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.

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