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What is e-learning?


Graham Davies
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What is e-learning?

I am currently one of the authors of a set of e-learning training materials, commissioned by the DfES, that targets teachers of foreign languages in adult education (16+).

We use the term "e-learning" strictly in the sense as defined by the DfES - and this has been endorsed by the E-Strategy Unit: http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/e-strategy/

E-learning, according to the DfES, must NOT be equated with online learning. Online learning is just one aspect of e-learning. E-learning, according to the DfES, embraces ALL aspects of using computers as a tool for learning, ranging from producing printed handouts with a word-processor to a full-blown course wrapped up in a VLE.

This is the definition of e-learning given in the DfES consultation document Towards a unified e-learning strategy, July 2003:

“If someone is learning in a way that uses information and communications technologies (ICTs), they are using e-learning. They could be a pre-school child playing an interactive game; they could be a group of pupils collaborating on a history project with pupils in another country via the Internet; they could be geography students watching an animated diagram of a volcanic eruption their lecturer has just downloaded; they could be a nurse taking her driving theory test online with a reading aid to help her dyslexia - it all counts as e-learning.”

However, the situation is terribly confused among teachers at the chalkface at all levels of education. who have different concepts of e-learning, although most appear to equate it with distance learning. This is why I always use the term "online learning" when I am talking about ICT-based distance learning, i.e. to avoid confusion. What appears to have happened is that the "e" in "e-learning" has been associated with "e-mail", i.e. communication at a distance, rather than "electronic", which covers a wider range of ICT applications.

What do you think?

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Could the misunderstanding of what e-learning is and how teachers could use the resources available be partialy due to teachers not accepting technology as a learning tool and also their inability to use the technolongy themselves. In many cases students will know more about how to use computers and systems than their teachers, particulary when the learning area does not require the use of computers and technology every day (english, SOSE). Learning areas of business, IT and science are more likley to embrace the use of e-learning as they are technology and computer based learning areas. :news

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The problem with the new term "e-learning" is that teachers will inevitably think of "email", an older and much more familiar e-term, and therefore assume online learning is meant. I'm not sure what's wrong with "ICT-based learning" except that it has more letters.

It's true that in the early days of microcomputing the students knew more than the teachers. Back in the early 1980s, a student sat down and showed me how to write a computer program in BASIC that could conjugate French verbs! Some students still have phenomenal ICT knowledge, but I'm not entirely persuaded it's always the kind we teachers would find useful in the classroom. I see too many students daily hammering away at the space bar to centre titles in Word or messing about with fancy, illegible fonts and WordArt instead of exploiting the power of a modern word processing package to channel thought into structured writing. I also think that teachers are much more wised up about ICT in the new millennium than they were in the 1980s when microcomputers first entered schools. Yes, they still have a lot to learn about appropriate strategies for using ICT to teach their subjects, but physical access to ICT facilities seems to me to be the persistent major problem for those who want their students to work at their own individual computers rather than just share a whole-class resource such as a data projector or an interactive whiteboard.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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If someone is learning in a way that uses information and communications technologies (ICTs), they are using e-learning. They could be a pre-school child playing an interactive game; they could be a group of pupils collaborating on a history project with pupils in another country via the Internet; they could be geography students watching an animated diagram of a volcanic eruption their lecturer has just downloaded; they could be a nurse taking her driving theory test online with a reading aid to help her dyslexia - it all counts as e-learning.

The title of our Comenius project - e-Help (European History e-Learning Project) - has even caused confusion amongst some of our members, who for sometime assumed that is was all about using the Internet to teach and learn history. I have always embraced this wider understanding of e-learning.

On the question of the relative ICT abilities of teachers and students, I agree that teachers are generally more clued up now. But it is always helped my teaching to assume that 5% of my class is more intelligent than me. I do the same with ICT. Even with my intensive exposure to ICT (I teach in a laptop school) there's always someone in the class who can do whatever I am doing better than I am doing it. You just have to learn to learn.

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The title of our Comenius project - e-Help (European History e-Learning Project) - has even caused confusion amongst some of our members, who for sometime assumed that is was all about using the Internet to teach and learn history. I have always embraced this wider understanding of e-learning.

I was unaware of this? Who is confused?

It's true that in the early days of microcomputing the students knew more than the teachers. Back in the early 1980s, a student sat down and showed me how to write a computer program in BASIC that could conjugate French verbs! Some students still have phenomenal ICT knowledge, but I'm not entirely persuaded it's always the kind we teachers would find useful in the classroom. http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

I agree. Students (usually boys) try to give the impression that they know a lot about ICT. However, when it comes down to it, they are only skilled at playing computer games. Not the same thing at all. At the same time, other students (often girls) tell you they know nothing about ICT yet know much more how to use it for their studies than their brothers who dominate the use of the computer at home.

