Tuesday, May 13, 2008

E-learning at its Very Best

My staff and I are thoroughly enjoying this journey of learning what makes for the best e-learning experience. We read books, journals, blogs and just about anything else we can get our hands on to help us.

What we’re aiming for is a learning experience, using the technology easily available to us today, that is effective (people remember what they studied and apply it in their work and lives) and enjoyable (people find the e-learning courses engaging, interesting and user-friendly).

What particularly drew me to this was a claim I heard the other day from a local education provider about a course being completely online today. My initial thought was that the provider was doing an excellent job of making this course more widely available – one of the primary advantages of e-learning.

Then I happened to run into one of the instructors, who told me that the e-learning course was simply textbook chapters posted online. The students went to the website, read the chapters, took the test, and – voila’ – learned online!

My first response was that this isn’t e-learning. It’s disseminating text over the web, and testing on it. Students might be learning, but it's not the very best we can do in e-learning.

What if, in the early days of movies, this scenario occurred: People crowding into a theatre to see the latest movie, only to see book pages, projected on the big screen. Wow – what an experience! The book was very entertaining, after all, and the big screen offered a way for people to be entertained using the latest and greatest technology.

Sort of like what we’ve been doing with e-learning.

Even for voracious readers, going to the movies presents a different kind of entertainment experience. A well-done movie impacts our minds and our emotions in such a way that we think about the message over and over – sometimes for years.

It’s the power of images, sounds, stories. It’s a power that can’t be replicated in the printed book – although books can be very powerful tools.

E-learning has the same potential – to touch the mind, the emotions and the beliefs of the learner in a way that is much more profound than simply reading a book. It’s much more than just putting facts on the web and testing over them.

It’s learning to use stories, to use visuals, to create videos – all with the purpose of teaching more effective.

That’s e-learning at its best.

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