ISSN 2231-4431


T. Pushpanathan. 
Assistant Professor of English, School of Education, 
SCSVMV University, Enathur, Kanchipuram – 631561

            Today nearly everyone is familiar with e-mail and progressively we are becoming acquainted with e-banking. We also hear about e-commerce, e-business and e-trading, and so it was almost inevitable that the term e-learning would be coined. This refers to all organized learning and activities under the influence of an educational organization that are carried out with the help of information and communications technologies. This paper presents the present condition of e-learning and the role of the teachers in facilitating e-learning in Indian Education Scenario. 

            E-learning is commonly referred to the intentional use of networked information and communications technology in teaching and learning. A number of other terms are also used to describe this mode of teaching and learning. They include
  • Online learning, 
  • Virtual learning, 
  • Distributed learning, 
  • Network and web based learning. 
E-Learning – definition
            The term e-learning comprises a lot more than online learning, virtual learning, distributed learning, networked or web-based learning. As the letter “e” in e-learning stands for the word “electronic”, e-learning would incorporate all educational activities that are carried out by individuals or groups working online or offline, and synchronously or asynchronously via networked or standalone computers and other electronic devices.

Growth of E-learning
            The growing interest in e-learning seems to be coming from several directions. These include organizations that have traditionally offered distance education programs either in a single, dual or mixed mode setting. They see the incorporation of online learning in their repertoire as a logical extension of their distance education activities. The corporate sector, on the other hand, is interested in e-learning as a way of rationalizing the costs of their in-house staff training activities. E-learning is of interest to residential campus-based educational organizations as well. They see e-learning as a way of improving access to their programs and also as a way of tapping into growing niche markets.

            The growth of e-learning is directly related to the increasing access to information and communications technology, as well it’s decreasing cost. The capacity of information and communications technology to support multimedia resource-based learning and teaching is also relevant to the growing interest in e-learning. Growing numbers of teachers are increasingly using information and communications technology to support their teaching. The contemporary student populations (often called the “Net Generation”, or “Millennials”) who have grown up using information and communications technology also expect to see it being used in their educational experiences. Educational organizations too see advantages in making their programs accessible via a range of distributed locations, including on campus, home and other community learning or resource centers.

            Despite this level of interest in e-learning, it is not without constraints and limitations. The fundamental obstacle to the growth of e-learning is lack of access to the necessary technology infrastructure, for without it there can be no e-learning. Poor or insufficient technology infrastructure is just as bad, as it can lead to unsavory experiences that can cause more damage than good to teachers, students and the learning experience. While the costs of the hardware and software are falling, often there are other costs that have often not been factored into the deployment of e-learning ventures. The most important of these include the costs of infrastructure support and its maintenance, and appropriate training of staff to enable them to make the most of the technology.

E-Learning and its impact on teachers
            The networked environment of this new Internet-connected world has expanded the opportunities for teaching and learning in ways that we are only beginning to understand. What makes the implementation of e-teaching so challenging is that we are asking teachers of the age to teach in a way in which they have never been taught when they were at school. They will work in an environment in which they have never been learners and may have had few first-hand experiences. However, without a history and a wide knowledge base to draw on, e-teachers will have the opportunity to be pioneers in their own right as they set sail. They will have the chance to re-examine what it means to be a teacher.

            Rutherford and Grana (1995) also focused their research on academic staff fear in the face of technology. They identified nine areas that could prevent staff from making changes that would enable them to integrate technology into their teaching:
  • Fear of change 
  • Fear of time commitment 
  • Fear of appearing incompetent 
  • Fear of techno lingo 
  • Fear of techno failure 
  • Fear of not knowing where to start 
  • Fear of being married to bad choices 
  • Fear of having to move backward to go forward 
  • Fear of rejection or reprisals (p. 83) 
E-learning is not about screens and ICT
            Involvement in e-learning is not going to mean that teachers will spend hours sitting in front of computer screens any more than there is an expectation that their students will be doing the same. To focus on this perspective is to assume that the technology is the vehicle for all e-activity and nothing could be further from the truth. E-learning is not going to replace libraries, friends, colleagues and many of the existing social networks that contribute to a satisfying learning and teaching experience. In fact many of these will be enhanced by the ability of the teacher to access them in different ways. This is not an either/or type of learning environment but one where the Internet can be used for the things that cannot be achieved in any other way. The flexibility, availability and adaptability of the Internet environment must serve the needs of both e-teachers and e-learners.

