Doing e-learning

Sigh. I dislike e-learning. It isn’t something I am particularly used to and it isn’t something that particularly works for me. We’ve all done those health&safety modules where we click through screens of text as our eyes glaze over. And at the end we invariably score the pass mark for the mandatory quiz thrown in to make sure we were paying attention. The questions, let’s face it, aren’t really designed with assessment in mind.

The world wide web and the digital technologies available to us create an amazing range of potential ways to teach. But let’s not get technologically deterministic about this. It’s never the tools; it’s the teaching. Incorporated skillfully and with thought, learning technology in physical classrooms makes sense. Especially where the technology builds on existing good practice of active learning techniques. Yet what I’m grappling with today is creating an e-learning product.
A stand alone package which will live purely online with no connection to either a physical environment or to a teacher, to be accessed whenever and wherever. And this makes me unhappy. On the one hand making sure all of our students can always access the materials is great, but that’s all it is: access to material. I’m not convinced it is teaching and I worry that it isn’t even facilitating learning.
My biggest concern is that this seems to be the direction my team are increasingly heading in: producing e-learning modules that replace rather than complement face to face teaching for a large number of our students. To me, teaching online is still teaching and should include all the components we would normally look for in a session. Yet with these modules, that isn’t obviously achievable. It is difficult to see how “engaged pedagogy” can be enacted in this scenario (hooks 2010).
So…. this is me, at work, trying to work out why I am finding putting some online learning together so hard. Why am I obsessing about it not looking very slick? Why am I staring at chunks of text like they are the enemy? It’s because I fundamentally disagree with teaching like this. The rate I’m going this may as well as be a powerpoint presentation on loop. There’s no connection, no room for engagement or social learning. There isn’t a discussion or flow of ideas. There’s little feedback for me as a teacher. I cannot differentiate, I cannot check understanding. There’s no humour and there’s no personality. It is all just so sterile!
And I’m certain online teaching doesn’t have to be like this.
References:
hooks, b. (2010). Teaching Critical Thinking: practical wisdom. London: Routledge.

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