This Charming Man…?

March 17, 2010

The return of face-2-face learning and teaching, no really.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ihaventgotastitchtowear @ 12:43 pm

There is an argument (being put around by me) that the rise of e-learning was a response to a growing number of distance education students and to massification of education. And that landscape has responded with two actions. The first is the almost ubiquitous use of the Learning Management System/Virtual Learning Environment; the second the investment in reusable learning objects (RLOs). The drawbacks for these have been that the LMS/VLE is pretty teacher centred (even Moodle) and the the problem with RLOs is that they are just not widely used. That isn’t to say that there aren’t good RLOs out there, there are (see http://www.periodicvideos.com/ for a great example). But they are from the age of high production values, which offer very little on return over a three year period.

There has been some impact by social networking/Web2.0 approaches to education, but these are in small pockets. We’ve put into production a really nice open source educational Web2.0 platform (Elgg), but take up is limited. Why is this? Well I think fundamentally staff aren’t comfortable with the tools and it takes a lot of effort to make the paradigm shift from content delivery to content creation and collaboration.

These online tools have had to work within relatively low bandwidth. In education we have to still be mindful that not every student has ADSL. Even those with ADSL2 won’t have the promise theoretical maximum (my home account is still sub 5mps). But the revolution is coming. I’m talking, of course, about the National Broadband Network, the NBN. The Australian Governments attempt to put truly high speed connection out there, for all.  I’, not going to discuss whether and when this is going to happen, and just assume it will.

One day the NBN will be here. And it will change Australians’ live. Really. Honestly. How? Because it won’t be about getting stuff quicker. Of course it will, but the impact won’t be how I can get youtube videos faster, it’ll be about how I connect to goods and services, government, education, health. Personally, tele-health is the thing that will creep up on, and will dramatically change how we interact with health provision. How I interact with government and democracy will change radically. No more MP surgeries in their office, I’ll use my consumer telepresence attached to my HD TV to get my point across (politicians beware).

But education? Educators love face-2-face. One of the reasons  teachers and academics dislike e-learning so much is because the umbilical cord of presence is stretched to the point of anonymity. The NBN has the power to bring it back.

Imagine, I’m a full-time student, it’s Wednesday, and I’ve just finished my part-time job. My job is in the city, but the lecture I’m supposed to be at is 15km to the north of the city. What there is close by is the local library, which is plugged into the NBN and has a number of consumer telepresence points, which I can just walk into. And I do. And I dial into the lecture, real-time, HD, recordable, storable, sharable, and importantly interactive.

But the real power comes with student collaboration. What about study groups that transcend the campus, the institution, or even the nation state. The chatroulette of education? I study chemistry, and I want to use my presence to study with other chemistry students around the world. Why? Because we may have other shared interests, such as F1, World of Warcraft, or Abba. Effective study groups work because there are things other than the topic in hand in common. And we are fundamentally social creatures, who like to eye-ball each other.

For what it’s worth the future is face-2-face. Watch and see.

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1 Comment »

  1. In response to your points, I often look at these things in terms of teacher agency and how e-learning is being used to re-define the role of the teacher at an institutional (and higher) level. I believe that those teachers who say they hate/dislike e-learning often don’t know what they hate/dislike, or in-fact don’t like characteristics/features of e-learning which end up being things centered around institutional power/control…but e-learning seems to be the available (or necessary) discourse.

    Comment by Steve Linquist — March 17, 2010 @ 1:33 pm | Reply


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