When it comes to education and training, to say that e-Learning is all the rage would be to utter one of the understatements of the decade. But there is a bit of an explosion going on at the moment; paradigms and principles are appearing in the field and particular e-Learning roles are becoming increasingly consistent. Job boards are full of exciting new opportunities for people experienced and interested in applying their e-Learning expertise.
Whether it's to add to the increasing number of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees offered partly or wholly through the lens of a tablet device or to revolutionize the time and expense associated with training compliance in the training and corporate sectors, certain patterns are emerging.
And, I have to say, not all of these patterns are as progressive or valuable as I think many people in the 'industry' might be trying to tell us they are.
Take, for example, the following 'infographic' (I use the term loosely here, because I haven't seen the word 'promographic' used yet):
This infographic/promographic is interesting on a variety of levels.
First of all, as Edudemic quite rightly points out, the word 'teacher' is very prominently missing in action from this picture.
While LeanForward and other e-Learning service providers might be quick to point out that teacher/educator roles are implicit in things like the instructional designer, e-Learning Developer and Quality Assurance sections of the team, basically the teacher (a human being who gets to know the learners and hones and adjusts content and delivery to their learning needs and interests in an ongoing fashion, alongside very important considerations like personalised feedback and motivational interventions) is still -- in terms that matter to me -- very absent from the overall paradigm.
What we are essentially looking at in the info/promographic above are criteria for automation, with the whole notion of 'interaction' becoming a series of design-based pathways and button clicks opening a variety of different but wholly pre-loaded layers. There is still some humanity in the educational 'delivery', but it stands at the front and end of the process and is almost wholly removed from direct interaction with learners.
Second, to some degree this info/promographic helps to clear up some of the confusion you might be having when it comes to distinguishing between the roles of instructional designer and educational or learning designer. Interestingly, the trend across the job boards at the moment is calls for instructional designers (from corporations and e-learning companies - offering salaries somewhat below what you might expect as a qualified teacher) as opposed to educational or (e)learning designers, or even 'educational technologists' (predominantly advertised by universities and colleges and paying somewhat -- but not too much -- above the rate for a qualified and experienced teacher).
However, where it gets really interesting is the part that relates to cost, in terms of both time and dollars.
According to the info/promographic there, effective, interactive e-learning [requires] approximately 200 man hours per instructional hour of enhanced elearning.
Quite aside from the fact that these are 'man' hours (which some could argue equate to 0.5 'woman' hours), bear in mind that this figure of 200 hours only includes the average hours for the designated roles on the chart. Senior managers, salespeople, IT servicing, hosting, etc. aren't included in the equation.
But let's do the math...
If we assume that an e-Learning company charges in the realm of $100 per hour for the design and delivery of its courses (which is about what it would cost to pay the relevant personnel -- even on their less-than-qualified-teacher rates -- and still turn a reasonable profit, it would seem), you're looking at about 2 million dollars for a 100-hour online course.
That might sound staggering and unreasonable, but consider companies with 10,000+ employees. To deliver 100 hours of quality F2F training to them all would easily cost more than the figure quoted above. Not to mention how long it would take.
No wonder we are hearing so many win-win stories of big companies (providing more training and meeting more compliance goals in shorter timeframes at much reduced costs) and specialist e-Learning providers (making a very nice margin on the courses they produce for 'clients').
Perhaps I ought to tip my hat to e-Learning companies who provide 100-hour online courses to companies, built in say 3-6 months, because to do so would require them (based on the math) to hire something like 20-40 staff to build an effective and enhanced elearning course (based on their unqualified terminology) in that sort of timeframe.
However, to me, as an educator who does many if not most of the roles described above as part of my regular teaching and online educational design duties, the 200/1 ratio is staggering.
That equation suggests that, for one hour of quality online learning, I would need a month and a half (of weekly teaching hours) to project manage, design, develop and quality assure what I produce for the learners. For a course with 100 nominal (effective and enhanced) hours delivered online, I would need 150 months to effectively design and deliver it -- or about 12 and a half years.
And remember, this is for online coursework that is almost entirely pre-loaded, with interactivity being for the most part between mouse-wielders and a ghost in the (learning design) machine. If I attempted to add in the time it takes to check students' work, respond to it personally, motivate the learners, make suggestions and observations, answer queries, etc., we'd be looking at something close to half a lifetime to get an hour of eLearning done.
It doesn't take me that long, thank goodness. And while I'm not trying to suggest my e-Learning programs are perfect or beyond improvement, some things in the picture and arithmetic provided by that info/promographic above just don't add up.
Do you think the info/promographic is a fair and accurate insight into effective and enhanced e-Learning?
Do you think the depiction shows progress and value in education?