            E-learning can give students much greater control over their own learning experience while giving e-teachers an opportunity to further meet the needs of individual students in 
a digital age (Layton, 2000; Wallhaus, 2000). A comparison of some aspects of conventional learning and e-learning are shown in the following table:  
Conventional learning   E-learning   
Students attend a school in their local community or attend a boarding or correspondence school.   Classes are scheduled according to school hours and timetables.  
Students are directed to work individually of in groups.   Classes are synchronous. And teachers and students interact in real time. 
Students are generally enrolled with one school. 
Learning objectives are set by the teacher and institution.   
Teachers work in one school. 
Students participate from a variety of locations and may "attend" multiple learning institutions and/or their local school.  
Students may determine the times when they access e-learning opportunities.  Students can choose to work individually or collaboratively with people who may or may not be in their regular class.  
lasses may be synchronous or asynchronous.   Students may take classes from more than one school.   
Students may set their own objectives and explore their own learning needs and agendas. 
E-teachers can work in more than one school.   

            This comparison highlights some of the day-to-day differences that may become apparent according to how a school chooses to offer e-education and the choices which families will make for their children. 

Teachers’ Role 
            The ability of teachers to communicate via the Internet, accessing and publishing information is very diverse. There are some who are pre-e-literate and others who utilise the Internet for regular school and classroom activity. It is not unusual to find teachers storing information so that it is web-accessible but to actually make the move toward e-teaching is the next brave step.
            JoAnn Harrison (n.d.) suggested that the e-teacher will not be "the person who knows all the answers and decides what the question will be" but it is the e-teacher who "becomes "an expert learner," who can help students solve problems and find answers to their questions" (p. 3). The teacher therefore becomes as much a part of the learning process as their students as they learn to work in a facilitative and collaborative e-learning environment.
            There are three main activities that small group teachers have to manage simultaneously: managing the group, managing activities and managing the learning. In many small group teaching situations, the role of the teacher is that of facilitator of learning: 
  • leading discussions, 
  • asking open-ended questions, 
  • guiding process and task, and 
  • enabling active participation of learners and engagement with ideas. 
            However, small groups function and behave in various ways and have different purposes. 

            Teachers therefore need to be able to adopt a range of roles and skills to suit specific situations, often during the same teaching session. Other roles that may be adopted include that of: 
  • the instructor, who imparts information to students 
  • the neutral chair 
  • the consultant, from whom learners can ask questions 
  • the devil’s advocate 
  • the commentator 
  • the wanderer, such as in a larger workshop 
  • the absent friend. 
            Effective tutors are essential to ensuring that small groups work well. Any teaching event will be more successful if the teacher: 
  • is enthusiastic 
  • has organized the session well 
  • has a feeling for the subject 
  • can conceptualize the topic 
  • has empathy with the learners 
  • understands how people learn 
  • has skills in teaching and managing learning 
  • is alert to context and ‘classroom’ events 
  • is teaching with their preferred teaching style 
  • has a wide range of skills in their teaching repertoire, including questioning, listening, reinforcing, reacting, summarizing and leadership. 

              Making the shift from teacher as expert to facilitator is sometimes seen as diminishing a teacher’s power and authority, but this should not be the case. Facilitating learning is empowering for both the learner and the teacher and frees the teacher from many of the burdens that having to be an ‘expert’ might entail. It would traditionally have been seen as a weakness for a teacher to say ‘I don’t know, let’s find out’ or ‘I don’t know, do any of you students know the answer?’ and clearly clinical teachers need to know more about many topics than their students or trainees, but medical science is changing so rapidly that no one can know everything. Implementing an evidence-based approach to clinical learning and to medical practice involves finding out about the latest research. The teachers can use these techniques and this approach to facilitate their own and their students’/trainees’ learning.