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June 24, 2004

eLearning and Social Skills

Compared to conventional classroom-based learning, does eLearning have a negative impact of the development of social skills? Is the answer diffferent depending on whether we are talking about children or adults?

While there are many scenarios in which eLarning tools and approaches can complement convention learning methods, for the pruposes of this discussion, I am thinking about the scenarios in which the eLeaner is always logging in at a remote location, geographically seperated from his/her fellow students. What effect does this lack of physcial social interaction has on the learning process. Can the student develop the same social skills as a student learning in the same physical classroom with other students?

There eLearning equivalents to conventional forms of social interaction: email, instant messaging, telephone, video-conferencing, etc. Are these tools enough? Do they provide the same opportunities for the development of social skills? Or is there no replacement for real live social interaction between people?

I think answers will have a huge impact on the future direction of eLearning. Social skills development is very imortant in a learning environment, especially for children. Will pure eLearning environments become widespread, or will they be used more in combination with classroom-style methods?

posted at 10:35 AM EDT | Discussion (37)

June 16, 2004

eLearning and Instant Messaging

Does instant messaging (IM) have a place in an effective eLearning system? I think it can, although many may disagree, especially when it comes to K-12 education. With many parents, instant messaging has come to be known as one of the "bad things" that their children do on the Internet, one of those things that it not education. But I think that instant messaging can become an important and necessary part of any eLearning solution. The reason is that instant messaging is a form of synchronous communication, and this type opf communication is a necessary part of the learning process. It is especially more important when the learner is accessing the eLearning envirnoment from a remote location, in which there is no local synchronous communication with other students and/or instructors. Teamwork and collaboration are very important skills for students at any level to have. While team work and collaboration can be done via email, this is not enough. Email is asynchronous, and has obvious limitations as a communications medium. True eLearning requires a rich communications element, and I think that IM should be part of that.

posted at 10:27 PM EDT | Discussion (2)

June 15, 2004

eLearning Software - Desktop or Web?

Which is better for learning? eLearning software in the form of a desktop application, or a web-based form of elaerning software?

Now, before you say that the obvious answer is web, consider that desktop software does not have to be an isolated, disconnected piece of software. Obvious examples, though not eLearning applications, are instant messaging and file sharing software -- both are desktop applications but their functionality is based on their ability to connect to others. So if both desktop and web eLearning software have the ability to connect learners and instructors (and others), which is more effective for eLearning?

Of course the features of any eLearning software application are important. But assuming that a desktop application had similar features to a web application, which is better? Or would it not matter at all? Or is such an assumption imposssible, due to the user interface limitations that are inherent in any web interface?

I don't have the answers, but I curious about what others think? Let me know what you think.

posted at 3:43 PM EDT | Discussion (169)

April 27, 2004

School Blogging Blogversation

Via Ten Reasons Why, I came across this summary of a recent conversation about using blogging for eLearning in schools:

A number of threads about the value of blogging in the classroom have been floating here and there lately, many of them here. For context, some of the more relevant posts are:

Reading and Blogging here
Are Students Really Blogging? here, with response here from Sebastian Fiedler.
Who Cares About Blogging for its Own Sake? Jeremy Heibert
Surfing through the Institution Aaron Campbell
Edu-blogs are dead! Long live the Edu's! Pat Delaney
What's the Blogging Point?: Can personal webpublishing have a qualitative impact on learning James Farmer
Making Waves Ken Smith
What's the blogging point? Oliver Wrede
"Blooming" Webloggers Anne Davis

Yesterday Stephen Downes had this to say about this sporadic, disjointed conversation:

You'll find the bouncing back and forth between posts from four separate bloggers (Smith, Richardson, Fiedler, Farmer) frustrating, but the question is vital: where is the locus of the blogging phenomenon? In the students? Or in their instructors?

Frustrating is right, for a couple of reasons. First, because the conversation is so disjointed and sporadic. To me, this is one of those times where a Weblog just doesn't cut it unless the participants are committed to either sharing the same space or tracking back the relevant posts so that links are created.

The last point is certainly true about blog conversations in general, as I wrote last year in The Tangled Web of Blog Conversation. This point, in and of its self, presents one of the challenges of blogging as a learning tool. Blogs are not just a form of writing, they are a form of communication. Comments, trackbacks, and links are one part of this communication are the more common ways that such communication takes place. But it is disjointed, and it is tangled. Blog communications can be very hard to monitor. I believe that communication is central to elearning, and learning in general. As such, these problems with blog communications also present problems for learning. We really a conversation aggregator that can bring together conversations so that real communications and learning can take place without the frustration of tracking the replies around the web.

posted at 10:41 AM EDT | Discussion (40)

April 24, 2004

Distributed eLearning Repositories

From Auricle:

Learning objects don't need to be aggregated in one place, or be 'locked in' to one virtual learning environment.

