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Is it time to get rid of the ‘e’ from e-learning?

June 21st, 2011 by Graham Attwell

This morning I delivered a keynote speech (or more like a keynote storytelling session) at the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) conference in Dublin. And a lot of fun it was too (particularly chair Sally Reynolds desperate attempts to turn off her mobile phone which went off half way through my talk). The keynote was followed by a panel session with fellow speakers Paul Kim from Stanford University and Clare Dillon from Microsoft, along with Jim device and Alfredo Soeiro and chaired by Gilly Salmon.

Gilly ran the panel session as an unconferencing session with ample opportunities for participation by conference delegates.

The emergent themes shaping the discussion (and indeed the overall conference) were interesting. Also what was not discussed if of some interest. VLEs seem not longer an issue, with an acceptance that learners will appropriate all kinds of technologies for learning. And indeed there was little discussion about technologies themselves. However, emergent themes focused on the soci0-technical uses of technology for learning, its impact on education systems and institutions and indeed the future of education, particularly universities. There were a number of sessions looking at Open education and Open Education Resources, but with a lack of clarity of what these terms mean. Quality is seen as a major issue, especially in terms of the perceived variable quality of online programmes. However approaches to this issue vary. Most delegates seemed to favour some kind of quality benchmarking or approval, although there seemed little idea of how this might work. Equally the issue of accreditation of learning was a major issue but with little consensus on how this should be organised, particularly with relation to ‘open education’.

And whilst there seemed general agreement of the need to extend learning, particularly to those presently without access to formal education or training, there were considerable differences on how this might be achieved and the role of the private sector in such provision.

In some ways the discussions may be seen as a response to the present economic crisis. But in another wayit may refelct the mainstreaming of technology enhanced learning. Maybe we will soon be able to get rid of the e from e-learning.

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3 Responses to “Is it time to get rid of the ‘e’ from e-learning?”

  1. Tom Buckley says:

    Was thinking the other day along these themes. We were discussing at my organisation what we should consider m-learning as. My argument was the m-learning was just eLearning contextualised and didn’t really need its own definition. I came up with a ridiculous synthesis of the two concepts where it should be viewed as ME-learning to emphasize not exactly heuratology but the ability to contextualise or self manage learning and make its assessment more relevant in the workplace or in situ. What I was thinking was in line with some earlier work experiences that were talking about was normalising the attempt to use all avenues of technology to improve pedagogy and give control to learners BUT at the same time giving it the same administrative and project based rigour of other work. I.e. All educational output assessed to collectively find the right and most appropriate delivery method, all options considered with the most engaging pedagogical model chosen and planned.

    Rather than creating an ‘e’ learning and perpetuating its difference from other kinds of complacent passive pedagogy it may be time to take a harder stance. Where it becomes best practice of learning and teaching alone and a failure to engage with curriculum and programme development encorporating it will mean direct consequences. Towards this the sector should also recognise that creating false differences allows easy get outs or charicatures of LT’s aims, that of an improve learning experience with relevant and engaged learners. So basically making ‘e’ an issue is for clubbing not learning.

  2. jen hughes says:

    I love Tom’s idea of ME learning! We should adopt this terminology at Pontydysgu in the future. Could also have WE learning I guess (as in W for web)

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