by Riaan Steenberg

Learning through the Internet

Why Bill Gates is right to be excited about online education

Employers are likely to hire candidates based on their qualifications gained online as it shows self-discipline, dedication and hard work

Bill Gates recently predicted that the web will be the place to learn in the near future. It will be “better than any single university” he stated, believing “place-based” learning will be less important going forward (Techonomy Conference).

In Africa alone, 48% of learners rely on cellphones, 36% on shared computing resources and 74% on ICT for classroom teaching to improve the quality of education (eLearning Africa 2012 Report). And with rapid advances in technology and more and more people with access to the internet, it’s not surprising that the need for eLearning is on the rise.

N(e)W Learning

Although eLearning is a fundamentally new way of learning, no one could have anticipated its exponential growth. The rate of enrolment for this mode of learning far exceeds that for its traditional counterpart. The flexibility and convenience of being able to study anywhere, anytime has transformed the way people choose to learn.

In the early days eLearning was approached merely as an attempt to transfer the classroom experience to the online world. In the interim, however, it has evolved into a medium all of its own.

Gone are the days of sitting behind a computer screen staring at 14 hours of streaming video until you’re bleary-eyed and brain-dead. Present-day eLearning is all about the b(y)te-sized chunks of relevant information that collectively form the integrated and holistic knowledge base that is the only pathway to true, practical wisdom. It is no longer the stagnant absorption of masses of (often irrelevant) information, but a complex and stimulating learning experience.

Tech savvy learners know the difference between valuable information and waffling printer fodder, demanding short, powerful messages that are easy to digest.

It is a revolution in the transfer of content without sacrificing context. While it is not immune to the usual challenges of delivery, it is still a self-paced system for getting core concepts, disciplines and learning areas across to students.

The concept that “understanding learning styles is one of the keys to successful behaviour management [and] if you can appeal to the learning styles of all of the pupils in your classroom then you have a much greater chance of engaging all your students in their learning” ( is widely gaining acceptance amongst pedagogues of all types.

eLearning, more than any other medium, enables both learners and educators to embrace this truth. This is because the formats available are virtually limitless. eLearning is most effective when it is a form of people-centred learning. That is where many organisations get it wrong. They think it is just about making content available online, but forget that learning is a directed experience.

To some extent, eLearning is harder work than traditional classroom-based learning. This is why employers are increasingly acknowledging the value of students who have obtained their qualifications through distance-based institutions – they see it as evidence of determination, self-reliance and the ability to think laterally.

The classroom provides guidance whilst eLearning forces the learner to look beyond what is on the screen and find application.

Certification of learning will always be its most important aspect if the learner aims to convince others that s/he truly has the knowledge and competence required. All knowledge on the Internet may be free or reasonably cheap, but it is not necessarily always valuable or even accurate.

Course accreditation is therefore vitally important and potential students should pay careful attention to establish if the eLearning programme is accredited, like those qualifications offered by Regenesys Business School.

For employers, credibility is non-negotiable. It is important that a structured learning process creates a cognitive learning experience that enables the end-user to practise the competency or skill in question.

The eLearning revolution recognises the changing world in which we live. It has been a long time since humanity emerged from the dark ages, where information was an exclusive commodity reserved for the rich to further entrench their power over the impoverished.

The modern world has vast repositories of information accessible to absolutely everyone. In this day and age, it is not s/he who merely has knowledge who has the power; it is s/he who knows how to use that information who has it.

The reality is that the world is changing so fast that traditional information-transfer methods have become hopelessly inadequate.

If these media were our sole option, information would become obsolete before it even reached the learner. And the most important change agent needed for ICT enhanced learning and training is the Government (eLearning Africa 2012 Report).

Every day there is innovation in every field. However, discipline-based knowledge and inflexive and reflexive knowledge is still paramount for organisational and pedagogic success. “Learning how to learn” (as study guru, Tony Buzan puts it), learning how to find information and learning how to use it remain fundamental skills.

We have to become good at learning because it is increasingly aligned to how well we are able to perform. When you join a large company, you typically spend 100-200 hours learning their way of doing things. Those of us who are able to hit the ground running will have an incalculable advantage over those who are slow on the uptake. And no eLearning graduate makes it to graduation without having mastered this invaluable skill. 

About Regenesys Business School

Regenesys Business School is a leading management and leadership development school located in the heart of Sandton business district, Johannesburg, South Africa. Regenesys offers a range of training and consulting solutions, including academic qualifications, skills programmes and customised training solutions available via contact or eLearning modes.

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