E-learning: does it live up to the hype?

first_img Comments are closed. Martyn Sloman examines whether the use of ‘personalisation’ and ‘blended learning’are harnessing new technologyIt is a difficult time for e-learning advocates. Research suggests the‘inevitable’ increase in the use of electronic learning technology may havestalled. Large industry players have issued profit warnings, some e-learning productvendors have closed their UK operations, and others have merged as the industryhas consolidated. A number of training managers will admit to costly mistakes. One speaker atthe recent ASTD Conference claimed that in the US, it is now common practice tochange a learning management system within two years of initial purchase. AndUK trainers have reported difficulties in gaining cultural acceptance for someweb-based materials produced by US suppliers. Of course, it’s not all bad news. As a result of thoughtful planning, manytraining professionals are developing and implementing strategies that makeeffective use of e-learning and its huge potential. The best way forward is tobuild on their experience, be honest about ourmistakes, and share bestpractice. The alternative to this approach is to create a new vocabulary and pretendwe have moved forward. In HR development, we seem to demonstrate a readiness toembrace and discard attractive labels. Remember the ‘learning organisation’?This term seems to have disappeared without trace as attention has shiftedelsewhere. The ‘learning organisation’ was a lofty idea, but surely what matters isthat a set of practical guidelines which allow specialist trainers or managersin organisations to deliver more effective training interventions has beencreated. The considerable conceptual and practical difficulties presented bye-learning have spawned two new terms: ‘blended learning’, and‘personalisation’. They have emerged to offer different perspectives on theproblems of implementation. Before we go overboard, it is worth asking how much substance lies behindeach concept. To quote a US hamburger advert: “where’s the beef?” Let’s start with blended learning. This has merit of substance: it is morethan a concept in search of an application. Try this definition: “Blendedlearning is a recognition that e-learning will be most effective when it ispart of a strategy that involves classroom and on-the-job learning.” Thissounds reasonable, but the idea that blended learning is a conceptualbreakthrough is ludicrous. The above definition simply restates soundinstructional design principles. However, given the number of conferences, articles and unsolicited e-mailson the subject of blended learning, survival seems inevitable. One of General de Gaulle’s management maxims was ‘exploit the inevitable’,and this seems sound advice when dealing with blended learning. Another of hismaxims, incidentally, was ‘never get between the dog and the lamp post’, whichis also good advice for training managers responsible for e-learning projects. We must always be wary of a concept in search of substance. And this must bethe considered verdict in the ‘personalisation’ of e-learning. The idea here is that learning content is adjusted to the needs of theindividual, reflecting their learning preferences. It is a powerful idea, yetit is not happening in practice in any meaningful way. What is happening, is that learners are dipping in and out of learningmodules, any time, any place. Their names can be placed on the screen and thecontent adjusted to their level – but isn’t this the same as giving them adifferent level book and asking them to write their name on it? Though theoretically possible, shaping learning around personal preferencesis not taking place. Hopefully, when it does, it will be driven byconsiderations of learning theory, not technology. I believe we should trust our instincts as trainers and ask hard questions –we must not allow ourselves to be fooled by labels. By Martyn Sloman, CIPD adviser on learning, training and development Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article E-learning: does it live up to the hype?On 20 Aug 2002 in Personnel Todaylast_img read more