As schools have returned to session this fall, the great virtual education experiment has encountered its share of bumps along the way. When millions of students and parents logged into eLearning platforms for the first day of school, they were greeted by messages informing them that servers were unavailable due to the unexpectedly high demand. It was just the first sign that the eLearning revolution still has a long way to go. Fortunately, companies and educational institutions are already making great strides when it comes to improving their eLearning platforms.
Why eLearning Platforms are So Essential
According to data gathered by UNESCO, more than one billion students have been affected by COVID-19 related school closures and restrictions. In the US, most states have responded by allowing students to attend school remotely through a variety of eLearning platforms. Although colleges attempted to resume in-person classes in the fall, many of them were forced to transition to remote instruction within a week due to rising coronavirus cases.
Until students of all ages are able to safely return to the physical classroom, eLearning technology will play an essential role in education. These platforms will allow students to keep pace with instruction and provide educators with the tools they need to monitor and assess progress effectively.
With so many organizations shifting to remote working arrangements, companies are increasingly turning to online learning tools to meet their training and development needs. Even if they continue to emphasize instructor-led training (ILT), social distancing guidelines have forced them to adopt various eLearning platforms and virtual conferencing tools to deliver that instruction.
How do eLearning Platforms Work?
Also called virtual learning environments (VLE) and learning management systems (LMS), eLearning platforms come in a variety of forms and facilitate remote education in different ways. There are, however, a few features that are common to the most effective eLearning tools.
Students need access to a variety of resources and solutions in order to be successful online learners. In addition to virtual classrooms that incorporate video and chat functionality, the platform also needs to accommodate scheduling and content management. Rather than directing them to external resources or additional software tools, a good eLearning platform should provide an all-in-one solution.
Data Tracking and Reports
Students are only one part of the eLearning equation. Instructors must also be able to use virtual tools effectively to evaluate and track the student’s progress. This could include registration and sign-in tracking that shows where students are spending most of their time and progress trackers that provide a quick reference for what percentage of courses the student has completed. Parents should also be able to monitor learning progress for younger students.
Evaluation is a core component of online education. Automated grading tools are a huge time-saver for instructors and also provide students with immediate feedback so they don’t have to wait for the instructor to get around to grading. These tools can also direct students to resources to help them understand why they got a question wrong, providing them with actionable next steps in the aftermath of an exam or quiz.
Prior to the development of collaborative cloud computing tools, eLearning platforms were necessarily limited. By building their virtual learning environments in the cloud, education companies make it easier than ever for students to access the learning resources they need. Rather than having to log in through dedicated workstations, students can sign in with any device by using web-based portals. When their data and work is stored in the cloud, they’ll have a hard time claiming the dog ate their homework!
Software developers have been leveraging gamification tools to improve engagement for many years now. By implementing these strategies in an education context, they can incentivize students to take specific actions and reward them for positive learning behavior. The most effective eLearning tools provide customizable features that allow students to track objectives and receive rewards for accomplishing learning goals.
What Makes eLearning Tools Successful?
Even if an eLearning platform provides all the tools and features students need to achieve success, none of that will contribute to a positive outcome if the technical aspects of the platform fall short of the user’s needs. There are a few key elements, in particular, that are absolutely critical for eLearning tools to be considered successful.
High Uptime Reliability
A robust, feature-laden virtual learning platform won’t do anyone much good if it’s constantly crashing or freezing due to server downtime. Since so many of the resources students need are available through the platform itself, a few minutes of downtime can leave them without access to the materials they need to complete their work. For live virtual classroom instruction, unreliable software can make the experience almost unmanageable and discourage students from using the tools that should be at their disposal. Unfortunately, with the sheer number of students trying to access those resources all at once, organizations need to think long and hard about how to increase their capacity.
As an integrated virtual environment, eLearning tools need to connect students to a lot of resources. Some of those features won’t be native to the platform itself, but stored and managed in separate cloud applications and environments. If the software isn’t capable of integrating with those other platforms, it will greatly undermine the overall user experience. Strong connectivity features also make it easier for the platform to scale as its user base grows and it needs to provision additional resources in order to accommodate demand.
Edge Computing Framework
Too much latency can cause eLearning applications to slow to a crawl, frustrating students and instructors alike. Since students will be using their own devices to interface with eLearning tools, the platform needs to be optimized to operate at the network edge, closer to its end users. This could mean distributing processing functions between localized devices and edge data centers that minimize the distance data needs to travel at any given time. By taking steps to reduce latency, eLearning platforms can significantly improve performance.
How Data Centers Can Support Distance Learning
Data centers provide an ideal environment for eLearning platforms. The combination of uptime reliability, connectivity, and edge computing functionality provides a versatile and capable infrastructure that can support almost any eLearning application. Data centers also provide an additional layer of security and transparency that an on-premises or purely cloud-based solution usually cannot match.
With multiple data center locations in key growth markets across the US, vXchnge has the ability to help companies deliver eLearning services to students who may not always have access to the most reliable infrastructure. With 100% uptime SLAs and a carrier-neutral marketplace that features the world’s leading cloud providers, vXchnge provides eLearning companies with the tools they need to roll out superior virtual education tools that provide a fantastic user experience.