Online Learning Series (PART 1): Did you know online learning has been developed for half a century?

Online learning has been around for some time, with platforms such as Udemy, Masterclass, and Coursera being common examples of online learning platforms. However, online learning has now become a need instead of a choice as education institutions remain closed to curb the COVID-19 virus.


Educators were required to instantly adapt and adopt online learning methodologies and platforms which has brought upon various challenges in both parties – students and teachers, to adapt to this new lifestyle.


We took this opportunity to speak with Mr. Logandran Balavijendran, the Customer Success Manager from Instructure, an educational technology company based in the United States of America.


A history of Online Learning

“Before it was known as online learning or e-learning, the idea of learning from outside a classroom is called remote or distance learning, which has been around for 50-60 years, where universities utilize mass media such as radio, television and the traditional post service to provide education remotely.”, said Logan.


He explained that remote learning was one of the ways prisoners were given opportunities to gain formal education and certification. Remote learning was also common in rural Australia and the African continent where these practices provided industry stakeholders insights on how students and teachers can carry on their duties without being physically available within the same vicinity.


“However, online learning isn’t just about using a digital platform to teach. The benefits of online learning cannot be fully utilized through one-way communication where a lecturer hosts a virtual classroom while students join to listen. In fact, this is the opposite of what online learning is about. Good online learning promotes flexible, asynchronous learning.”, he said.


Developing a smooth transition towards online learning

“In the efforts of digitising education, a framework was designed called SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition). This framework helps in designing and transforming learning based on new educational technologies, platforms, and tools to make the most of new technologies.", Logan explained.


According to Logan, the Substitution phase, the initial phase of digital education implementation saw the substitution of a physical classroom for a virtual space. The methodology of teaching, however, remained the same where tasks were given through assignments, tests, and quizzes to keep track of students’ progress.


From there, the Augmentation phase comes into play, where the process of learning is enhanced through software utilisation such as Microsoft Word, giving students added value to their work with the various features available in this educational software such as spell-checking. As a result, this eased the process of completing tasks and assignments in a more efficient approach.

“Then, educators began adding new technological means to learning, modifying the process of teaching and learning (Modification), through digital content such as pictures, videos, and infographics. This created new ways to communicate a message instead of handing in a text-only assessment. While new media enhanced the way we learn and communicate answers, the fundamentals are still the same.”, explained Logan.


Logan said that this paradigm shift redefined the whole approach towards education, raising questions such as – “Now that the internet exists, how can I use this tool to assess students?”, “Are essays still the best way to approach online learning? Or can we now use videos?”. The Redefinition phase is an on-going process as the internet is always bringing in new dimensions to enhance the learning and teaching process.

A forecast study conducted by Research and Markets valued the online education market as 350 billion USD by 2025. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers are likely to increase after analysing the growth impacts COVID-19 has asserted in the sector.


With the emergence of Industry 4.0 technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Internet of Things (IoT), online learning is only set to grow. It will be interesting to see how this will transform the way educational activities are expedited.

Stay tuned as we dive deeper into online learning and its impact on society.

*For more information on Instructure and Canvas, click here.

*Feature image courtesy of Logandran Balavijendran

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