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I often find that younger students know a lot about how to press the buttons on a machine … but they don't know much about why they should be doing it. I had a classic illustration of this once when we bought in a one-day intensive course in Pagemaker. We got round to kerning and the instructor could teach us exactly how to do it. They we asked "what is kerning and what is it good for?" His answer was "I don't know, it's something printers find important."

Later we hired a graphic designer who used Pagemaker to help us remodel our teaching materials. What an education that was! I remember her deciding for us to set the tab in a particular place to 4 mm and the font size to 11pt. I changed it to 5 mm and 12pt, and she looked at the result and said "that's 5mm and 12pt - now try it my way". And it was true - her way looked so much better. She knew all about kerning and showed us how to use it to enhance our printed materials … but she was generally quite bored with the mechanics of doing it.

As for the definitions of e-learning, aren't they a bit too much like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? E-learning will be what people who use e-learning decide what it's going to be. The 'cone of input' idea I've expounded about at length elsewhere in this forum was developed to try to make the decisions about technology into pedagogical ones rather than technical ones … and it looks like DfES hasn't got there yet.

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Here are some definitions of E-Learning:

As opposed to the Computer Based Training of the 1980s, the term e-learning is most frequently used to refer to computer based training which incorporates technologies that support interactivity beyond what would be provided by a single computer.

E-learning, therefore, is an approach to facilitate and enhance learning through the use of devices based on both computer and communications technology. Such devices can include personal computers, CDROMs, Digital Television, P.D.A.s and Mobile Phones. Communications technology enables the use of the Internet, email, discussion forums, and collaborative software.

E-learning may also be used to support distance learning through the use of WANs (Wide area networks), and may also be considered to be a form of flexible learning where just-in-time learning is possible. Courses can be tailored to specific needs and asynchronous learning is possible. Where learning occurs exclusively online, this is called online education. When learning is distributed to mobile devices such as cell phones or PDAs, it is called M-learning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-learning

An umbrella term to describe the act of learning online. There are several different types of e-learning. One kind, produced by "educommerce" companies, consists of online courses designed for etailers on the assumption that, if a site sells kayaks, it may also want to offer a class on kayaking. There is also e-learning through bona fide universities that offer courses and exams on the Net that home-based students can take for full university credit. There are e-learning B2B that hope to make a business out of selling pencils and textbooks on the Web. Corporate training makes up another e-learning segment; a company markets courses to companies that want to upgrade knowledge workers' skills. Finally, there is CBT (Computer-Based Training), a type of education in which the student learns by executing special training programs on a computer.

http://www.netlingo.com/lookup.cfm?term=e%2Dlearning

The delivery of a learning, training or education program by electronic means. E-learning involves the use of a computer or electronic device (e.g. a mobile phone) in some way to provide training, educational or learning material.

E-learning can involve a greater variety of equipment than online training or education, for as the name implies, "online" involves using the Internet or an Intranet. CD-ROM and DVD can be used to provide learning materials.

Distance education provided the base for e-learning's development. E-learning can be "on demand". It overcomes timing, attendance and travel difficulties.

http://derekstockley.com.au/elearning-definition.html

Education via the Internet, network, or standalone computer. e-learning is essentially the network-enabled transfer of skills and knowledge. e-learning refers to using electronic applications and processes to learn. e-learning applications and processes include Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms and digital collaboration. Content is delivered via the Internet, intranet/extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM.

http://isp.webopedia.com/TERM/E/e_learning.html

(Electronic-LEARNING) An umbrella term for providing computer instruction (courseware) online over the public Internet, private distance learning networks or inhouse via an intranet.

http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2...&i=42232,00.asp

Definition: electronic learning; the process of learning online, esp. via the Internet and email (1997)

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=E-Learning

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Students (usually boys)  try to give the impression that they know a lot about ICT. However, when it comes down to it, they are only skilled at playing computer games. Not the same thing at all. At the same time, other students (often girls) tell you they know nothing about ICT yet know much more how to use it for their studies than their brothers who dominate the use of the computer at home.

Some interesting research published today supports this point. According to some research carried out by BMRB on behalf of the Department of Education, computers are widening the gender gap in schools, as boys spend their spare time playing games while girls use them for homework.

According to BMRB computers in the homes are seen as “boys’ toys”. When the girls get on the computer they are much more likely to see it as a “learning tool”. The research showed that large numbers of children were persuading their parents that they were using the computer for educational purposes while in fact using them to play games, etc.

The most disturbing aspect of this report is that computers are actually increasing the gap between the academic performance of boys and girls.

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