Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why E-Learning 1.0 Missed the Mark

I recall distinctly in 1999 when John Chambers, (Cisco’s CEO), proclaimed that e-Learning was the Internet’s Killer App and next big thing. I was working at Cisco at the time as part of their E-learning Architecture Team. I believed that message and was utterly convinced that nothing would stop us from proving it. I however, was wrong. Something did stop us and that something was the industry that sprang up and came to be known as E-Learning 1.0. Much of that industry is still in place and is slowly beginning to realize that the vision one adopts does make quite a difference in the resulting outcome.

The vision that is finally being accepted - the vision we need embrace is simple; E-Learning should be about a convergence of technology, philosophy and practice designed to liberate learners in the same manner that the Internet itself liberates users within a community of unlimited global discovery. E-learning is about trusting that people can in fact think for themselves and design their own learning strategies and learning paths.

Learning is about Content - The current revolution in open courseware is making content accessible and inexpensive

Most importantly though, the true revelation behind a new vision for E-Learning is this; learning does not end when school ends (either at the end of the day or the when you receive a degree) – in fact in many ways that’s when the real-world learning begins. Moreover, unlike at school, knowledge learned outside of formal pedagogy is relevant to your daily tasks, thus knowledge gained within your daily work paradigm can and should be integrated into the larger learning experience. Learning is the proactive mechanism by which all individuals and organizations add value to or receive value from knowledge – thus it should be at the heart of every home desktop and every enterprise IT solution, not as an afterthought but as a core driving process.

This represents a massive paradigm shift – one that will change the nature not only of the E-Learning industry but also for IT itself and the organizational cultures of any enterprise that adopts this paradigm. That is the vision that was missed – but we are fortunate, we can still achieve that vision. To complete  the paradigm shift though, we need to understand why E-learning 1.0 didn't work.

There is no doubt that the E-learning industry as it defined itself for most of the past decade came nowhere close to meeting its original expectations. It is hard to determine exactly how much of market E-learning actually does possess because the industry never properly defined its parameters and now of course what constitutes E-learning is finally evolving. Quite a lot of capability that should have been viewed as elements of e-learning were not (and may still not be) considered as such. To truly move the industry from 1.0 to 2.0 status we need to reassess our core assumptions about it.
  • E-learning must be defined by practice and use rather than by vendor categories. In other words E-learning is not a product or even product-oriented, it is a service. In fact we could easily refer to as Learning as Service to capture what we're working towards.
  • E-learning must be primarily concerned with content. Delivery of content is and always was a secondary consideration - the platform is and must be the Internet. In fact, the entire notion of E-learning is to a large extent predicated upon the protocols and infrastructure inherent within the Internet (de facto delivery). Building secondary and tertiary delivery environments with divergent and idiosyncratic standards took away the primary advantage originally associated with the promise and potential of E-learning - universally accessible, inexpensive content.
  • E-learning must reassess the entire nature of pedagogy, only then will the solutions fully match the technologies and only then will the appropriate business models emerge. E-learning 1.0 never developed its own philosophy, opting rather to graft traditional approaches to instructional design and assessment based outcomes onto the emerging technologies. This led to a fundamental discontinuity between the medium and message. Web-based content and the emergence of social publishing have been rapidly pushing towards an open content model, one built on democratized production and review rather than top-down or bureaucratic micro-management. The assumption that experts know better than we do how we will learn best is anachronistic, and worst of all, expensive.
Traditional educational providers had demonstrated an unreasoning fear of the potential related to E-learning for nearly a decade; this fear was derived from an unwarranted assumption that if the true potential were adopted that their role would be marginalized. Nothing could be further from the truth – traditional education is under fire from every direction, budgets being cut, options being limited and the one tool that could help change that and actually expand opportunities has yet to be fully exploited. E-learning can and should lead the way to that new reality both for learners and educational providers.

Copyright 2012  - Technovation Talks, Semantech Inc.


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