A new article by Jonathan Wainright, of FCG Consultancy, was published yesterday highlighting certain methods to ensure that modern e-learning is operated and works as effectively as possible. For many years writers have been striving to understand how online courses can achieve what they set out to do - to equal that of traditional courses in a virtual context. By comparing the writings of Leonard Presby (from William Paterson University) in 2001, and Wainright's article, how can education online be made more effective today?
First, it is important to note that Wainright's influence stems from questions posed by The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. They found that of the UK organisations surveyed, they believe less than 25% of employees take up any eLearning opportunities offered to them. Whilst 95% of respondents believe that eLearning is most effective when combined with other forms of learning.
In 2001 Presby published his Seven Tips for Highly Effective Online Courses. His first point is echoed by Wainright today and is impressive for its simplicity: Choice, ‘Students should be given choice as to how they learn, as long as they learn’. Wainright goes into slightly more depth. He states, ‘it should be learner-centric, giving individuals control over their learning experience. eLearning should be flexible so that learners can choose when and how to engage with it. It should also accommodate individual learning needs and you must make sure it has visual impact. '
Presby's second point seems less important today but its subtext is still relevant. He highlights the need to keep compulsory reading up to date, and recognizes that text books can often be out of date. With the progressive importance of the internet and digital news media, it would seem today that its synchronization with online education would be more natural. Yet, of course only fully realized if Presby's last related idea is adhered to - that students should be tested on this most up to date information.
A specific modern idea that Wainright poses is the notion that the organization of the modern day online course should be as continually improved as the achievements of the students. This ‘evolutionary stance’ is important for the future of the course, and stimulates an equal - and close - interrelationship between student and institution.
Lastly, as if building upon Presby's tip that students should be offered the opportunity for virtual company tours (to satisfy their thirst to see how things work up close), Wainright recommends the inclusion of a learning portal. This can add an instant link to resources and discussion groups, as well as diagnostic elements for students (i. e. a learning pathway to track development), and a means for chatting, blogging, social networking and podcasting.
Sarah Maple writes about adult education and home learning