e-What? Sorry, I’m confused!
The main thing that I noticed from the readings was the confusion and lack of clarity regaring what e-learning really is.Â The MacGreal & Anderson (2007) article mentioned that the majority of Canadian university courses have some Internet or email component.Â Does this really constitute e-learning?Â In my opinion, email has become a substitute for the telephone.Â Would we classify communication via telephone to professors or classmates a technological component of a course?Â In my opinion, that’s a “no”.Â But this just points out the lack of clarity regarding what e-learning really consitutes.Â There are so many different forms of technology (Internet, CD-rom, iPads, gaming, email) and various teaching methods that incorporate technology (blended learning, online learning, using SmartBoards in the classroom) that is has become very difficult to come up with one comprehensive definition.
Where do I fit in?
I believe, based on the categories presented in the Guri-Rosenblit & Gros (2011) article, that we, as MEd online students at the UofC fall into the communication-oriented approach to e-learning.Â This approach is characterized by online collaboration and guidance by a facilitator using a LMS, in our case Blackboard.Â I am in the old stream of the MEd online with no in-class component.Â However, I believe those that are in the new cohort stream are part of a blended approach since there is an in-class component as well as the online portion.
Excuse me, teacher…?
Peter Drucker is quoted in the Guri-Rosenblit & Gros (2011) article as saying that with the shift to e-learning universities won’t last.Â There is a view that e-learning will lead to students becoming more self-directed and autonomous in their studies, and will eventually design their own study plans and programs.Â I don’t believe this this is possible.Â Teachers still do, and should always play a crucial role in education.Â Students need teachers as guides, to design curriculum andÂ implement technology in meaningful ways.Â This is especially true for students at the primary and secondary school levels, and even undergraduate in my opinion.Â E-learning will facilitate the shift from a teacher-dominated to learner-centered approach; however, teachers are still an integralÂ part of the process.Â If students design their own curriculum, study plan, topics of interest, how do we then assess grades and degrees?Â With teachers playing such an integral role in e-learning, it is important for them to be ahead of the game when it comes to technology and meaningful ways of integrating it into the classroom.Â We need to make sure that our students are educated in technology and how to use it for learning purposes, but more importantly, teachers must also be educated on these same topics before they enter the classroom.Â As guides to our students, they must be sure that they fully understand the capabilities of technology and are able to demonstrate to students how they can use different technologies in the classroom, at work, and in their daily lives.
Because of the lack of clarity in defining e-learning, there are also many gaps in the research.Â Most of the available research studies the impact of certain types of technology on a particular group of students.Â Most of the research is contradictory.Â And it is difficult to research new technologies and methods as longitudinal studies are not possible.Â Often, different technologies are replaced or discarded before research can be presented, or even conducted.
Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems
It was once thought that e-learning would be an inexpensive alternative to traditional classroom environments.Â This has proven to be untrue.Â Online learning programs are more expensive because of the need for tech as well as teacher support, small class sizes, software and licencing, etc.Â This brings up the question: Should we offer e-learning options that provide the same curriculum and learning outcomes that are more expensive than traditional classroom approaches with the same outcomes?Â I say, why not?Â If it weren’t for an online program, I would not have been able to participate in graduate studies.Â With working full-time, a family, and other commitments, a traditional classroom approach was not an option for me.Â With the online MEd program, I am given the flexibility to complete my course requirements on my own time, and from a completely different geographical location.Â The higher price tag was worth it for me.Â Perhaps someday education will be able to come up with a way to combine online learning with lower cost.