Friday, 31 August 2007

Holiday time

Sunset on the Cote d'Azur, a.k.a. the French Riviera. For the next two weeks I shall be mainly learning about Provencal cuisine and wine. I won't be viewing or updating this blog, but I'll be back on 17th September, perhaps with reflections that will live with me forever. Enough tenuous links! I'm off on holiday. Back soon.

Friday, 17 August 2007

e-learning design

I get fed up looking at e-learning courses that are little more than e-reading.

Some people seem to have the mindset that e-learning is about loading content into a system and presenting it to the learners, so that the content can be spoon-fed to them. This sort of linear, didactic method was laughed out of the classroom decades ago, so why should be have to put up with it on the Web?

We need to shift the focus from providing learning content to creating a learning experience, and one good way to start is in the design of e-learning courses.

I advocate the ‘route-map’ method, in which learners are invited to go on a journey. The main road should have signposts, showing the route for learners to take; sometimes there will be more than one way of getting there, but the destination will always be clear. In this method, the main screens learners look at consist of headings, aims, instructions, key points, and illustrations of these. But nothing more.

Off the main road, clearly signed, learners will find some interesting and useful branches. These will include readings (attachments like PDFs, links to existing Websites and offline reading lists), activities (quizzes, games, simulations, etc), assessments and other resources (perhaps video or audio clips, animations, and so forth). Learners will choose what they fancy, with guidance as to what is mandatory and what is supplementary. But always, the main trunk road will be there, pointing them towards the end of the journey, course completion.

Friday, 10 August 2007

e-learning strategy

One of the themes I've been developing in the past year is e-learning strategy. If you don't know where you're going, you won't know when you've got there, and I believe many organisations are implementing e-learning without a clear idea of what e-learning will do for their organisation, or indeed a clear understanding of what e-learning is.

EPD started offering public workshops on e-learning strategy in 2006, and this year I've written a couple of articles on the subject. The first, E-learning Strategy, was published on the EPD Website in January 2007. The second, Paint the Bigger Picture, appeared in the June 2007 issue of e.learning age, and now, by the kind permission of their editor, also appears on the EPD site.

I'd be interested to hear more from anyone who's grappling with the issue of e-learning strategy.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Fresh thinking required

E-learning is about the loneliness of the long-distance learner – the solitary individual sitting at a keyboard, working their way through readings, exercises and tests.



This is the sort of narrow frame of reference many people have of e-learning, and it’s very damaging. I constantly meet people who tell me “e-learning’s not for me” or “e-learning doesn’t suit my style”. In most cases, part of the problem is that they’ve got this narrow(-minded!) view.

Instead of using computers and the Web to provide an inferior form of learning, shouldn’t we be using all the power of these technologies to create something better? Obviously, I think so. Some of the preceding posts on this blog point the way – thinking about e-learning differently, reviewing the content/technology/design relationship, considering different models. In future posts, I want to expand on this theme – meantime, I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has examples of new, improved, expressions of e-learning.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Why blended learning is a misnomer

One of the services my company offers (see is help with “blended learning”, but I wonder if I’m guilty of false advertising?

I spent most of the 1990s involved in blended learning, although we didn’t call it that then. My organisation designed and delivered management development programmes comprising a variety of inputs:

  • study guides
  • books
  • self-study workbooks
  • audio and video tapes
  • floppy disks and later CD-ROMs
  • practical kits
  • games
  • face-to-face tutoring (both one-to-one and in workshop groups)
  • telephone, fax and later email support
  • computer-marked multiple choice tests and postal assessments

    (I don’t think I’ve missed anything!)

We called them mixed-media or mixed-mode programmes, if we called them anything at all.

The idea was that learners could select the inputs that they preferred and reject the ones that didn’t interest them. This was always a limited choice – it was hard to glean the essentials without using the self-study workbooks, for example. But the important difference from other options on the market at the time was that there was a degree of choice.

This, in fact, is how we all learn, all the time, if we stop to think about it. We browse the range of options available to us in the world, picking out the ones that appeal to us, and blend them into something that makes sense to us.

“Blended learning”, then, is a tautology. It’s like saying “learning learning”. All learning is blended.

What my organisation was offering in the ‘90s was blended training. And what most providers of “blended learning“ offer today is really blended training. When it comes to learning, it’s the learners who do the blending.

I’m going to keep using the term, because it’s widely used and understood. But I’ll also continue to feel guilty about it.

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