Frequently Asked Questions about eLearning

Pedagogy Questions

Won't e-learning reduce the quality of learning with students having less contact with a teacher?
This question implies that a teacher must be present for learning to occur. The reality is that teachers are guides or facilitators for learners. Teachers structure the learning experience so that engagement with learning material and activities can drive learning. With elearning learners can have access to a richer learning experience not just an alternative to a classroom. It is important too to take the opportunity to make more effective use of face to face time. E-learning provides a means of distributing material to learners that they can then use for reading, practice, researching and so on. Face to face time can then be used more intensively dealing with, for example, the implications of the online material, problems understanding it, issues of interpretation and so on. Elearning also offers the opportunity for easy collaboration between learners outside of class time. This adds further to the range of learning modes that can be used by a teacher. Finally, e-learning provides a greater opportunity for learners to work at the material at their own pace and choosing to engage in deeper learning if desired as it is relatively easy to provide extra material online for those that need it.
In short, the quality of the learning should be improved rather than reduced by using elearning.

If I put my learning materials online won't others see it and make use of it?
Yes, but why are you concerned? Harvard University has all its lecture material online and there is a lot of other free information available that students and other teachers can make use of. (Example Click Here) Adding your bit contributes to the world-wide richness for learners. A more pertinent question is what do my students get from my teaching when they can already find more than enough to cover the course online? The issue is then about how you provide structure and facilitation to their learning and valid and fair assessment. You should also consider the opportunity to use other teacher's material that they have made available which can save you time or provide an alternative view for learners.

What should be the proportion of face to face teaching to elearning?
This is an educational decision to be made by teachers for a particular student cohort. However it can be suggested that the means of making this decision relates to the effectiveness of each method of learning for the particular material that is concerned. For example, material could be read, reviewed and analysed by students in preparation for a face to face discussion session. This online preparation can make the face to face session more effective and may allow a wider range of material to be covered.

Skill Questions

I am not confident in my computer skills - is there anything I can do?
Absolutely! Start small and gradually improve is the way to go. Consider what skills you need to get started and choose something easy like email or perhaps buddy up with a colleague who has a little more experience. Find out if there are mentoring opportunities at the college, watch for professional development programs and consider using elearning yourself to assist as there are many online resources for developing computer skills.

With all the choices how can I know what e-learning to use for my students?
There is a tendency to be overwhelmed with the choices because of continuing new developments and alternative ways of doing things. For starters consider the systems that are well supported by your college and IT people. Leave the real cutting edge stuff to the enthusiasts - we don't have to use a method because it is 'technically sweet' or 'cool'. Better to use technologies too that you are comfortable with the related pedagogy - that is you know it works for your students. Also share with your teaching colleagues as mutual support assists with developing new skills and technologies.

What if the technology fails in the middle of a lesson?

This has been a problem facing educators since the invention of education! What happens now when the photocopier jams just before class? When the overhead projector blows a bulb when you turn it on, when the cassette tape jams? In all these situations and those using computers and other modern technology, teachers have to be prepared and adjust the learning accordingly.

Teacher Value Questions

If we do more e-learning won't there be less classroom teaching & less teaching jobs?

This is an ongoing concern for teachers. Initial enthusiasm from computer geeks around the year 2000 had us all being 'taught completely by computer' within 5 years. This has not happened and even the most 'geeky' have had to admit that their enthusiasm was misplaced. Research and experience have shown that a mix of learning modes, including elearning and face to face learning, are highly valued by learners and highly effective. So really teachers may have less classroom time but will be involved in a richer learning environment, not just adding elearning but also workplace learning, workplace assessment and recognition of prior learning to their responsibilities. This may be more challenging because of the variety of tasks but good teachers are always prepared to try new methods because the really important thing is the outcome for the learners.

If I put learning materials online the students will the students still come to class?

Yes, but only if they get value out of the class! Students in face to face-only-classes sometimes do not attend. If teaching is poor many "vote with their feet" and do not attend so the problem is the same even without elearning. If the classroom material and the elearning material are complementary then students will be engaged with both. In fact with online materials, students that have unexpected work commitments, illness or other problems may be able to keep up with the class even if attendance is patchy. Experience and research has shown however that most students will still come to class as their learning is richer by experiencing both online and face to face material.

Content Questions

How can e-learning help with really practical learning like trades?

There are certainly a lot of manual skills to develop in the trades areas and there is no substitute for hands-on practice of these skills. However the use of technology to enhance this learning is already happening. The use of a video to show situations that are complex, unusual or simply to set a context for learning is common. E-learning enhances these opportunities and can also enrich the more 'boring' theory side of a trade.

Doesn't e-learning discourage the development of other valuable skills?

This question is often asked in response to the problem of lack of engagement in face to face lessons with students preferring to engage with electronic media and to move rapidly from activity to activity. Certainly there is a concern that students are developing short attention spans because of the immediacy of the electronic environment: "If I want to know something I just Google it".
The electronic environment is still just a faster version of the eternal problem of information versus knowledge. Students do need to learn research skills, strong critical analysis skills and ways of constructing robust knowledge within the framework of a barrage of information. The fact that students can rapidly gather a large number of information sources from the internet about some topic immediately provides the basis for a discussion about which one is true or can be trusted and how do we make that decision? E-learning blended effectively with face to face learning will assist students to develop these and other skills so that they can function effectively in their lives and workplace.

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