My Love/Hate Relationship with E-Learning - #edtech #elearning

Online Learning
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Yesterday I had an online meeting with the people at Atomic Learning to discuss some new ideas for blended learning. In the meeting were different educators from all over the world, we went back and forth about all the things we liked and disliked about online and offline learning, Atomic Learning was adamant about wanting the best possible learning experience for educators.

I have been chewing on these ideas all day, so here is my list:

What I hate about online learning (e-learning):

  1. Fluff and Filler: I remember an online class I took a few years ago that was painful to get through. It was filled with so much fluff and filler it was hard to get to the meat of the course. I had to read and participate in all sorts of weird off-topic subjects that I swear the instructor was on drugs, there was no connection between the different pieces.
  2. Unclear Instructions: Hey, I am a pretty tech-savey sort of guy, but I swear there are some courses that are so vague about the sequence of things that they should come with a number to the recommended 1-800 psychic hotline just so you can figure out what to do next. Once I thought I was cruising through an online lesson, or at least I thought I was, but then I noticed that none of my work was being graded. After I hunted down my instructor, it was finally explained to me that I had missed a step and that I would have to go back and complete it before I could be allowed to move on. I checked all the materials I had been given and there was never a mention of the step. Holy crud! A little quality-control would be nice.
  3. Boring or Sucky Lessons: With most people having a fast connection to the Internet, why do some online lesson providers still do dial-up type lessons? Come on! Let's see some videos, animations, simulations, live video chats, etc. Bandwidth is cheap -- use it.

What I love about online learning (e-learning):

  1. Blended Learning: Nobody likes to do everything online (except maybe 15 year-olds), so I love it when lessons included some offline work. Things like; reading a book, video taping a concept, interviewing a mentor, etc.
  2. Lesson Guides and Checklists: I love simple, easy to follow lesson guides that have a checklist. Most online learners have a full-time job, so we need make it easy for them to know where they are and where they need to go. I really love it when these checklists have how much time it might take to complete the task so learners can plan accordingly. For example: Task 14: Complete your rough draft of Twitter in Education paper (estimated time to complete: 1 hour).
  3. Fresh Content: I understand that textbooks are out of date by the time they get to students but online learning can be as fresh as the apple sitting on my desk. Online instructors should review their content on a frequent basis to make sure that their students are getting the most up-to-date ideas and concepts. It takes nothing to add and subtract a couple of links from an online lesson.

I'll keep you posted on the online learning projects that I am working on, I promise to follow my own love/hate relationship advise.

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#edtech - Simulations vs. the real world

The other day I got an email from a teacher who was upset about all the talk regarding classrooms of the future and that simulations are replacing real world experiences. A case for simulations.

I am all for simulations over real world experience under these circumstances:

Student safety: take for example a chemistry experiment, allowing student to play with a virtual chemistry set before letting them loose on real chemicals makes sense to me. I'm not saying that students should never touch real chemicals, but at first they can learn in a much safer environment inside of their virtual lab.

Animal safety: I once saw a great demo on a Gizmo simulation involving genetics and mice. In the simulations you could have as many mice as you wanted reproduce -- nice. Or how about the virtual frog dissection. Frogs all over the world cheered when this simulation was announced.

Long distance field trips: don't get me wrong, I love field trips as much as the next teacher, but my class does not have the time or the money to go on long distance field trips. Which why I love virtual field trips to places like the rain forest, space station, Gettysburg, etc. Hey, if you can't them there in the real world them a simulation is a close second.

I never look at school technology as replacing something great, instead I want it to make it better.

What do you think?