E-learning has been quietly changing the face of education in South Africa, and nowhere more so than in the home-schooling sphere. Here’s why you shouldn’t ignore it.
Though figures are difficult to come by it is estimated that approximately 90 000 South African children are being educated at home. But, because of South African education officials’ strict registration requirements, most parents who home-school their children choose not to register with the Department of Education. So the number of children being home-schooled is likely much higher than 90 000.
And it’s growing. Worldwide, home-schooling has been found to be extremely effective – more so than traditional schooling. This knowledge, together with the increase in internet use in South Africa, and supportive online material, has resulted in rapid growth in local home-schooling communities.
What is e-learning?
The term “e-learning” encompasses a broad area. It refers to any use of electronic devices and media for learning. Kirsty Chadwick, founder and chair of digital learning company The Training Room Online, says “E-learning has been around for some time in the educational and corporate sectors, and its capabilities continue to grow as its popularity grows.”
According to Chadwick, as technologies become more cost-effective and more portable, computers are increasingly being used as essential educational tools.
1. Children learn at different paces
While the shortcomings of the South African education system are being addressed, as it stands now, the traditional school system cannot compete with the advantages of home-schooling.
Group Content Manager for Via Afrika Publishers, Micheal Goodman, says each child has his or her own way of learning: “Children will accomplish much more if given individual attention that takes their particular learning style and pace into account.
“Because it can be tailored to a particular child’s needs, e-learning allows children to learn at their own pace,” he says.
2. Children are digitally oriented
The younger generation has grown up with computers, tablets, the internet, video games and mobile phones.
“Digital learning comes much more naturally to children than it would have to those of us who didn’t grow up with the internet and digital technology at our fingertips,” says Goodman. “Today’s children learn and retain information much more easily by engaging with digital educational technology, with its built-in visual aids like video, interactive graphs and diagrams, animation and gamification.
“More and more people working and studying in the field of education are realising that, to be most effective, learning should be visual and interactive,” he says.
3. You can use digital resources to keep your child on track
So we’ve established that e-learning improves children’s engagement with, and retention of, learning material, and allows them to learn at their own pace – but parents still need to make sure their child is performing at the right level. How do they do this?
E-learning companies and educational publishers who have branched out into digital educational technology are constantly researching new material and making sure their materials are in line with the national curriculum.
“E-learning provides parents with material and educational apps that ensure their kids stay on track with the national curriculum,”” says Chadwick. “There is a wealth of information and material online and in the form of educational apps.”
4. E-learning is inexpensive
Perhaps you’re wondering about bandwidth costs going through the roof. You needn’t worry, says Chadwick. “Many companies are now creating digital learning tools that can be used offline,” she says. “You just need to download the materials first, then they can be accessed, with all the interactive functionality, without an internet connection.”
“The most innovative educational publishers have been investing in creating digital and e-learning products that take cost into account. Educational apps are in South Africa are extremely reasonable, and most don’t need an internet connection to operate,” says Goodman.
5. Your child will be entering a tech-centric workplace
The South African workplace is becoming increasingly dependent on digital technology, with filing and management systems becoming automated in software packages and cloud technology taking over from traditional storage systems. Employees are expected to keep up with developments in this technology and be highly computer literate.
Parents who home-school their children should take this into account, and provide educational tools that help teach their children the necessary skills.
“E-learning assists learners in learning how to use the digital tools and the digital language they will need in their careers,” says Goodman.
No substitute teacher
Goodman says e-learning is being used more and more in much of the developed world: “This is because it offers benefits over and above paper textbooks as a single source of educational material. It offers advanced learning opportunities, which are accessible to a child at any time of the day, wherever that child happens to be.”
Chadwick cautions that both teacher and textbook are important in e-learning.
“While e-learning helps children engage more deeply with their subject material, it can never be a replacement for the parent who chooses to home-school. You should always participate actively in your child’s learning process,” she says.