Picture that says 7 deadly sins in red text on a black background, opens new window to 2008 event siteThe 'seven deadly sins' of e-learning

Twitter, Moodle and Ning get you excited about learning, and blogs, wikis and RFIDs are common terms in your vocabulary. Visiting a virtual world is the norm, and you can’t understand why your colleagues don’t jump on board the e-learning super highway immediately.

Well, according to Dr Karen Becker, a lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology with a PhD in ‘Unlearning in the Workplace’, many people need to unlearn past behaviours before they can accept that e-learning is a powerful teaching and learning tool.

Unlearning involves breaking down what you think you know, opening up your mind to new concepts and then relearning over time. And it’s something many people find difficult to do.

One of the biggest issues with introducing e-learning in education and training is the manner in which it is debated, applied and evaluated within the learning environment. Here, Dr Becker tells us how to avoid committing the ‘seven deadly sins of e-learning’.

1. Old wine, new bottles

Repackaging. It’s a no-fuss way to put your learning content online and the easiest way to alienate an e-learner. Having your learners read through their entire course content uploaded on your website does not embrace the essence of e-learning or stimulate creativity. Instead of repackaging think about using e-learning in an engaging, imaginative and flexible way where learners can benefit from interactive tools such as video, blogging and online discussion.

2. All the bells and whistles

This sin is commonly known as ‘because we can’ syndrome. Just because you have a certain technology at your disposal does not necessarily mean you should use it, no matter how much money you spent acquiring it! A firm set of learning outcomes should underpin the introduction of any e-learning, and technology should be applied to directly meet these outcomes.

3. Unhealthy (and unnecessary) competition

It’s easy to get involved in the ‘face-to-face’ versus ‘online’ debate, particularly with colleagues who identify with a traditional classroom teaching methodology. However, with the recognition that a blended approach to learning is often the most successful, this debate has become redundant and is unlikely to benefit your cause. Realise that there is a place for both traditional and technology based teaching and training and try to help your colleagues embrace e-learning by easing them into a blended approach.

4. Jack of all trades

There are many roles involved in delivering e-learning. You need researchers, facilitators, designers, technologists, assessors and advisors. As a teacher/trainer it’s common to want to be the ‘be all and end all’ for your learners. But just like in the face-to-face learning environment, you need to delegate activities outside your expertise and concentrate on what you are best at – being a great e-learning teacher/trainer.

5. Misuse of expert power

It’s easy to get excited about e-learning, particularly if you’re a new convert to web 2.0 technologies. But not everyone is as comfortable with contemporary e-learning terms and online tools as you are. In fact, speaking the lingo and bombarding others with too many new tools at once can turn people off e-learning. Try using your expert power to engage people in an easy, non-confrontational manner, allowing them to embrace e-learning within their comfort zone.

6. Because I said so

Just because you know that e-learning is the answer to a teacher/trainer’s prayers, doesn’t mean your learners and colleagues do. In order to have e-learning accepted in your organisation you need to sell its benefits. You can do this by using solid research or e-learning case studies to show how e-learning could make a significant difference to your learners and organisation.

7. This won’t hurt a bit

As with any new system, there will be teething issues when your organisation experiments with e-learning. It’s important to be upfront and to discuss with staff and learners the disruptions they might experience. A good way to minimise disruption is to conduct trials of technology before a tool is rolled out on a larger scale.

Dr Becker gave a keynote presentation at the Big VET Es 08 conference, the Queensland end of year event for the national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.

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Published on 22/07/2009

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