Online learning or eLearning is the use of electronic educational tools in teaching and learning. ELearning could include: information and communication technology (ICT) in education, multimedia learning, computer-based teaching and learning, web-based training, online education, etc. In practical terms, Online learning is based on the use of modern tools, such as digital technology, electronic media and associated software. Some of the most common e-learning sources and platforms will be discussed further in the article (Wikipedia 2014).
According to the results of the 8th annual survey of learning tools, the top three most popular learning tools for 2014 are Twitter, Google Docs/Drive and YouTube. PREZI presentation platform also comes in the top 15 most valuable eLearning tools at position 13 according to the survey. However, with the growing spread and popularity of PREZI it will soon be joining the top 5 eLearning platforms (http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/).
Another virtual learning environment which was established in 1969, but became popular in the last decade is the Open University. This is a distance learning and research university based in the UK, which offers over 600 courses to people all around the world. The Open University also works in cooperation with BBC learning centre. The tendency of eLearning and long-distance teaching/learning is high popularized, as more and more schools/universities globally offer classes and courses based on various eLearning techniques and platforms (http://www.open.ac.uk/).
As far as the academic sphere is concerned, nowadays, there are no exact statistics on the number of available scholarly journals. According to a research, approximately 2.5 Million articles are published annually in 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, roughly 25% of which could be openly accessed. The “Open Access” culture appeared for the first time in the software industry in 1980s. Since then the publishing industry has built up their negative attitude towards that topic, which is recently intensively debated. Publishers are against the concept of Open Access, because of a number of reasons, such as the fact that sales rates of academic journals and their prestige have lowered drastically. Another important factor is that the free accessibility to academic content will damage the well-established peer-review system, which will lead to reduced quality levels. With the open access model more low cost publications will be available on the market, which could sometimes mean that readers are provided with unreliable sources, which have not been peer- reviewed. It also increases the risk that research materials and information from scientific fields, such as medicine and military, could fall into the wrong hands of people who might misuse it (The Chronicle 2010).
Other examples of popular eLearning software platforms to consider that are more focused on users such as teachers, authors, coaches, self-help gurus, etc are Siminars, udemy, Articulate, Udacity and Skillshare. These platforms assist people to create an online customizable system of learning, supported by fast reporting and feedback (http://bestelearningplatforms.com/software-tool-reviews/).
Nowadays, the Internet offers unlimited access to data and knowledge, so all a person needs to do is to define a study interest and work hard to expand his/her knowledge in the filed. So take a look at the listed e-learning platforms and explore!