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Online Learning Platforms

By Emily Pan

Online Learning Platforms

One of the major aspects of life that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected is education. Outbreaks at schools have led many to shut-down and move learning onto the internet. With many names such as “virtual learning,” “distance learning,” and “online learning,” schools implement a variety of online learning platforms in order to continue educating students.

What are Online Learning Platforms?

Online learning platforms have now been around for quite a while now. Some schools use them alongside traditional textbooks and worksheets to teach students, while others are used outside of school. Companies even use these platforms for training employees. In addition to their diverse usages, they are extremely effective tools in education due to their asynchronous nature and ability to give students flexibility in time management. We can group online platforms into the following categories:

Learning Management Systems

Learning management systems (LMS) help students manage learning, as its name suggests. While originally used mostly in schools, nowadays, LMS are used in many large corporations, and even smaller businesses use LMS to train and manage employees. Content for learning including videos, documents, and full courses are managed and delivered to students through LMS. Other functionalities include student work submission, group discussion areas, digital gradebooks, easy communication, testing, and more. LMS can come in asynchronous platforms or as a mixture of synchronous meetings and self-paced learning for the employee or students. Even under LMS, online learning platforms are further divided into two categories. 

The main benefit of cloud-based LMS is that it does not require installation, which makes the deployment much faster. These LMS come with data security and maintenance by the provider since they are hosted on the provider’s server. Some of these systems include Docebo, Adobe Captivate Prime, TalentLMS, SAP Litmos LMS, and more.

On the other hand, open-source LMSs are more customizable and low-budget, which can help small businesses and institutions. However, open-source LMSs have to be maintained by the user and need installation as well as manual updates. Open source LMSs include Moodle, Sakai, Open edX, Totara Learn, Canvas and more.

 

Online Schools and Colleges

Many schools went online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but prior to that, many fully or partially-online colleges and schools were already established. Excellent community colleges and public universities, exclusive private universities, and even some Ivy League Schools provide online courses. This allows people who were previously unable to receive an education to do so. Online learning platforms enable one to learn from almost anywhere, as long as one has access to good internet connection and an electronic device. A combination of synchronous learning and asynchronous work allows students to have more control over their own time. Some courses may have synchronous classes where students listen to a teacher’s lecture live or have asynchronous classes where teacher’s lectures are recorded. Work still needs to be completed before a set due date but asynchronous classes give the students much more control over their own scheduling.

Students who are working for a living find online colleges appealing, as the asynchronous nature does not force them to choose between an education and a job. Online schools and colleges are also often cheaper, since they eliminate expenses one usually spends on campus for transportation, housing, food, or other activities. The mobility of being able to take classes without having to move to a campus  also makes online college much more flexible than brick and mortar colleges or universities.

 

Learning Destination Sites

Learning destination sites offer many courses from different providers. For example,   

Coursera, a major learning destination site is backed by major universities and companies with courses from Yale, Stanford, Michigan, and more. In addition to the large number of providers, learning destination sites usually also offer tons of different types of courses, focused on all subjects and all durations. Going back to Coursera, they offer crash courses, one-time workshops, and actual university degrees. These platforms allow even more flexibility thanks to the variety. Other big learning destination sites include Skillshare, which is more design and art based, and Udemy, which like Coursera, offers all kinds of courses. 

While Learning Destination Sites usually have a bunch of content providers, online learning platforms like Khan Academy only have one content provider, which is themselves. Additionally, sites like Khan Academy and IXL mix in elements of LMS, most notably the practice problems function. These websites are most commonly used in combination with school classes in order to practice a skill.

Online Learning at NexStream

At NexStream, we take a hybrid approach and combine both synchronous and asynchronous online learning in order to best deliver content and teach students amid the pandemic. First, our self-paced class structure allows students to control their own time and have a more flexible schedule. Course materials are all pre-uploaded, including cloud-based instructional videos, presentations, and assessments. There is no prescribed timeline for students to follow, encouraging students to go through material on their own. Any questions and ideas they have can be answered or shared during weekly synchronous assistance sessions. Additionally, guided projects are used for students to apply main concepts they have learned over one or multiple units. While these are done independently, students are able to receive help and assistance from NexStream Instructors or Stream Assistants. 

At the same time, we keep students interested with synchronous weekly online assistance sessions. These sessions consist of group activities such as coding challenges, and provide the opportunity to get real-time assistance from the Instructors and Instructor Assistants (IAs). It is also a chance to interact with their peers and discuss the topics that they learned through their asynchronous learning experience.

Online learning platforms have been on the rise for the past few years thanks to the many benefits they offer. Asynchronous and long distance learning capabilities, individual or team training, and improved learning management are all benefits that online learning platforms provide.

 

 

Citations

Best_Schools. “Online Education: What You Need to Know.” TheBestSchools.org, Thebestschools.org, 23 Apr. 2019, thebestschools.org/online-education/.

eLearning Industry. “The Top Learning Management Systems: Reviews & Pricing 2021.” ELearning Industry, ELearning Industry, elearningindustry.com/what-is-an-lms-learning-management-system-basic-functions-features.

Pikisuperstar. “Education Vector.” Freepik.com, www.freepik.com/free-vector/variety-online-courses-with-teachers_8111091.htm#page=1&query=online%20learning&position=4. 

Pappas, Christopher. “The Best Learning Management Systems (2020 Update).” ELearning Industry, ELearning Industry, 26 Nov. 2020, elearningindustry.com/the-best-learning-management-systems-top-list#canvas.

Whittemore, Brittany. “6 Types of Online Learning Platforms.” Extension Engine, Extension Engine, blog.extensionengine.com/six-types-of-online-learning-platforms.

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About the Author

Emily Pan is a student at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and currently focuses on managing Youtube for NexStream as well as writing blogs. She enjoys drawing and has an interest in STEM as well. She has worked with NexStream for over a year now but has really enjoyed her time and learned many new things about social media as well as digital marketing.

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