Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why E-learning Hasn't Yet Lived up to its Potential

Why did E-learning fail to catch on? There is no doubt that the Elearning
industry as it defines
itself came nowhere close to meeting its
original expectations regarding market penetration. It is hard to determine
exactly how much of market E-learning actually does possess because the
industry never properly defined its parameters. Quite a lot of work that
should be included as elements of e-learning are not considered as such.
This is something that can easily be remedied. We can correct this by
modifying many of the assumptions that went into the original definitions;
those modified assumptions include:

  • E-learning is defined by practice and not by vendor categories. In other words E-learning is not a product or even product-oriented, it is a solutions practice. The vendor categories are not logically tied to the actual practice and must be put aside in order for the practice area to be properly understood by the marketplace. The vendors can later reorganize within the practice sub-categories.
  • E-learning is primarily concerned with content. Delivery of content is and always was a secondary consideration. In fact, the entire notion of e-learning was to a large extent predicated upon the protocols and infrastructure inherent within the Internet (de facto delivery). Building secondary and tertiary delivery environments with divergent and idiosyncratic standards took away the primary advantage originally associated with the promise and potential of e-learning - universally accessible, inexpensive content.
  • E-learning never developed its own philosophy, opting rather to graft traditional approaches to instructional design and assessment based outcomes onto the emerging technologies. This led to a fundamental discontinuity between the medium and message. Web-based content and the emergence of social publishing have been rapidly pushing towards an open content model, one built on democratized production and review rather than top-down or bureaucratic micro-management. The assumption that experts know better than we do how we will learn best is anachronistic, and worst of all, expensive.
  • Traditional educational providers have demonstrated an unreasoning fear of the potential related to E-learning; this fear derives from an unwarranted assumption that if the true potential were adopted that their role would be marginalized. Nothing could be further from the truth – traditional education is under fire from every direction, budgets being cut, options being limited and the one tool that could help change that and actually expand opportunities is being ignored or sub-optimized. E-learning should lead the way to that new reality; not cater to the fear by perpetuating traditional solutions that were marginally effective before and less so now using learning technology.

Copyright 2008, Semantech Inc.

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