elearning Posts

How Online Education Became Fun: A History of E-Learning Platforms

The Internet, since its inception, has been the ultimate store for a great wealth of human knowledge — limitless, indexed, interlinked. It’s no surprise, then, that self-education has become one of the ultimate killer apps for global digital interconnection.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of technology, where self-taught professionals continue to dominate the industry. With technological advances outpacing the ability of traditional curriculum-building to deliver courses to self-motivated geeks thirsty for knowledge, it’s only fitting that sites for IT professionals remain a hotbed for cutting-edge e-learning solutions.

We’ve come a long way from the early days of a bunch of random text files nestled in an FTP or Gopher directory, though. The industry has learned a lot about the potential of the e-learning environment, and some trends and best-practices in online education are becoming clear.


Universities Join the Internet

Colleges and universities, sticking with what they know, have been getting behind the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) concept. MOOC essentially opens the lecture hall and syllabus structure of traditional college courses to online learners. Video lectures, e-textbooks, and computer-scored tests are a staple of the format, sometimes served with a side-dish of group collaboration via forums or mailing lists. The multimedia aspect of these courses fills a niche for learners who get more from hearing and watching material than simply reading a textbook.

MOOCs also characterize one of the first, and strongest trends in e-learning: flexibility. You can take part from across the country or around the world, and to a greater or lesser extent timeshift to study whenever is most convenient.


Enter the E-Learning Platform

But many e-learning providers are going behind the traditional class structures and truly exploring the potential to deliver education tuned to more optimally engage individual learners.

These sites embrace the reality that each individual will have different requirements, from the beginning level of knowledge they bring to the subject, to the learning style which suits them best, to the degree of reinforcement required along the way.

These e-learning sites take flexibility to another level by offering content via apps that will work on any cell phone or tablet, further freeing students from a desk or office. uCertify, for example, offers a free app (although the courses themselves are not free) that allows users to take any of its more than 400 courses on their phone.


Five New Paths to Self-Education for Career Development

It seems like 2015 is going to be the year of revolutionary educational models. Every few days, a new startup seems to appear with a new vision for how people can learn, grow, or even teach, all on their own.

But even as the long-smoldering debate over whether and how (and how much) to disrupt the university model starts to produce some actual flames, it seems like the demand for new learning methods isn’t coming from a lack of faith in the old, but rather from someplace unexpected: Career development.

Personal development is a big part of it, too—learning to play guitar on YouTube is only the tip of that iceberg—but the thing that really seems to be driving these new sites, systems and software is the idea that what you learned in college isn’t going to be enough to carry you through your career anymore.

In the past 10 years, some things became obvious: Marketers needed to learn HTML. Product designers needed to learn programming code. Programmers needed to learn design. And so on.

Our career silos are breaking down, and in response we need to keep up. And a 15-year-old college degree isn’t going to help with that. That’s why the self-education industry is booming, and sites that make self-guided education easy (like Skillset.com) are prospering.

Here are five types of self-education models that have become extremely popular in recent years, and the best E-learning sites within each category:


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

Just a few years ago, Massive Open Online Courses made the biggest splash of any category here, because they were a complete disruption of the university model by universities. They rose to prominence when esteemed professors from Stanford University decided to offer free courses online (via telecommute) to anyone who wanted to attend—whether that be several hundred or more than a million.

Since then, universities have experimented in these courses so commonly that they it’s barely notable when a new one launches, but they have the advantage over other self-education methods of (often) being live presentations, and giving students access to legitimate, university-level content for free, from anywhere.

Here are the best sources for MOOCs: