The days of computers as an alien sight in the classroom or workshop are long gone. But while technological advances have moved those computers on, has the thinking behind having them at all also developed, asks Geoff Rebbeck.
We have seen e-learning strategies since the early 1990s.
The first ones were an inventory — colleges were asked to do a ‘kit count’ of how many PCs and printers they had and the ratio of technology to staff and students.
Since nobody really knew what good use of technology would look like, the colleges with the most equipment were assumed to be the best.
That evolved into seeing information learning technology (ILT) as a series of processes and procedures that could be universally adopted leading to guaranteed benefit.
Today, we know the benefits lie in the learner and learning experience, so e-learning has replaced ILT and the emphasis has moved from the technology to the experiences it supports.
So e-learning deals with the intervention of technology in affecting behaviour in education, the personal and unique journeys, and our strategies need to focus on the behaviours and experiences of teaching and learning and how technology can be crafted to make them better.
Its two branches are teaching and learning (increasingly in the cloud) and managing pace and progression through central database management.
It is the ubiquitous nature of personal technology in these two areas that can be used, adapted, bent even, to create purposeful pedagogy such that the ‘learner and staff day’ is efficient, enjoyable and engaging for staff and learners alike.
Colleges don’t control the development of new technology. It emerges in society and is then repurposed for our world yet remaining a reflection of society generally.
We have to find and test the benefits technology brings to the educational table. What works is assimilated into college policies (IT, teaching and learning, quality improvement), and what doesn’t work is rejected.
The ‘shock of the new’ is dealt with in e-learning strategies. Fortunately, teachers apply the enduring values of what constitutes good teaching and learning and that is what gives e-learning coherence.
Specifically, e-learning delivers collaborative learning, divergent thinking, the capture of ideas, personalised learning and its presentation.
It will be written around the interaction of three things: the VLE, the Learning Plan and the e-Portfolio and, where the boundaries lie between them. The strategy will have a two-year shelf life due to the rate of ‘invention’ and pace of progression.
Evaluating the impact of our strategy to the benefit of the learner and learning experience is critical. Our learners must formally report back favourably on their experiences.
Listing action only, on the assumption that something good will happen but we don’t know what is harking back to the days of ‘kit count’ and process and procedure.
To start a strategy, we need to think about what we want learners to experience in studying with us.
They need the ability to access learning and teaching from outside college at times to suit them, and during periods of agreed absence, as well as being able to submit work remotely.
Staff and learners should be able to bring their own hardware and social media sites to their teaching and learning, so learners can access teaching, and demonstrate learning.
Learners should also have access to a range of specific and wider resources in support of their learning, and an online personal learning space and online community.
Through technology, learners should have a sense of learning tailored to meet their personal needs and preferences in collaboration with course tutors.
For the strategy to be successful, it needs to define the mechanism to ask students if this was the experience they had, and a place to capture examples.