Friday, 29 June 2007

Where do you stand on the Great E-learning Spelling Debate?

Maybe there isn't much of a debate; maybe it's only pedants like me who care, but it irritates me every time I see a different spelling, especially when different spellings appear in the same piece of work (you'd be surprised how common this is -have a look at the Wikipedia entry on e-learning).

So which is it to be? e-learning? elearning? E-Learning? e-Learning? eLearning? I think these are the main contenders. The UK's leading journal on the subject prefers the idiosyncratic e.learning for its title, but I suppose that's just a brand. Then there's italicisation of the e. And surely any other options are just too weird?

When I set up the eLearning Alliance in 2001, I chose that spelling because that organisation enjoyed European Union funding, and the EU explicitly preferred "eLearning". I don't know if it still does - there was a page on their website that stated this policy (without explaining it), and I cited it in the 2002 economic report 'eLearning in Scotland', but that page seems to have gone, or at least that link doesn't work any more.

For years since, I have followed the eLearning spelling, but I'm getting nervous about it. It's a bit 1980s, isn't it? This sort of quirky insertion of capitals where none are called for (in the middle of a word, for crying out loud!) Rules is rules, after all - you don't have to be a fan of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, or a lover of the Oxford comma (if in doubt, see Eats, Shoots and Leaves) to acknowledge there are conventions about spelling new words.

So what's the answer? You could just stick an e on the front, as in email, but the most common version seems to be e-learning, so that's what I'm going for now. A kind of Damascene conversion. When the EPD Website gets its summer makeover, it'll change to consistent use of this spelling. And that's that - for the moment, anyway. I reserve the right to change my mind again.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

I have been commissioned by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (hereafter, CIPD) to contribute to its Learning & Development manual.

Info here: The manual is a subscription product, with quarterly updates.

My contribution is the e-learning chapter. As I write this, the chapter summaries in the link above don't include e-learning, but I'll write the 'theory' part that will accompany the Crown Prosecution Service case study (7b). It's about 10,000 words so that should keep me busy for a few weeks! I understand it will be included with the October update.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Yesterday I attended an e-learning seminar organised by Adobe in Edinburgh. I'm usually a tad cynical about software vendors' e-learning promotions - I reckon they tend to develop generic information and communication tools, then look for markets for them ("Oh - e-learning! That's another market"), without stopping to think whether their tools are fit for each new purpose. The result is we get generic messages about content management or virtual meetings or whatever. Nobody's considered whether the type of content storage and retrieval need is different for learning; or, in Adobe's case, whether tutorials, lectures, training workshops, or other kinds of learning event, are different from any old virtual meetings.

Anyway, my cynicism vanished when I won a webcam and headset in the prize draw at the end of the seminar! It turned out to be a profitable afternoon after all.

There was one interesting discussion point - one of the presenters, Billy Ward, talked about the mantra of reusable learning objects being passe, and advocated instead disposable learning objects (actually his slide read "deposable" but we all knew what he meant). When challenged on this, he said his point was to emphasise how cheap and easy it now is to produce content, and therefore why store and re-use old objects when you can just create fresh ones. I tend to agree - reusability's a great theory, but how many people actually live by it?
"Live like you are going to die tomorrow; learn like you are going to live forever". I've seen that attributed to Einstein, and to Gandhi. But I've never seen a specific citation of where or when either of them said it. Perhaps neither of them did - it may be apocryphal. But it's a good saying, and it sums up my philosophy, and the outlook of this blog.

What follows will be my personal ramblings around and beyond this theme, and hopefully some feedback from readers. I'm very involved in e-learning, in all its aspects (more on this later). I'm very interested in innovative approaches to learning and development (again, more to follow). And I'd like to explore other learning issues.

If you read this, and you're provoked to comment, I'd love to hear from you.

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