I just can’t seem to get my head wrapped around why some people think that e-learning is the best thing since sliced bread. Popular in the late 1990’s, I believe that once upon a time it may have been the cat’s meow…but with all of the (newer and more advanced) learning technologies on the market today, not so much. Is an investment in e-learning still beneficial for companies? Sure, e-learning technology may be advancing – but will it ever be good enough? Or do fancier PowerPoints capture the learner in ways that other more advanced learning technology can? The vast majority of companies are looking to lower-cost alternatives while also providing more efficient training. With more and more computer-savvy employees (read digital-natives) the demand for immersive training is here to stay…and only growing! The ability “to-do” something in a virtual environment, rather than the monotonous point and click feature that e-learning offers is a huge benefit across all generations of the workforce. So why are many still stuck in the rut of e-learning? The real answer is:
People don’t know, what they don’t know!
The real challenge is educating decision-makers that better, lower cost and lower life cycle cost alternatives exist now. The decision-makers are usually advised by constituencies heavily vested in traditional e-learning technologies and attendant instructional design philosophies. The biggest hurdle we see is one of getting the instructional design folks up to speed on advanced vw design and proven vw world benefits for learning/training sims. Once they see the light, there is no going back!
The major selling point of e-learning was flexibility – train anytime, anywhere. Now a host of other vw based options offer that same flexibility and much, much more for less. So long boring e-learning, it’s been nice knowing you!
A colleague of mine recently sent me a link to the Mashable blog article that outlined “What is the Future of Teaching?” although I found the article very interesting my fear of college statistics class suddenly came rushing back to me. Here are the key points of the write-up:
According to the New York Times Bits blog, a recent study funded by the US Department of Education (PDF) found that on the whole, online learning environments actually led to higher tested performance than face-to-face learning environments. “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction,” concluded the report’s authors in their key findings.
The report looked at just under one hundred studies that compared the performance of students in online learning environments (or courses with an online study component) to those who were given strictly face-to-face instruction for the same courses. What they found was that students who completed all or some of their coursework online tested on average in the 59th percentile, compared to the 50th percentile for those who received only classroom instruction, and that the results are statistically significant.”
So why bring up the haunting of college stats class? “While the study certainly provides a vote of confidence for online learning, it’s important to note that it doesn’t necessarily demonstrate that online learning is more effective as a medium than classroom learning. “In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages,” writes the authors of the report (emphasis theirs). “At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction.”
In other words: all things are not equal. Students spending three hours per day in an online environment under the guidance of a great professor are likely, and not surprisingly, going to be better prepared than those spending an hour per week in a classroom with a mediocre one. And because the study’s results were correlational and not causal, it is impossible to say for certain whether it was actually the online learning environment that caused better tested performance. We can conclude that those in online learning environments tested better, but not necessarily why.
Further, the meta-study did not look at enough K-12 research to draw any conclusions — simply because it doesn’t exist. Researchers warned that “various online learning implementation practices may have differing effectiveness for K–12 learners than they do for older students,” which seems plausible. A major part of the job of a good educator is to equip students with the necessary mental tools to be able to continue learning on their own. Those skills are likely to be less developed in younger students, making face-to-face teacher intervention more necessary.”
Online education is becoming more and more prevalent. A growing number of college campuses are offering online courses- hey who wants to get out of their jammies and pink bunny slippers to hassle finding a parking spot and carrying books to class when you can just login from your home computer?! In summary, the article outlined significant findings on the proven applications of online learning, although much like the article says “all things are not equal.”