We know the ‘e’ stands for electronic – it shows how long the term has been around and makes you ask what term came before it, doesn’t it? Was it blearning – where the ‘b’ stands for blackboard? It’s a bit misleading really, because we’re actually talking about digital learning, using the Cloud. Perhaps we should rename it dlearning?
The more I talk to people in education the more I find there are certain preconceptions about elearning that can limit its use, particularly in secondary and further education. One of those preconceptions is that elearning software is complicated – which is true for some products. Teachers don’t have time to spend hours working out how to use it only to get discouraged. It’s one reason why I like to use Nimble Author – it is so very (very!) easy.
Therefore, to address some such preconceptions, this post outlines a few reasons why you should enter this exciting and brave new world! I want to present 3 more words that begin with ‘e’ that are relevant here.
We need learning materials that expand the student’s world, that makes their learning experiences even better. It’s about broadening their minds – at a time when (some argue) the National Curriculum and exam courses are narrowing them. So how can elearning help to enrich students’ experiences?
- Courses (with introductions, middles and ends, plus assessments) can deliver information and knowledge which can’t be covered in the timetable. An assessment indicates the student’s level of understanding, and if you export it to Moodle or your VLE, you can monitor how long they spent on it and when.
- Research activities can provide material to inspire further exploration on topics you won’t cover in the course.
- Include support for assignments you’ve set up within the course – you can house documentation as PDFs, URLs, video and audio links which students can access in their own time or in the classroom. Use survey questions to help students reflect on this support.
- Image or video libraries can be used to include activities to analyse the pictures so students understand what they’ve watched (this is perfect for art/drama/media courses particularly).
This use of elearning is a good way to offer personalisation and improve progress. When set assignments have been completed, use materials that extend a student’s knowledge, particularly where they need to apply what they’ve learned. Such as:
- A ‘menu’ of course options for 15-minute activities that involve scenarios which require students to apply their new knowledge to a new context (such as enterprise activities or moral/social situations).
- Address employability by exploring new knowledge in a vocational perspective – how is that new skill relevant in the workplace? Why do employers want people with this knowledge? What personal qualities are you developing in this assignment?
- Materials which are ‘case studies’ where new knowledge is applied to the situation outlined.
- Challenging scenarios that encourage students to question new knowledge – ‘why does it work this way?’, ‘how has this situation been allowed to develop?’ etc.
Because elearning is cloud-based and can be accessed anywhere, it overcomes many barriers students may provide (knowing or otherwise). Some ideas to overcome other barriers:
- Learning materials for anyone who is absent: rather than set work which isn’t too complicated because you’re not there to give support, elearning courses can be completed and assessed without the teacher.
- Offer second or third chances to understand: some students may not immediately grasp the topic, but an elearning course ensures they can revisit it and do quizzes and assessments to help them improve their understanding, whilst developing their independence.
- Alternate methodologies: perhaps the method used to teach a topic didn’t fit with how the student learns best? This approach offers personalisation. For instance, there are some students on the autistic spectrum who will struggle to learn in group settings but will perform better by working on the course independently (as an addition, after the group work if need be).
- 24/7 learning allows students to work when it’s best for them: this includes homework and coursework, but you can enable flipped classroom approaches this way too.
These are just a few suggestions, and I hope they prompt you to think of more. My point here is a simple one – teachers are hardworking folk who will go that extra mile if they think it will benefit their students. Yet they have limited time, so that extra mile needs to be travelled swiftly and easily. I believe if teachers see the huge potential elearning offers them, how it can make their work simpler, they are more likely to engage in elearning platforms.
They need to see the benefits first.
Phil Parker, Education and Learning Development Consultant, Nimble Elearning