The shift from incorporating low fidelity to high fidelity technologies in distance learning along with the improved web based learning management systems supported by web 2.0 technologies have brought distance learning to a whole new era that brings both prospects as well as challenges.
When looking at the brighter aspect of modern distance learning software, it has improved immensely on aspects related to interaction, self directed learning, accommodating multiple learning styles, user friendliness as well as building up communities of learning. Such interaction is possible with the use of technologies such as chat rooms, discussion boards, blogs, virtual class rooms, simulations as well as through real time video conferencing. These technologies are incorporated in modern day distance learning software which hasn’t shown any sign of holding back on its craving for further technological and pedagogical exploitation.
But, such technological development has brought several challenges and disadvantages alongside. Amongst them, the cost of developing such distance learning programmes would be taking a center stage as it will ultimately boil down to the course fees that students have to pay. Therefore, the development of distance learning software has to balance between fidelity and cost effectiveness which would put constrains on the potential of future eLearning.
At the same time, the other challenge would be the mismatch of infrastructure development and software development in certain parts of the world. Thus, the infrastructure requirements for distance learning such as computer systems and communication networks need to grow at the same pace as highly demanding software development. But, unfortunately, it seems the software development has taken the lead over infrastructure development and this puts breaks on making use of newer technologies to enhance eLearning software.
Another admiring development in relation to distance learning is the ‘Open source’ learning management systems which is making the eLearning a possibility for even the smallest of institutions which do not have adequate funding for development and implementation. But, unfortunately, the amount of research that is going in to these endeavors, as well as the support from the highest level, is not in line with the rapidity of technological evolvement which had made this software to lag behind some of the commercially available products.
Lastly, even though we talk about rapid technological development in relation to distance learning, the criticisms regarding the online learning environment is still lingering on the side that puts off some potential learners as well as developers from undertaking the challenge. Some of these criticisms include the inability for it to develop team work, communication skills, leadership, aesthetic aspect of life…etc. Therefore, the future eLearning software would aim at ridiculing these criticisms through technology and pedagogy which might not be that impossible as it was thought half a decade ago