Tuesday, May 27, 2008

five thoughts on eLearning

1. The "tell-test" model works best when it is a
"tell-repeat-test-tell-repeat another way-test..." method. It has been
proven over the years to work better. Replacing it with Wikis,
podcasts, walkman-casts, virtual campuses, etc. doesn't replace it. It
just delivers it differently. Can you do tests from Wikis or PodCasts?
(I don't think so.)
2. I believe people have become disenchanted with e-learning because
companies put the "cart before the horse". I see that billions of
dollars were spent on LMSs before any courses had been created. This is
like building a railway network without having any locomotives. There
is nothing wrong with the web technologies - just with the way they were
sold. Similarly, courses were built as evolutions from presentations
instead of evolutions from web pages. A self-propelled presentation is
a bad way of training, just like correspondence courses, cassette-based
courses, VCR courses, ... A web page with multiple navigation paths,
repeating the information several ways, followed by frequent tests is
much more compelling. It is called "Instructional Design". That is
what has been lacking from many of the products out there. No matter
how good the technology, if you present content poorly, it will not give
3. Should we jump to new technologies? New technologies have their
place. However, if we use them without considering instructional design
- or what the end-user is actually doing - they will be no more
effective. For example, we have seen that if you have audio in a
course, the student's eyes drift away to other tasks. Soon their mind
drifts away too. If they are forced to read, without other
distractions, knowledge retention increases dramatically. Wikis are
great as reference material look-ups (as long as they don't get clogged
with garbage.) PodCasts allow asynchronous delivery of speeches, but I
would be cautious because of the easy distraction factor. Social
networking will work great for improving chances of the employees
getting their next job. Wikis, PodCasts, Bulletin Boards, Chat Rooms,
Multimedia etc. are excellent technologies to augment the basic content,
but should not be considered a replacement. Moving to the next level
of technologies reminds me of a phrase I once learned: "I'm working on
my second million dollars....I gave up on the first".
4. Page-turners, if done right can be effective. PPT by itself does not
make a compelling presentation - it takes content and an effective
presenter. If you get rid of the live presenter (recordings don't
count), it is harder to make the material complete. If you take
advantage of web navigation and hierarchical design, you can fill in for
the missing live instructor. Leaving all your testing for the end of
the course is less effective than mingling multiple questions in the middle.

Page-turners can be really bad if you are limited to putting 3 bullets
on a page. The web allows you to structure your content so that you
break it up in instructionally meaningful ways. PPT and tools like it
force you to break up your content so that it fits on a screen. Don't
blame "page-turners". Many authoring tools were designed and
effectively sold because they look so much like PPT with a test at the end.
5. Yes... see #4. Distracting multimedia and flying bullets are
exciting for the course author, but they are really annoying for the
student who has to see them 3 or 4 times.

5.I think many LMSs and instructors have been looking at the web
technologies to fit their current instructional models instead of
molding their instructional approaches to fit the web. That is, LMSs
force courses to be a one-time event. You take the course, you take the
test, you're evaluated, you're done, you never see the content again.
The web should be used to flip this around. Once you know where the
content is (e.g. google), you go there when you need it. You should be
able to take the tests as many times as you want. You should be able
to use the material in a just-in-time fashion. Why memorize the
material, if you can find it quickly? Proper web instructional design
considering "just-in-time use" makes this possible. A linear "page
turner" discourages this approach. A "page turner" with additional
navigation and proper tables of contents can achieve the advantages of
web technologies. But if the content is bad, it doesn't matter how you
deliver it.

1 comment:

SoulCaddy said...

I would have to agree with you that content simply delivered via a new medium (other than the traditional lecture and text book) are not doing the students any good. Students need to be challenged beyond memorizing terms and equations. In post-secondary institutions, it seems that new ways of teaching are being adopted at slower rates. It all comes down to time consumption. All the professors feel it will take them more time to create new material. And it will. But they will be able to reuse some of that material if they don't date it by creating a podcast that begins with "Welcome to economics 1001, spring 2008." Also, instructors at the post secondary level need to start challenging there students to use this technology properly. Creating a podcast, posting it in an LMS and then asking for the same essay again, seems like there is very little progress being made. Why not integrate technology into the assignments themselves, and have the students provide information across the mediums they want professors to use.