The End of E-Learning?

4 May

My week has been bookended by two thought-provoking blog posts about the future of learning and e-learning in particular, one from Nick Shackleton-Jones and the other by Clive Shepherd. Both made me really think about the future of learning in my organization.

I’ll start with Clive Shepherd’s post “This house believes the only way is e-learning.” In this post, Clive argues that e-learning should be the key focus for learning given the problems currently facing workplace learning. These problems include:

• A scarcity of budget for training
• A scarcity of teacher/trainer time
• A scarcity of time for learner to spend training
• Massive disruption in the employment market as a result of the economic downturn, structural changes caused by technological change and globalisation
• A requirement and a desire to reduce CO2 emissions

Along with these problems, learners have new expectations about learning:

• A demand for learning content and experiences that are highly relevant to current work issues
• A demand for immediate access to learning content and experiences
• A demand for more flexibility in how, when and where these experiences are made available
• Along with a recognition that it is no longer necessary to know everything, but instead to have access on-demand to resources

Clive believes that “traditional training” cannot help us overcome these problems. Instead, he argues that e-learning is “the only way to overcome these obstacles.”

In contrast to Clive Shepherd, Nick Shackleton-Jones doesn’t believe that e-learning is “the only way.” In fact, in “E-Learning is dead. Long live online learing” Nick argues that we are currently witnessing the end of e-learning. Comparing e-learning to the fate of the fax machine, Nick argues the demise of both have similar roots, in that they have been “overtaken by a flurry of smaller, more agile technologies.”

According to Nick, the rise of these “smaller, more agile technologies” (infographics, videos etc … ) has led to a shift away from courses to resources. This in turn has changed how instructional designers approach ADDIE. Rather than the e-learning course, the future focus, in Nick’s opinion “will be on resources and peers.”

For me, Clive and Nick are both right (and wrong) about the future. In my organization, e-learning plays a significant role and will continue to do so in the future because the problems that Clive outlines. However, recently I’ve been doing the type of instructional design work that Nick describes, using “smaller and more agile technologies” to facilitate learning. I can only see this growing more and more in the future.

Saying all this, however, I believe that the future will also include the traditional classroom. Despite the recent development of educational technologies (and theories), in my organization the traditional classroom still holds sway in discussions about training. And while the argument against grows, I don’t think this will change in the near future.

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7 Responses to “The End of E-Learning?”

  1. Kiah Wilson May 12, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    Great Insight, I agree and with both Nick Shackleton-Jones and Clive Sheppard, but at the same time I disagree. As a classroom teacher I can see the benefits of technology and the traditional classroom. Like Sheppard, I think that lack of time for face to face training and lack of dispensable budget make e-learning more appealing. However, there are a number of people whom prefer face to face conversations and more than willing to spend a few extra dollars to ensure that they are able to be successful during their training. On the other hand Nick Shackleton-Jones is correct when he states the tools we use to learn are becoming more agile. As the technologies are being updated and becoming more portable people may begin to stray from e-learning. However, smaller technological devices have assisted today’s classroom teachers in creating more productive and engaging lessons. For instance, smartboards made toting laptops and projectors unneccesary. Teachers use to need a projector and a million cords to show a power point to their students, but now we can use a smartboard and simply download the presentation or email it to ourselves so that we can display when needed.

    E-learning may lose some business, but I do not think that there will be a critical decrease in the number of people enrolling in e-courses.

    • mannis2 May 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. Great point about technology becoming more agile and in turn helping teachers create more productive and engaging lessons.

  2. Andrea Bonds May 14, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Although many people feel that e-learning is the way to go, I think that the traditional classroom will always be a factor in learning. Nothing beats face to face interactions. When deciding whether to use e-learning or the traditional classroom, the facilitator must think about the information being taught and each individual’s learning style to determine the best way to reach his/her learners.

  3. Andrea Bonds May 14, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    Although many people feel that e-learning is the way to go, I think that the traditional classroom will always be a factor in learning. Nothing beats face to face interactions. When deciding whether to use e-learning or the traditional classroom, the facilitator must think about the information being taught and the individuals’ learning styles to determine the best way to reach his/her learners.

    • mannis2 May 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. The power of face-to-face interaction still plays a major role in our decision to provide traditional classroom training.

  4. Michelle Childs May 20, 2012 at 2:54 am #

    Interesting post, great to see both perspectives! I believe that there will always be a place for traditional face to face training, but that eLearning and social media are and will continue to play a big part in learning, particularly in the case of gen Y learners. The most important aspect is considering the needs of the learners, and of course other things such as logistics (location, accessibility, and more). I’ve just posted a blog on this topic, if you are interested in checking it out.
    Look forward to reading more of your posts 🙂

    • mannis2 May 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. I read your blog post. Great point about designing training around the learner and not the trainer. Also really interesting thoughts about creating a blended learning solution.

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