How true! While there are certainly good reason to aggregate learning objects in many instances, the true power lies in distributed eLearning object repositories. The power of the web and standard XML formats make distributing and sharing learning objects possible.

Like many other applications, this distributed nature has the potential to turn the system on its end. When you has a wide base of puclicly available learning objects, in a standard format, the opportunity is presents for value-added search, aggregation, and recommendation services. When learning objects are scattered all over the web, I need a service to help me find, filter, and subcribe/enroll. Learnster anyone?

posted at 8:25 AM EDT | Discussion (43)

April 5, 2004

The Problem with Learning Management Systems

The term "Learning Management Systems" (LMS) is used to refer to software that aids in the learning process. LMS software usually includes course delivery software and related tools. The problem that I have is not with the concpet of LMSes themselves; rather it is with the term. Learning Management Systems. Conceptually, I don't think that learning, elearning or otherwise, is something that can (or should) be managed. The term 'management' has a control connotation, and as such, I don't think it fits with the objectives of learning at all. Tools should facilitate and enhance learning, not attempt to manage or control it. Some may accuse me of arguing semantics...and they would be correct. Semantics is important sometimes.

posted at 4:34 PM EDT | Discussion (39)

April 3, 2004

Emergent Learning

The potential for emergent, self-organized learning will have a significant impact on how we learn in the future. How significant an impact remains to be seen. With all of the eLearning tools and services available to us, is it possible that students could an equivalent "education" to conventional university study -- without actually enrolling with such an institution? If the learning information is available, and there are means and desire to collaborate with other learners, self- and peer-assessments, it seems like this should be possible. Dare I say it, the learning experience might be even better, as it would flexible enables groups of learnings to choose their paths through the material, adding lessons and even courses on the way. I wonder...

posted at 8:49 PM EDT | Discussion (49)

April 2, 2004

SCORM Open Source eLearning

Scott Leslie describes an open source eLearning application that will include a SCORM import tool:

More proof of open source's burgeoning effects in the field of course management systems - this Belgian company has taken the open source CMS Claroline and run with it in a value-added hosting/development/services/support model. News to me was that they have made strides developing a SCORM import tool, for which the lack of widespread support amongst many of the open source CMS has at times been used for an excuse not to adopt or investigate them.

The company is called Dokeos.

Something like this could really make open-source eLearning application into the mainstream.

posted at 3:08 PM EDT | Discussion (652)

March 31, 2004

Turning Blogs into Books

Via Peter Ford via Edublog News, BlogBinders is a service that turns blogs into books. Ford discusses the potential for edublogs:

This could have great implications for education. Imagine a poetry weblog or a student's personal weblog being able to be printed on demand. Having a hard copy of all that cyber work would really reinforce the student's feeling of authorship and provide a great link between the online and printed word.

The service automatically builds the book content, just by submitting the address for your blog. Presumably they spider your site to grab the content. It is not yet available for the most popular blogging apps such as Blogger and Movable Type, but support for those is coming soon.

The book pricing page seems very similar to CafePress, which also offers book printing services (without the automated blog conversion system). I wonder if they are related, or whether BB just uses the same supplier.

Make print publishing this easy could have very interesting impacts on ellearning and many other areas. Very interesting.

posted at 11:12 AM EDT | Discussion (36)

March 30, 2004

Mobile eLearning for Business

Via elearnspace, "Learning Goes Mobile" describes a scenario that we may not describe as "eLearning", but it really is. The article describes the use of mobile phones and PDA to access information about relevant business information -- doing so through active searching as well as through automatic notifications. This "profiled notification" -- the notification of information based in a particular profile -- is not something new. But it is growing now, and it makes sense to talk about the applications for e-learning. I current receive Google News alerts for certain topics that interest me - surely that is a form of "learning" the latest information on those topics.

Yesterday, Google launched another profiled notification service as part of its Google Personalized search tool on Google Labs. The beta service lets you create a profile that is used to provide search result that are relevant to that profile. The email notification aspect of the service means that it plays into the mobile elearning approach described in this article.

In the near future, look for more intellgent recommender systems like those of Amazon.com to emerge, suggesting pieces of information that you may want to learn: "People who haved learned about _______ have also learned about ______ and ______". Such systems will mature to the point that they are everywhere, in my opinion.

posted at 3:34 PM EDT | Discussion (181)