Thursday, September 5, 2013

What's New in E-Learning?

As an E-Learning development partner we ( work with a wide variety of partners ranging from business/corporate to institutional organizations such as health care and with educational organizations such as colleges and universities. Recently we have noticed that the nature of learning is being discussed front and centre in more of these market segments. We feel that an exploration of the “nature of learning” is a change in the thinking process surrounding E-Learning, gradually the focus on technology and software has faded to more of a background discussion.

This is an important change since this brings the student and the content into focus and the value of applying e-learning to real world problems. It also combines two issues that have lived apart since the invention of learning, academic learning and practical learning. Now as we explore the ideas of learning and how technology can augment learning (notice I said augment not replace) we, for the first time, will begin to apply a set of criteria that allows broad education at a low or no cost through such tools as MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) which can be applied to both practical and academic learning.

These are still early days for this technology that is stimulating discussion around how we develop learning. It’s a bargaining chip that is being sold as a no-cost solution to learning around the world. As we all know - this is a fairy tale – since someone has to prepare the content (highly paid tenured professors), someone has to host the technology and someone has to update the E-Learning programs that can include simulations, all manner of visuals, videos,  photos, audio narration, (not to mention intellectual property) etc. Many forward thinking educational institutions in both Canada and the US are currently developing courses which offer education - not credentials.

While this is the first salvo of yet another build it and they will come (i.e., we will figure out how to make money on it later) struggle, the idea has merit and moves the discussion around E-Learning forward and it brings one big player into the discussion (educational institutions) that were previously on the sideline. Let’s faced it “bums in seats” education has been ruling who and how we learn for centuries.  Their participation signals that learning is about to change in new and unexpected ways that will affect learning and how governments support learning in the future.

Currently overlooked or perhaps we have just haven’t gotten around to this part of the discussion is teaching the teachers how to utilize this new technology effectively. Since it now demands a team approach to learning given the fact that you now need camera equipment and staff, editing facilities, graphic production, scripting and storyboarding – as learning becomes more complex the production of learning is escalating as well. This is where educational institutions will have an impact in helping teachers deliver this kind of content.

Teachers and industry professionals each have their barriers to implementing effective E-Learning through such new technologies as MOOCs. While teachers are ill equipped to take advantage of the benefits of multi-media course creation, business or industry professionals have been developing learning  for their organizations for decades – and for them “bums in seats” are not important – what is more important is cost and effectiveness. As you can see, cost, understanding the use of the technology, underwriting its cost and ensuring that content is meaningful to a broad set of audiences are issues that will be worked out over the next few years as MOOCs compete with current E-Learning strategies and traditional education programs.

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