Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Making sense of e-learning strategy

Also published on the Educational Technology and Change Journal

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 for this 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 reasoning 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 graduate is a person better equipped to keep learning throughout their career. The problem with this 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 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, take less effort. They prepare the content and just speak it. I tweeted the other day "If you don’t ask questions, learners aren’t doing anything. Lots of questions, variety of questions." to advertise the blog post Key Steps to Preparing Great Synchronous Interactions. 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 in terms of efficiency saving 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 a illogical blending of the two. It doesn't work and it doesn't make any sense. One challenges the status quo, the other enforces it. They don't fit together. It's a tough one 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!

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