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Friday, 4 December 2015

What eLearning is Not - Distinction Between Distant Learning, Blended Learning and eLearning

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When I talk to the boss of a training company, I always hesitate before saying the word: "e-learning". Such a bad word which, most of the time, smacks of "old and bad experience", "bad quality", "not our philosophy"... It sounds bad... but also, in my opinion, this is a little bit unfair!
Even the best would have to give a simple and clear definition of this word... but, as the article devoted to the subject on Wikipedia reminds us, there is not one definition, but many. And this is precisely the problem! So, instead of telling you what e-learning is, let me tell you what e-learning is NOT:
1. E-learning is not blended-learning, but a part of it. Blended-learning consists of diversifying the way and the support of teaching so that the student doesn't feel bored after two weeks of training and remains stimulated and motivated and keeps concentrating. In a way, everybody already proposes a kind of blended-learning because it has been obvious for many years that the classic face-to-face classes are not enough; that's why, we should be aware that training that mixes individual lessons, group lessons and phone lessons is blended-learning. However, the key point of blended-learning is, most of the time, the electronic support of e-learning which can be used to introduce a personal workspace for reviewing and practicing and/or online classes. Indeed, as efficient as time with the tutor or the other students can be, we do believe that a successful learning process should allow (or impose) a time per week for personal work and to support this we do believe that e-learning - as (not) presented in this article - is the best support.
2. E-learning is not (always) multimedia-learning or interactive-learning, but it should be! E-learning - or more exactly "old e-learning"- can be as boring as a classic paper support (books and so on): indeed, what is the interest of giving a quiz with questions and answers on an e-learning platform if it looks like the one on paper? For sure, this online quiz will be accessible from anywhere thanks to the Internet and the correction will be available immediately without waiting for the tutor to do his job of correcting it. But that's the way one may have defined and supported e-learning ten years ago! And it's not enough because nowadays everyone knows that in the balance these two real advantages may weigh less than the obstacle that the electronic interface can represent for a lot of students. E-learning is more than accessibility and availability: it must also be interactivity. Add MP3, videos, pictures... to your exercises; communicate with the student from the correction of his exercises... let the students interact together by sharing interesting multimedia content they encounter in their daily lives... E-learning should be more than the two dimensions of a sheet of paper: it depends on you to create as many dimensions as you want! (NB: but keep it simple, that's the basis!).
3. E-learning is not self-learning, or it shouldn't be (ever)! Either as the core or as an extra of the training (the two extreme cases), e-learning is - unfortunately - often presented as a purely electronic way to learn: the student faces a computer, alone with himself, his bravery and his motivation. Considered as a simple tool, e-learning will always lead to at best decreasing motivation, at worst a failure; we encourage you to consider e-learning as a process that includes:
- upstream, consideration of the whole training process (see point 1)
- choice of an interactive platform and creation of multimedia content (see point 2)
- transmission of the content as a task to do and monitoring the achievement of this task
- downstream, request for feedback and feelings
At every step, you - as educative manager or tutor - have an important role to play to let the student feel that he's closely accompanied. Be sure that this commitment is not so costly in terms of time (a quick answer to students' questions, short comments on their exercises...) and that at the end it definitely improves the efficiency of your e-learning. That's the only way to reach the main goal usually assigned to e-learning: reduce the costs, while maintaining a high level of quality.
4. E-learning is not distance-learning, but it can be. If you have read and understood the above points, this may be obvious: first of all, because we encourage you to introduce e-learning most of the time as part of a blended-learning process (with classic classes, etc... see point 1) but also because we advise you to always be close to your student, even - I should rather say "especially"- if he attends a pure e-learning training. E-learning must always be close-learning, that's the key to success. However, to successfully respond to the needs of your students in a modern way of life (and work), it's a good thing to propose a pure distance-learning service: your e-learning becomes the main (or the only) interface of this training, thanks to the workspace but also and especially thanks to a video conference system to support the classes. For these cases, you have to keep in mind two key points:
- for a long distance training, it's especially recommended to respect a blended-learning process (by mixing online classes with phone classes for instance...)
- the video conference system must be available from your e-learning platform and with a share-screen (possibility for both tutor and student to interact on the same document) to keep the process as simple and interactive as possible.
I hope that after reading this article you will agree with the fact that e-learning is not a revolution, and neither is it a useless extra, but a real "plus". In my opinion, that's the paradox of e-learning: it was introduced as the modern miracle to change everything in the teaching world but we never gave it the chance to reach these too great and unrealistic expectations. And - what a surprise!- it failed in this revolution, so much so that it can sometimes be considered as the bad word I was speaking about at the beginning of this article.
So yes, human relationships are the key point of any learning process (or prove me wrong!).
And yes, if we keep this in mind, a smart electronic system can successfully support and even improve this learning process.
Our company has developed an innovative teaching platform for language schools, education institutions or teachers. Using our platform it is possible to start blended learning or / and distant education in a very efficient and cost-effective way. If you are interested and wish to test our solution please visit: [http://www.espok.org/]
We publish other articles on this subject on our blog: [http://blog.espok.com/]

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