Since the Internet was adopted and further developed as a means of communication by educational institutions in the 1970s, academics have been aware of its massive potential as a learning tool. In recent years, governments of both developed and under-developed nations have become increasingly excited about the possibilities of online learning to deliver cost effective, easily accessible and ever-current education to all ages and social backgrounds, regardless of time and geography.
In the 'Information Age' where the need for 'knowledge workers' increases as the need for manual workers decreases, 'lifelong learning' is seen as key to the continued success of modern society. 'e-Learning' is considered by many as the only viable solution to the problem of delivering the resources required to facilitate lifelong learning.
However, current theories and practices in e-learning are neither simple nor coherent, meaning that the implementation of this solution is happening sporadically, randomly, and with varying degrees of success. In spite of the enthusiasm and commitment being shown by the UK government, there is still considerably apathy, confusion and scepticism about e-learning amongst teachers, students and academics alike. Although most recognise that e-learning has the potential to enhance greatly learning and the learning experience at all levels, many feel that its drawbacks are currently still too great to commit so heavily to it.
Although much has been said and written on the subject of e-learning, there are few definite conclusions to be drawn from it. Books are written, Internet groups are formed and conferences are held, but we still seem unable to really define how, when or where e-learning should best be used. While the arguments rage on, an increasing number of institutions are attempting to pioneer their own style of e-learning, all with their own successes and failures. The DfES aims to have in place its 'Unified e-Learning Strategy' by the summer of 2004, but whether this will improve, impede or have no effect on e-learning is itself a mater for debate.
This report will aim to give a general overview of the extent to which e-learning is being used in the UK, how it is being used and its potential and pitfalls. It will examine e-learning from the point of view of students and teachers, and will explore how the UK Government is attempting to regulate e-learning. It will also look briefly at the current state of e-learning globally.