Thursday, 19 July 2007

An approach, not a method

What do I mean when I describe e-learning as an approach, rather than a method?

In my 2001 book, A Guide to Management Development Techniques, I excluded a variety of stuff, including action-centred leadership, neuro-linguistic programming, Coverdale training, knowledge management, and emotional intelligence, which I characterised as concepts, approaches or systems rather than techniques.

(From the OED, ‘methods’, ‘techniques’ and ‘procedures’ are more-or-less synonymous.)

An approach is a more general term, a way of dealing with things, which may encompass one or more methods. This may sound like hair-splitting, but take a concrete example.

Classroom-based education or training isn’t a method. Lectures, discussion groups, audio-visual presentations, question-and-answer sessions, these are all methods used in the classroom. But the aggregate of these methods is an approach.

So there are a number of approaches to learning, including classroom-based learning, work-based (or on-the-job) learning, and e-learning. There is some cross-over among these approaches, and sometimes they may be combined, but there are still recognisably distinct categories.

E-learning is an approach that includes many methods, such as online courses, e-assessment, Webinars (or virtual tutorials), e-reading, online libraries of learning resources, Web-based discussion forums, tuition by email, etc.

If you revisit my definition of e-learning in yesterday’s post, I hope it now makes a bit more sense.

1 comment:

pegj said...

Oh the semantics of it all.

However, I think we view e-learning differently.

You have called it an approach, but I'm not sure it is.

e-Learning describes a set of tools, which can be used within some of the methods/approaches you have described.

But then again, I might be showing my ignorance of the semantics, or is that being pedantic?

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