When it comes to E-Learning, I think one of the most important principles to bear in mind is that the term (or endeavour) needn't have connotations of seismic change, resetting of magnetic poles or the complete re-drawing of continental maps or ocean currents.
As with so many other things in life and learning, less can be so much more, and there is no point trying to fix what isn't essentially broken.
Let's take two fairly simple examples (true ones, based on recent experience with educational design).
Teacher A wants help making his course more flexible, to remove a pre-set schedule to the learning sequence, allow learners to progress at their own pace, get rid of a reliance on the physical textbooks he needs to keep at the school to prevent the learners losing them, and make his administrative life a little easier.
What he doesn't want is to lose the atmosphere of his classroom, which is based on practical discussion and examples, a live learning space based on interaction and discussion.
This teacher doesn't need access to a Khan-like academy, nor a set of brilliantly designed branching tutorials and 'learning experiences' created using Captivate or Articulate. He doesn't need an amazing VR simulation to get his learners remotely interested in the content or applications, nor access to something like Elluminate or Adobe Connect. He knows how to teach very effectively and has a classroom setting to facilitate that.
Teacher A just needs, as his first small steps, access to:
(a) Help learning how to design his practice materials in MS Word so they are clear and professional looking, with boxes for learners to input work
(b) A simple LMS that allows him to organise and deliver these materials
(c) An effective gradebook tool in aforementioned LMS
(d) A classroom with computers and Internet access
These changes in place, this teacher's instructional universe changes slightly but significantly. He can still deliver in a personable classroom setting in a way he thinks facilitates the best learning experiences. The E-Learning aspect just ensures that learners can go at their own pace (and, if/when inclined, in their own space), not lose anything, and get grades and feedback more rapidly and saliently.
I'm not saying that is the end of this teacher's E-Learning story. It's the start. An effective start.
A start he wouldn't have contemplated based on a look at most of what is being written and demonstrated about E-Learning around the web, because most of it is--to him--too glittery and not gold enough.
Then there's Teacher B. He wants to simply gather better evidence of what he has been facilitating with his learners in a very lively and discussion-oriented way and make it easier for absent ones to catch up if they didn't happen to be present for certain sessions. Having an applied learning and community projects emphasis, he also doesn't want this evidence to be all 'answers in boxes.' He wants the learners to express themselves, and do so in ways that allow others to listen.
The small steps for Teacher A (above) also work very well for Teacher B, with the digital documents being designed more specifically for note-taking during in-class discussions. Pictures of the whiteboard and/or videos of classroom discussions can be gathered and added in an ongoing way so that absent learners can later still--to some degree at least--'experience' a discussion before being prompted to produce something in response to it.
But we can also add open assignment upload tools allowing the submission of posters, pictures, videos or verbal recordings - to facilitate more of that multi-modal creativity he seeks to foster in his students.
These might appear to be bigger steps when it comes to E-Learning, but considering the teacher's style, goals and challenges, they aren't big steps away from his existing teaching/learning universe. They just better capture the processes he believes in, in more ways across space and time.
And--importantly--when presented and demonstrated to this teacher, they can be shown to be helpful additions to (or adaptations of) what he already does really well.
They're not suggesting you need a satellite to have an effective and meaningful conversation with people in the same room.
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