The e‑learning wave has become a tsuna­mi. Capter­ra (@Capterra) [link] reports that 10 mil­lion stu­dents have tak­en a Mas­sive Open Online Course (MOOC), that 84.2% of firms sur­veyed claim they use e‑learning for employ­ee train­ing and devel­op­ment, and that — while the US and Europe are the loca­tions for 70% of e‑learning, Asia is see­ing 20% per year growth in this form of education.

SlideShare (@SlideShare) [link] has an info­graph­ic show­ing the trends in e‑learning. It was there I learned that the aver­age age of an e‑student is 34, that over 40% of the For­tune 500 now edu­cate via tech­no­log­i­cal means, and that com­pa­nies that offer best-prac­tice e‑learning oppor­tu­ni­ties gen­er­ate 26% more in sales per employee.

Studying on Computer

Yet, all the stats are not good news. For exam­ple, Capter­ra also reports that only 1 out of every 10 MOOC stu­dents actu­al­ly com­plete or pass the course. Hol­ly Young, writ­ing in The Guardian [link] last month, asked “E‑learning: more hype than hope?” in con­nec­tion with elec­tron­ic edu­ca­tion oppor­tu­ni­ties in Africa. Young seems to be opti­mistic and notes that, whether the sub­ject under study is mas­tered or not, just inter­act­ing with the tech­nol­o­gy can be beneficial.

Will Thal­heimer (@WillWorkLearn) [link] prob­a­bly has the best point of view on the sub­ject. In try­ing to present an overview of the major par­a­digms, or types, of e‑learning, he con­cedes that the field “is “still a rel­a­tive­ly young field, hav­ing its start in the 1960’s dur­ing the advent of the com­put­er age and grad­u­al­ly gain­ing a crit­i­cal mass after the inter­net became a mass phe­nom­e­non. Because it’s a young field, we are still learn­ing how to think about elearn­ing. With each new par­a­digm, we think more deeply, more ful­ly about what elearn­ing is — and can be.”

In his post, Thal­heimer speaks of the “Seri­ous eLearn­ing Man­i­festo” [link], which is a cogent state­ment about the impor­tance of mak­ing sure that e‑learning is not sim­ply poor con­tent and bad edu­ca­tion­al tech­niques trans­mit­ted around the world by the Internet.

Thal­heimer was one of the authors of the man­i­festo, and one has to respect the hon­esty of those who wrote it. Con­sid­er the first two sen­tences: “We believe that learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy offers the pos­si­bil­i­ty for cre­at­ing unique­ly valu­able learn­ing expe­ri­ences. We also believe, with a sense of sad­ness and pro­found frus­tra­tion, that most elearn­ing fails to live up to its promise.”

The man­i­festo offers 22 prin­ci­ples that the authors believe are essen­tial for e‑learning to become excel­lent learn­ing. Whether teacher or learn­er, these points of ref­er­ence for assur­ing that e‑learning is effec­tive­ly done are worth a slow, care­ful read.

You should also hop to the May 2014 post by Kate Ever­son (@EversonKate) on the Chief Learn­ing Offi­cer web­site [link]. “Five Ways GE’s Design Prin­ci­ples Can Cre­ate Bet­ter Learn­ing” is a com­pelling sum­ma­tion of the think­ing of Greg Petroff, Gen­er­al Elec­tric Software’s chief expe­ri­ence officer.

Petroff says that e‑learning design has to be right for the learn­ing con­text and the oth­er con­nec­tions of the stu­dent. He also stress­es that e‑learning must be rein­forced by pro­vid­ing stu­dents “dash­boards” that are oper­a­tional­ly rel­e­vant. Last­ly, he notes that any e‑learning design should allow the stu­dent to make choic­es about how he or she is learn­ing and, thus, be open to customisation.

There will be no turn­ing back e‑learning, as it is now a part of edu­ca­tion at every lev­el as well as a part of cor­po­rate learn­ing. I salute those who, even at this ear­ly stage of the evo­lu­tion of the art and sci­ence of e‑learning, are work­ing hard to make such learn­ing not only elec­tron­ic but excellent.

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