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Why Does Elearning have Such a Bad Name?

Cat on computer
Image by dougwoods via Flickr

E-learning is unpopular with learners, and not always popular with teachers, there can be little doubt about that but why should that be the case?

I have made quite a bold statement there and some of you may question it, that's great and please add your view or experience in the comments. Before you do though, I'd like you to consider this question;

If you had the choice between studying a subject being taught by a teacher in the classroom or online via the internet, which would you choose?

Almost without fail, most people would opt for the first option. Why would that be? Is it because that's what they're used to? Is it because they feel that offers a better educational experience? Is online education  perceived as a second best option?

My own experiences as a learner of e-learning has not been very good; I found the e-learning course to be very didactic and geared more towards instruction or training rather than education or study. I know that I am not alone in this experience as I have come across many others who have had similar expeiences.

Most tools for elearning appear to have been developed first for the commercial sector and were employed by companies or global organisations to train their workforce. The requirement in such instances has been more for training, instruction or presentation. These tools have since been adopted to provide elearning experiences within the education sector but here the demand would be for education and learning. It seems that the tools have not been completely adaptable for these different approaches. The result is that students find online courses restrictive and teachers find themselves limited by the technology.

Of course, this shouldn't be the case, technology should be enhancing and enabling rather than limiting. If you were to attend a learning technologies conference, you would hear many presenters talk about new and exciting possibilities in using elearning, if you attend a learning technologies market place, however, you are likely to find that what is on offer is the same old tools. Nowhere has this been more evident to me than at the Learning technologies exhibition held in London, where there seems to be a very marked dichotomy between what is presented in conference and what is on sale in the exhibition space.

So, where are we going wrong, if we are? Is it that we are trying to take pre-packaged tools rather than design the learning experiences from scratch? Is it that we still design elearning from the point of view of a teacher or trainer rather than the learner? Is it, quite simply, that elearning is only an option when traditional teaching methods are not available? Or maybe the problem is that there's a darn cat sat on my computer? (see pic)

Quite honestly, I'd very much welcome any views or comments on this matter, either here in the comments or via twitter.


Related articles

No sooner had I posted this article than I came across this post which in part compares traditional learning in the HE sector with online learning. It presents a quite different point of view and is well worth reading.


      This is an interesting question - i personally quite like e-learning and have enjoyed this form of learning much more than i did classroom tutor led learning at university - I do wonder if this is to do with the type of learner i am or the 30 years difference in time between when the learning has taken place. I like 'lurking' in discussions and not feeling pressured to speak out until i am ready, i like being able to work from a comfortable chair, i like not wasting time travelling to lectures and waiting for them to start. However i do understand that other people are not comfortable with this method of learning - my colleague positively hated learning in this way and wanted to be able to talk face to face with the lecturer.