Wednesday, February 17, 2010

1.1.2: Compulsory 101 for e-learning thinkers

Article: Njenga, J.K, & Fourie, L.C.H. (2010). The myths about e-learning in higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology 41(2), 199-212.

This sort of article always draws my eye - exposure of 'myths' involves the sort of self-criticism that I think e-learning thinking benefits from. The authors suggest that e-learning can only benefit from "a dose of techno-negativity or techno-scepticism... so that the gap between rhetoric in the literature (with all the promises) and actual implementation can be bridged for an informed stance towards e-learning adoption" (p.199). Here's their list:
  1. e-Learning is a saviour; its redemptive power is overreaching and every educational institution should adopt it.
  2. e-Learning can replace human interaction.
  3. e-Learning cuts the costs of education, for instance, e-learning courses are cheaper to deliver than the traditional face-to-face or distance learning.
  4. Providing numerous courses and an abundance of information is beneficial, and can enhance learning.
  5. ICTs should become the primary medium of learning in higher education.
  6. Leisure (including playing and entertainment) and learning are separate activities.
  7. e-Learning will make HEIs more competitive and they must seize it or be declared institutionally redundant.
  8. Establishing the infrastructure (hardware and software) in e-learning is the most difficult part .
  9. e-Learning will see the demise of traditional campuses.
  10. e-Learning can decrease absenteeism and lower dropout rates among students.
No real surprises here, I guess - and only 6 is really questionable (and not just because Prensky is the reference!) It is probably just overstated. Other than that, many of the items on the list remind me of bold claims being made in the early days of Web-base e-learning.

Of course we should not err on the side of dismissiveness. Online access enhances informal learning, providing access to a huge set of text, multimedia and collegial resources; done well, it can refocus instructional development, improve student access to education, provide flexible study pathways, and can even prove better than alternative educational experiences (depending on how its done). Our positive claims become questionable when we project value on to the technology itself, rather than the means by which it is applied.

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