I had a great conversation today with a fellow teacher and learner. We were talking about traditional elearning and what separates what we would like to do in the future. My contention is that traditional elearning consists of three things:
- Learning Modules (Text and Pictures that make up the bulk of “the instruction”)
- Learning Objects (Media files and hyperlinks including movies, presentations, audio, etc.)
- Assessments (Formal checks on learning that are tied to a tracking system/LMS or informal checks that are just for the learner)
The reason why this is the traditional model is that it doesn’t require anyone other than a single learner to take part. The learning is the same regardless of if there are 3 or 300 people in the class.
Now, many people would say that traditional elearning also has an element of communication in the form of a forum/discussion board and e-mail. I would agree that this is indeed a feature of much online learning in the traditional mode. However, I would caution that only a good teacher that can model social uses of these tools. Forums and e-mail can very quickly become a space where there is very little collaboration, and much more question and response. In other words, it is very hard to build something together if all responses cannot live beyond the initial impetus for them (beyond the week of the course when they were asked… etc.)
So, what I am thinking that the only difference for connected elearning is the social tools we use to teach within it. These require someone else to be a part of the class, because otherwise, there is no one to create knowledge with. Here is what we came up with as the key features of a social elearning environment:
- Communicating, collecting, and commenting on knowledge from the users of the course (In a blog or wiki format it makes sense to have students repurpose the course content for their own spaces. The depth of knowledge becomes apparent very quickly when each lesson can be made their own)
- Learning Object Creation (Creating exemplars to be used again within future versions of the course)
- Learning network creation (i.e., How do I find other people interested in the things I am interested in? How do I find out more or go deeper? How does this knowledge live beyond this class?)
- Authentic Assessments (Projects that require their Learning Network through which understanding is proven. No project can be completed without resources and people from outside of the class itself.)
So, the question I ask is what else is missing? What are the other aspects of “new elearning” make it different from a traditional Powerpoint and quiz format?