-led courses increase the time spent away from work and e-learning that does not entail travel to the place of instruction does not result in such charges. If people spend less time away from work, this also decreases the expenses associated with learning (Walliker 2005).

Apart from cost reduction, e-learning has other advantages. It is easy to administer since one does not have to do all the administrative and organizational work associated with renting a space and preparation of materials. The content of the course is easily updated since materials are in general distributed from a central database and a change in content is easily replicated. The instructor can easily track a student’s progress and make comparisons of different performance. If such possibility is envisaged by the software, the teacher can obtain data on students’ performance in a summarized way and easily “measure learning effectiveness via a Web-based utility” (E-learning or …).

Availability of online courses is another great advantage. Teaching an individual student does not require the presence of a large group, so the course can begin and end any time of the year. Instructors have to teach a group large enough to justify the associated expense, so courses cannot be offered more frequently. Somebody has to schedule classes, too, based on the availability of rooms and professors’ individual schedules. In case of printed materials, a student has to purchase books in most cases and retain all the printed stuff distributed in the classroom. This is not the case with e-learning that allows one to revert to the text and relevant exercises on the computer screen any time. If design of the course is well organized, it allows students to retrieve information quicker than with textbooks.

E-learning has the reputation of being a more efficient method as compared to instructor-led learning. Those who practice e-learning can easily tailor a course to individual student’s needs, thus adjusting it to specific interests or abilities of the individual. Instructor-led learning that almost universally targets a group of learners is inevitably oriented towards some average level of the group, leaving out learner who are too bright or those whose capacities lag far behind those of the average group member. Although pedagogy has always tried for an individualized approach, efficient inclusion of all students in the process usually eludes educators and is possible for only teachers of the highest qualification.

E-learning gives possibility to utilize students’ capacity to the maximum without overloading them and does not require outstanding capabilities from the instructor. The pace of the studies is also individualized and so makes it possible to adjust the timeframe to the student’s individual abilities and circumstances. It offers possibility to speed up learning when there is time and slow down the pace when work responsibilities get too overwhelming.

With all the alluring advantages of e-learning, instructor-led tuition has some advantages of its own. It does not require sizeable upfront costs associated with development of e-courses. Considered against the possibility of cost saving, this may be a viable alternative, but it does not work well for companies that are experiencing a temporary crunch of funds. Besides, cost reduction may only be possible in case the company already has the necessary technology like computers, software, etc. If these components are not available, this may boost upfront costs to unreasonable heights and generate predicaments in gathering the necessary funds to start the program.

Learners psychologically are often more comfortable with usual classes led by the instructor. They have the human interaction that for many is the main attraction of the learning process. Many remember their college years with fondness, recalling many funny and enjoyable incidents they had in their classes. It would hardly have been the same warm and emotional experience if students spent all their time glued to their monitors.

True, interaction in classrooms can be disruptive to the process since it diverts students from learning activities, but it is also an attraction that makes studies as a whole a positive experience. E-learning strips the learning process of this additional function, positive social experience, and makes it a simple reception of knowledge. Some may find such a development frustrating, especially those who are in need of a broader circle of communication or those who suffer from severe technophobia.

Cultural acceptance of e-learning is to be considered as well as in some organizations “student demographics and psychographics may predispose them against using computers at all, let alone for e-learning” (Kruse). In traditional environments, instructor-led learning may be the only viable option for this reason.

Instructors play an important role in learning that cannot be neglected. Even if they are often inefficient conveyers of information, many of them develop psychological expertise that is used to assist students who otherwise fail the course. Experienced trainers know when and how to encourage a student, when to offer a helping hand and when to discipline.

E-learners facing the computer may lack this stimulus. The opportunity to self-pace learning works for learners with experience, and many need the help of the instructor in order to realize on what aspects of the course they really need to focus. Feeling that there is a helping hand available as a living human being, not merely as a virtual computer entity, also gives encouragement to many students.

In addition, there is a belief among experts that certain kinds of content cannot be generalized and expressed in e-course format. This knowledge can only be shared through personal interaction. The saying may apply to disciplines that involve “complex physical/motor or emotional components (for example, juggling or mediation)” (Kruse). It is equally difficult to imagine a person who would successfully learn to dance or act through e-learning. Thus, the efficiency of the program depends on the specifics of the course and the content that may call for the use of instructor-led learning.

Consequently, instructor-led learning has many advantages before traditional classroom teaching. This kind of education dramatically slashes costs associated with learning, eliminating some of them. It also contributes to the efficiency of the learning process, allowing the learner to adjust the pace of instruction. Even so, e-learning cannot replace human interaction or pedagogical experience and is not suited to all kinds of content.

Works Cited

E-learning or Instructor-led Learning? 14 October 2005 <http://wetrain4u.netfirms.com/E%20Learning.html>.

Kruse, Kevin. The Benefits and Drawbacks of e-Learning. 14 October 2005 <http://www.e-learningguru.com/articles/art1_3.htm>.

Walliker, Paul T. Cost Comparison: Instructor-Led Vs. E-Learning.  14 October 2005 <http://www.learningcircuits.org/2005/jun2005/walliker.htm>.

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