"In times of change the learners will
inherit the earth, while the knowers will find themselves beautifully
equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."
- Eric Hoffer
What is e-learning?
E-learning has been described
by Cisco Systems as "the
overarching umbrella that encompasses education, information, communication,
training, knowledge management, and performance management. It is the
web-enabled system that makes information and knowledge accessible to
those who need it, when they need it - anytime, anywhere.
However, a simple way to think
about e-learning is:"E-learning is to ICT, as writing is to
An agenda about ICT puts the emphasis on the technology, whereas e-learning
puts the emphasis on how we learn with the technology.
such, e-learning is not just about the work of schools. It is a recognition
that everyone in a changing society needs access to continuous forms
of learning - that fit into their busy lives. E-learning works differently
to formal schooling. E-learning redesigns learning around the needs
of the learner. It provides content matched to what the learner needs
to learn at that point in time, in a style that matches the way that
the learner prefers to learn, in a quantity matched to the time the
learner has available, at a time when it is convenient for the learner,
at a place where the learner happens to be.
This is very much the way that learning would be designed if it were
a true consumer product rather than a product of a historical approach
to organising schooling.
The scope of e-learning can be explored through this mind map:
Lorraine Dawes, Redbridge LEA
acknowledges that the teacher plays a key role in the learning process,
but that this dependence on the teacher naturally falls away with the
age of the learner. Effective learning models will acknowledge this
and explicitly encourage learners to become independent by teaching
the skills of learning as well as subject content. John Abbott in 'The
Unfinished Revolution' refers to this as 'intellectual
weaning' where 'the more skills the learner acquires, the
more the learner is responsible for using those skills."
The term 'blended
learning' has been used to describe a mix of inputs to match
the different capacities and learn and different preferred learning
styles. This acknowledges the concern that a purely 'virtual' learning
experience is only likely to be effective for the most highly motivated
and self-sufficient of learners.
This mix of inputs could include a number of the following:
online course that presents tasks according to progress made
continuous online assessment
with remedial feedback
printed course materials
a classroom mentor who
is expert in understanding how pupils best learn
a visiting expert teacher shared with many institutions
lessons with the expert teacher
the use of email for
access to peer group
online discussion fora
a programme to teach
learning skills and self-responsibility for learning
to learning are already developing in the delivery of minority post-16
courses and some of these elements are also to be found in vocational
areas like the Cisco
Networking Academy Programme, where a practical dimension is
However, this is still very much a delivery-model of learning with formal
learning goals as the end product. John
Abbott makes a case that learning should be more like an apprenticeship,
with frequent opportunities to apply that learning in real contexts.
Hence best e-learning practice will include opportunities for pupils
to use their newly-acquired digital literacy skills for multimedia authoring,
digital video production, web publishing, and that whole creative dimension
to using ICT that has so far remained under-exploited in schools.
Professor Stephen Heppell, Director of Ultralab, describes 'e-learning'
isn't delivering knowledge, it isn't building 'teaching machines',
it isn't edutainment, it isn't doing what we did before but cheaper.
But it is the opportunity for children to explore new expertises,
take new risks, develop new collaborations, gain new understandings
It is about creativity not productivity.... It is also about multiple
media and multiple learning styles, together with the opportunity
to change the mix to suit the context, the learners, their predispositions
and their entitlements.
Comfortingly it is also about allowing teachers to do what they
entered the profession to do: inspire, lead and delight children
whilst rejoicing in their rapid progression."
source: NGfL Scotland
How will e-learning affect teaching?
The scope for teaching through e-learning can be explored through this
Lorraine Dawes, Redbridge LEA
E-learning offers scope to organise teaching differently. An intelligent
e-learning organisation will plan its e-learning strategy so that the
expertise which teachers have - the most important component in the
learning equation - is used to its best purpose. Removing tasks which
dilute the energies of teaching staff in administration will be a key
task, and one for which ICT offers solutions. Maximising the range,
style and depth of learning opportunities of pupils will be the main
objective of an e-learning strategy.
E-learning may also offer a partial solution to a difficulty
now facing schools - the need for more teachers, at a time when lifelong
learning is expanding the need for teachers.
Ralph Tabberer of the TTA, referring to this problem,
"If we cannot fuel all the expansion in schools
with teachers alone, then we have to look elsewhere. There are two main
places to go: to other adults, and to ICT."
Conference 2002 - Will ICT Deliver?
'Learning in the 21st Century - the vision and practice in local
authorities', a joint publication by Naace, Becta, Socitm and Idea,
makes a case that "E-learning may be the only way to provide
training and support to communities and large workforces facing periods
of major change" and that "e-learning demands a joined-up
Reaping the considerable potential benefits of e-learning will require
a commitment to developing e-learning practice from all stakeholders
in the UK education system.
In the brave new world of e-learning, institutions might aim to share
their specialist subject teachers with partner institutions by making
them available online, whilst acknowledging that the primary specialism
for adults working directly with e-learners will be their knowledge
of how pupils best learn.
will e-learning transform the way we learn?
Highly effective, self-sufficient e-learners will need to know
much more than how to work a computer. The package of learning skills
they will need will include enquiry
skills and thinking
skills, to support both the process aspects of learning and
the intellectual development that accompanies it.
If we are to develop a transformational model for e-learning,
i.e. where pupils make significant added-value gains when using the
medium of e-learning,
then a language to describe learning gains when using ICT will need
to be more commonly shared, so that teachers can recognise and promote
these gains. The teaching of thinking
skills as part of an e-learning programme is clearly likely
to promote the progress made by e-learners. The emphasis placed on the
skills of enquiry
in particular will underpin much of the higher level work undertaken
when pupils make use of e-content for assignments that have the characteristics
will we recognise the e-learning transformation?
Progression in e-learning will generally be reflected in a growth
in the ability of pupils to apply ICT within practical contexts. Progress
in e-learning might be identified by:
An increase in pupil independence
in the quality of presentation and content of pupils' ICT work
in the level of thinking that accompanies the e-learning activity
to which information is transformed into knowledge and product
through the stages: explore > develop > interpret > design
NC levels for ICT
describe a progression
in the acquisition of ICT Capability,
and these provide the formal measures of what a pupil has attained in
relation to using ICT.
In a broader e-learning context, Bloom's
Taxonomy provides a useful framework for tracking the development
of higher-order skills and competencies.
However, this is clearly an area for further action-research work in
defining what e-learning looks like in practice and how we might seek
to measure its impact.