Making Sense of e-Learning Strategy

Tom PreskettBy Tom Preskett

It’s very common for the message to get confused or diluted when you try to introduce and encourage the use of learning technologies/VLEs into the higher education world. The main reason is that the message is inherently confusing. Ask two people tasked with encouraging their use, and you’ll get two different answers. There isn’t a dominant reason across the sector. I have mine, but I know it’s at odds with what others say.

For me, there is a belief in collaborative pedagogies over the transformative/didactic mode. The learning is simply better, the teaching is simply better, and the resulting graduates are better equipped to keep learning throughout their careers. The problem is that I can’t prove it, and it would be fruitless to try. I just believe it, and certainly it’s true for my learning.

I’m not convinced that many of those who are prevalent deliverers of lectures with little or no interaction with students necessarily believe that this is the best way – although certainly there are some. It’s just that lecturing and passive learning are, in the short run, the easiest options for both faculty and students. It’s just easier, takes less effort. They prepare the content and just speak it. To advertise the blog post Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions, I tweeted the other day: “If you don’t ask questions, learners aren’t doing anything. Lots of questions, variety of questions.” I don’t think it’s as stark as that, but the sentiment is true.

Back to the confusing message. The pedagogy argument is difficult to make and obviously confrontational. Far easier to talk instead of interact in terms of efficiency and money saving. So this is often where we end up, and, for many, this is all we should legitimately seek to use learning technologies for. On this path, the result is often a simple case of e-administration.

So you have these two schools of thought. But what often happens is an illogical blending of the two: lecturing as a predominant strategy in a virtual learning environment. It doesn’t work, and it doesn’t make any sense. One reinforces the status quo, the other challenges it. They don’t fit together.

This is a tough issue when you think about it because, by exposing this tension, I make my job harder. On the other hand, I’m not doing my job properly if I don’t. And on a third hand, who am I to try and influence pedagogy!

One Response

  1. Great, stimulating comment, Tom. The old “write it and say it” days are numbered. What will replace this teaching style. Most agree that new learning (not teaching) will be necessary.

    Rather than focus on a single replacement (e.g. social learning), I like to think of a multiplex approach. Peer-to-peer learning will be part of it, although I can hardly guess exactly what form it will take.

    Internet-delivered, interactive learning mediated by cloud-based software will also play a role. How far can these technologies go? I cannot say at this early date in their development.

    No matter which concepts make up the future of education, it’s certain that mentors of some sort (the morphed version of teachers) will have a critical role to play for a long time into the future.

    Therefore, the most important aspect of the transition to the next level of learning must be finding ways to get today’s teachers to learn how to be tomorrow’s mentors and to be fluent with the many new technology-based tools they’ll be using.

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