Are you at times confused between online education and e-learning?

You may not be, but most people are. Most people think ‘online education’ means the teacher and students are all logged in into a system and the students are attending a lecture delivered by the teacher over the internet. By extension, they also imagine ‘e-learning’ to be a store-house of pre-fabricated learning contents only which students access anytime and there is no teacher delivering any classroom lecture live over the internet. The confusion is because of our usage of the word ‘online’ in a very restrictive sense.

Think about online banking. When you use online banking, do you also interact with any bank employee? No, then how is it called online banking? And how about online train ticket booking not requiring you to interact with a ticket booking officer? Well, what ‘online’ in these contexts actually means is that you are interacting with humans or computers or any other physical items (Internet of Things) over an internet connection.

So, what people imagine to be ‘online education’ is actually ‘virtual classroom’ – a classroom lecture delivered over internet in real-time to a group of learners/participants. On the other hand, the word ‘e-learning’ is a much broader term which also includes ‘virtual classroom’. Some e-learning courses may use virtual classroom as the only delivery item or as one of the many delivery items, and some e-learning courses may not use virtual classroom feature at all. It depends on the course provider’s understanding about the needs of the particular e-learning course. For example, virtual classrooms are not feasible or useful for courses with very large number of learners, whereas, for tutoring situations, one cannot manage without virtual classroom at all.

Irrespective of the evolution of the meaning of the word ‘e-learning’, at present it means learning by using a digital device and doing all interactions over the internet. So, e-learning includes accessing pre-fabricated learning contents,  taking online tests, attending virtual classrooms, doing chat sessions, submitting assignments or projects, participating in doubt-clearing interactive sessions, doing forum discussions, using learning analytics… everything, as long as you are using a digital device and/or using internet as a mode of connectivity.

And ‘online education’ is nothing but ‘e-learning’.

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