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E-Learning

learningcommunityThe moment one feels their learning is complete, they cease to grow. Uncovering secrets of the universe has been a passionate undertaking of man since the beginning of time. The medium of discovery and its dissemination changed, but the quest was always the same: know more and grow more. E-Learning is the latest medium to create, distribute and acquire knowledge. It is an essential mundane activity that is as natural as nourishment and sleep. It has captured entire sectors of economies, rendering efficient functionality in people, places and processes. However, a certain degree of reluctance has been observed in the implementation of e-learning pedagogy and andragogy in the education sector. The corporate sector is relatively less resistant to the latest methods, owing to the mandate of technology skill upgrade in employees. Furthermore, the availability of trained trainers eases individuals into smooth learning curves. The education sector continues to experience the culture change phenomenon, in which the old players seem to argue against e-learning. They blame it for being cumbersome and fussy. In this section, the situations of resistance and barriers to adopt e-learning are presented with complete solutions on overcoming them.

Problem 1: Comprehensive Evaluation of Learning Objectives

Learning objectives assigned for a course to be completed in the entire year or semester is difficult to assess. The final exam has enough time constraints to enable it to focus on the latest material covered. A comprehensive exam places the burden on the learner to re-learn the entire syllabus covered within the appointed time. It also places pressure on the instructor to show case the acquisition of learning objectives in their classrooms. As a result, the final exam is the most dreaded event of the year!

Solution: e-Portfolio to evidence performance

E-Portfolios are an excellent method to present learning in the form of artefacts and reflections for a particular time period. It shows sequential submissions with consecutive improvement in performance and learning. It is easy to implement and demonstrate. It is also a mode of communication between the learner, their parents and the instructor. Attractive tools and online solutions for developing e-portfolios are available that feature user friendly environments. E-portfolios are similar to websites and instill the benefits of ownership and autonomy towards learning

Problem 2: Lack of Motivation

It is a known fact that classroom disruption is the leading source of stress for teachers. Traditional lessons are relatively “teacher-centered”, with reduced opportunities for learner involvement. One may have experienced an event in which disengaged learners would bring mobile devices for gaming and other non-classroom related activities during the lesson time. With technology popularity in the digital youth, such incidences are common. There is a danger of reduced achievement in performance testing leading to lost opportunities later in life.  

Solution: e-Learning tools in the classroom

Using e-learning tools that generate lessons in the form of attractive videos (linking classroom concepts to real world applications) cartoons (instead of boring presentations) and games (instead of boring projects). Such tools are bound to engage the technology inclined learner, who seeks entertainment from such tools while getting educated. Empowering learners with such tools has another advantage: learner-generated content. This is a direct application of the adage: The best way to learn a concept is to teach it! Some classrooms show astonishing success rates when learners are taught a concept and asked to replicate a game environment to demonstrate their understanding.

Problem 3: Varying Learning Styles and a Traditional Classroom Lesson

When Gardner postulated twelve Multiple Intelligences, he explained elaborately the situations that favor each intelligence type. Almost three decades later, teachers continue to demonstrate affinity towards “talking head” teaching style. As a result, the performance measured shows success in some learners and average performance from equally or sometimes superiorly competent learners. This makes learning non-conducive to an equal opportunity providing environment.

Solution: e-Learning caters to various learning styles

Multi-media is a self-explanatory term. It implies to the multi-sensory appeal of technology. Users can now enjoy information using their five senses (olfactory titillation is still under development but will be released inevitably!). Augmented Reality has given a new meaning to mobile learning. It mixes digital environment with real environment, heightening the learning pleasure of kinesthetic learners. Enhances in audio and visual quality has attracted even more consumers, who regularly produce learning material, regardless of their age. Teachers using e-learning tools in the classroom can be confident that they are creating “learner-centered” classrooms.

Problem 4: Isolation Vs. Social Learning

The traditional classroom provides a competitive element that motivates achievers to establish new performance records. But this competition is limited to the classroom itself. Moreover sharing classroom performance regularly with parents through daily dairies is cumbersome and requires discipline. Problem arises with learners residing in distant location from parents where performance report sharing becomes critical for learner success. Another pronounced drawback of traditional learning is the feeling of isolation in terms of learning activities. Physical collaboration that is after classroom hours is becoming increasingly difficult owing to differing schedules of individuals.

Solution: Social Media for Learning

Utilizing social media tools to shift the negative activities to more constructive ones is a new wave catching up in classrooms whose teachers are tech savvy. A growing trend in schools is the use of Edmodo that allows parents to receive daily updates and upcoming events in a notification through email. Twittering is another medium in which learners actively debate on a topic given by the teacher. Grades are awarded based on quality of feedback on others’ comments and questions. A discussion forum in a traditional LMS (Learning Management System) looks somber as compared to the affective features of social media. This induces learners to post more quality messages and learn more from each other. Thus Social Media has shifted the “knowledge development” focus of a traditional classroom to “knowledge management”.

Problem 5: Teaching Abstract Concepts

One of the biggest challenges of teaching is the ability to convey knowledge accurately for constructive use. This strategy makes teaching an art. Concepts like scaffolding and zone of proximal development (ZPD) are meaningless if teachers do not know how and when to introduce hard to teach concepts. In an effort to do the job better, many teachers try to use technology to aid their teaching. They involuntarily create digital learning environments that are exact replicas of physical classrooms. “Skeumorphism” is the term coined by Dongsong, Z., Zhao, J., Lina, Z., & Nunamaker, J. F. (2004) that explains this tendency. Thus the approach to teach a difficult concept remains unchanged.

Solution: Game Development to Learn Abstract Concepts

Game Development is not an art restricted to professionals of the gaming industry anymore. It is readily available as SAS (Software as a Service) applications with user friendly tools to create learning environments within games. Countless prototypes have been introduced in the education sector that uses narration, role play, problem solving and decision making features. In fact, tools available to create games are so easy to use that learners of all ages can participate as game creators to show their understanding of abstract concepts in the form of games.

Conclusion

A lifetime of teaching in a traditional setting creates highly competent teachers. Such teachers when professionally develop themselves to integrate technology in their classroom become powerful beacons of knowledge. It is true that they lack the patience to adapt to new teaching methods. Regardless of the hype, teaching technology tools to teachers was never a sudden decision. It has been in the training agenda for decades. Most teachers who understand simple word processing and grade curving can quickly pick up latest media formats to use in their classroom. In fact, e-learning tools are very similar in functionality (Common User Interface CUI) to social media tools. This leaves little excuse for traditional teachers to not to use technology for communicating with parents or presenting new information to their students, especially if they use Facebook and LinkedIn.

E-Learning is no longer a choice for teaching. Whether it is an online, hybrid or a physical environment, e-learning will soon be a requirement for creating industry responsive learners. 

 

 

 

References

 

Dongsong, Z., Zhao, J., Lina, Z., & Nunamaker, J. F. (2004). CAN E-LEARNING REPLACE CLASSROOM LEARNING?. Communications Of The ACM, 47(5), 75-79.

Woodill, G. (2012). Moving from e-learning to m-learning. Canadian Learning Journal, 16(2), 34-35.

Luchoomun, D., McLuckie, J., & van Wesel, M. (2010). Collaborative e-Learning: e-Portfolios for Assessment, Teaching and Learning. Electronic Journal Of E-Learning, 8(1), 21-30.

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