Tuesday, August 12, 2008

1.1.1: Navigating the terminology

In reviewing Bates's (2005) Technology, e-learning and distance education, I was impressed with his differentiation between distance education and e-learning.

Bates (2005, p.5) defines distance education as “a method of education”, whereby “[s]tudents can study at their own time, at the place of their choice... and without face-to-face contact with a teacher”. Bates adds that “[t]echnology is a critical element of distance education” (ibid.) however Bates includes print as a technology (the e-Primer, in its new version, will more carefully define e-learning in terms of 'digital' technologies for this reason).

Also of interest is Bates (2005) sharp delineation between distance education and e-learning; he argues that technologies such as the World Wide Web are “just different” (2007, p.3) to print and video-conferencing. Of course this difference is very significant in terms of the operational elements of education, but pedagogically Bates is correct. As the e-Primers make clear, the rules of teaching and learning do not change as a result of digital technologies. Rather, how those rules are implemented changes.

Fibally, Bates acknowledges that the term ‘e-learning’ is a variable one “where courses may have anything from a relatively small Web-based component of a course or program to a fully online offering” (2005, p.9). This is an important observation, as e-learning "is incredibly open-ended" (e-Primer 1.2, p.9).

Terminology is an incredibly important part of e-learning; it is encouraging to see effective coverage of this in an authoritative work.

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