Monday, 22 November 2010

Glorified books?

Perhaps the biggest difficulty I find with e-learning is the narrow view most people still seem to have about it. I posted before about how I fear the term ‘e-learning’ is too contaminated – those who have used it and found it helpful are on board, but many others, some of whom have had a bad experience, some of whom have other prejudices, regard it as too toxic to contemplate.

I suppose this view partly reflects my own concern that, increasingly, the purely online course has limited applicability, and instead we should be looking at greater use of collaborative tools, and more ‘blending’ with offline learning.

To clarify further, what I’m saying is that an online course is typically such a passive experience that it’s really only good for acquisition of facts, figures and information, and at best the gaining of knowledge. A bit like a book, really, and increasingly it seems books are what online courses are competing with.

In the Moodle platform I’ve been using for most of the past year, a course authoring tool is actually called “the book module”. It’s basically recognising that all it’s offering is the creation of an online book. And with the development of more and better digital readers like the iPad, the Kindle and the Sony Reader, this sort of Web-based e-reading is going to look increasingly dated and limited.

We need more interactivity, and not just with automatic and dynamic applications that give the learner a sense of feedback, but with real people, connected through the many collaborative tools that are already commonplace. We need to take e-learning beyond being glorified books, into a place where genuine learning is happening.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Nail on head?

There’s a good column by Daniel Wain in the 11 November edition of People Management, the CIPD journal.

Daniel quotes Charles Elvin of the Open University saying “I am a business person who uses learning for business transformation, and not a learning person who hopes the business listens to me” and goes on to reason that HR professionals making the case for their interventions are approaching problems the wrong way around, “like a workman armed with a hammer looking for a nail to hit”.

I found these comments apposite as I am finalising the manuscript for my forthcoming book, 101 Learning & Development Tools. There’s a danger, in an anthology like that, that I offer a selection of hammers in search of nails. Thanks to Daniel’s timely reminder, I am ensuring that the emphasis in my book is firmly on identifying the business challenges first, before selecting the right tools to help tackle them.

I generally find Daniel Wain’s column pretty good, and I’ve been meaning to find something positive to say about it, since my only previous reference on this blog was to slag it off. I hope this redresses the balance.

Monday, 8 November 2010


It’s been a while since I last blogged – more than three months since my last blog post represents the longest hiatus since I started this blog in 2007. My apologies to any followers, commenters, or readers who may have been disappointed.

My excuses are threefold: my forthcoming book – working title 101 Learning & Development Tools – is approaching the deadline for submission of my final manuscript; my day-job has been very busy; and there’s a significant, albeit very positive, upheaval in my family life (sorry that’s a bit cryptic, but I’m only sharing with family and friends).

Anyway, distractions notwithstanding, I have resolved to get back into the habit, and try to resume my old rate of about two blog posts per month. I’m counting this one. I know that’s a bit of a cheat, but it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

Thanks for reading.

More to follow (I promise).