Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Where do we go from here?

I have been keenly observing and reading what bloggers have predicted for eLearning in 2007. With all the predictions, or at least the ones I have set my eyes on, what struck me is that there was nothing new. At no one time, during my reading did I stop to think...aha...! This is a new idea, I have not heard of it!
  • From the use of open education resources to the use of games in education.
  • From the need for staff retention, training and retraining using eLearning to the mourning of lack of necessary skills for eLearning development.
  • From the growth of new online universities to the transformation of traditional universities.
  • From the use of outsourced learning materials to the use of in-house developed materials.
  • From use of new words to explain what has always been to just repeating the song - maybe in a different tune - you all know that we are better than me.
So, have we reached the end to eLearning or we are just laying in waiting for the Next Big Thing?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

What eLearning Promises

An article by Vinay Choubey: E-learning and its Benefits, lists some of the promises of eLearning. I will paraphrase them according to my understanding, eLearning promises to:
  • Anytime, anywhere access: you do not need to travel, and you have the flexibility of where and when to access your learning materials
  • By making hard and boring subjects more interesting and appealing, eLearning can "make learning exciting, engaging and compelling".
  • Through the use of online societies and networks, learning cooperative and collaborative learning is achieved.
  • ELearning can be conveyed using a variety of media including computers, PDAs, mobile phones - making it more convenient for the learners to use the most appropriate media.
  • ELearning allows the learner to manage and take control of the learning process.
  • ELearning is embedding the culture of learning within organisations.
Choubey also states the features of eLearning (read the article). I will however highlight on two features:
  • Learning is self-directed, allowing students to choose content and tools appropriate to their differing interests, needs, and skill levels
  • Draws upon hundreds of years of established pedagogical principles.
Learning being self-directed- and allowing learners to choose content of interest can only be for leisure learning but not for academic purposes. For Higher Education institutions, the the objectives of the course are well set, and the learner has to achieve them to earn credits for that particular course. On eLearning drawing up from hundreds of years of pedagogical principles - this is still questionable, and it has formed a question of research for the past few years: Do we need a different pedagogy for online learning? Or how do we change or align the traditional pedagogical knowledge for technology enhanced learning? This are still questions we need to answer when designing eLearning courseware.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Driving high adoption of eLearning - the 4 As

Why are people not adopting eLearning? Michael Grant and Rick Nigol in their archived webnar titled Driving Higher Adoption for Your eLearning using A "Four A" approach offer a four-A approach to eLearning adoption.
1. Accessibility: how easy is it for the target learners to access and use technology?
2. Attitudes: what level of comfort do the target learners have with technology that would position them to learn through technology?
3. Ability: how competent are people with technology and with learning through technology?
4. Appropriateness: do people have a preference for accessing learning through technology?
The also answer the question "why care about adoption?" - saying that the value of eLearning is only achieved if people use it, and even "mandatory programs do not always get adopted". There so many studies that have been done on adoption of innovation - using different models and approaches (e.g the Theory of Planned Action, Technology Acceptance Model, herding or bandwagon effect) but none of them seem to get explain or give solutions on how to drive high adoption of innovation.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What determines the Success of an eLearning Iniative

A while back, I posted about determinants success of online initiatives. Over and over I have been trying to define what success in terms of elearning for Higher Education would be. Are there set criteria that can be employed to measure the success? What can be used to measure the success of eLearning? Is it the number of online course available? Is it the number of students who are engaging with the eLearning courses? Is it the LMS/LCMS (learning content management system) in use? Is it the ROI from the eLearning investment?

I am searching for real answers to the questions I have asked myself, hopefully I will be able to share them with all of you sometimes soon.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

All for Text Books and Digital Publications

Today I woke up two hours late than I usually do. Immediately after doing the morning rituals - showering, having breakfast etc, I turned on my computer to catch up with what has been happening in preparation for my first work-day in the year tomorrow. After more than three weeks of a restful break. I have several dozens of emails to read - and maybe act on - but what first caught my attention as I was going through my news alerts of my favorite topic - eLearning - is a digg from Kenya's eduvision entitled PDA's instead of textbooks in Kenya. As I went through it, I remembered a similar project by the International Association of Digital Publications in collaboration with the South Africa Institute for Distance Education. Both project aim at bringing low-cost educational technology, and access to educational content to the developing countries. The former focuses on Primary Education (and secondary), while the latter's focus is on Higher Education.
The principle behind the two projects is identical - availing cheap technology, and educational publications to the poor students of Africa. How cheap this is, is my first question. Secondly, if it is just content, without customization, localization, or contextualization, how is it going to enhance teaching and learning - or we are just making our students the legendary donkey that carries loads of books but does not have an idea of what it is carrying? The other question is the sustainability of these projects, what would happen when the donors support dries out? Seeing the the technology in use is foreign, mainly single sourced, and with no local expertise, I see a gloom future. For sustainability, we should have local experts who can drive the projects, processes and the technologies beyond its pilot. Do we need, for instance, to send the eSlate used in Kenya to its manufacturer when a reprogramming of the ROM is necessary? And in the same note, opening up these technologies for competition, and for using open standards will make them cheaper over time or at least avail more enhanced and better tools for the clients.
A question for eduvision: on this page, it is stated:
(and does so inexpensively: the necessary bandwidth to equip every primary and secondary school child in Africa with EELS would cost less than $2,000 per month)
Is the $2000 the cost of bandwidth for the whole of Africa? Am persuaded not to believe it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Have we Fallen to the Traps of Technology Vendors in our eLearning Match

Sometimes in the journey to the promised land - where eLearning or teaching and learning with technology will be the in-thing, we need to climb atop a mountain so that we can have a clearer view of where we are coming from and where we might be going. We need to find out what is a fact, and what is a hype in the elearning campaigns of latter-days. Does the flexibility - anytime, anywhere learning imply improved learning? Is there research that has been done - other than by the vendors - to support that notion that a class with a computer is superior to a class without? Or are we preparing our Nations' workforce for a future with working with technology, computing technology - meaning even the nannies will be babysitting using a computer? Is there tangible research to show that eLearning leads to an eased or reduced workload for the academic staff?
My opinion is, in most of the promises of eLearning that have been well articulated, we have fallen to the traps of the innovative vendors and their marketers who have discovered a rich and wide market for their products. I am yet to see a research - done by by a non-aligned force to show that: a) there is improved learning in the use of computers in the classroom; b) in future, all the work will be done using the technology and hence there is need to incorporate computer training in the classroom; c) there is in fact, a reduction in the workload of an academician when using technology of teaching and learning; and d) the cost of eLearning investment subside over time.
The aim here is not to trash or discredit what has been achieved already using eLearning, but rather to ensure that people are making the right decision with the right kind of information - backed by credible research not marketing slogans. At the top of the mountain, we need to look at where we are going, and project and predict the future based on facts.