Thursday, 9 February 2012

“E-Learning? There’s an app for that!”

I got round to reading an excellent article I've had favourited on Twitter for some time about trends for the future of eLearning and there was a knee jerk reaction I had to something I frequently hear. The article is good; I recommend you read it if you haven't already, but it's definitely open to discussion.

E-Learning?  There’s an app for that!” Actually, no. It's just not possible and the reason is right there in the article: "an app is generally created to do one specific thing…..and they do it well! "

However, that isn't my specific objection, which is that eLearning - whether we like it or not - is not one thing, nor is it something that there is a quick fix for. We can use apps in eLearning, absolutely no question, but if we're ever in the position where we equate eLearning with using apps we start missing out on a huge range of opportunities. I mean sure, check the weather with an app and you have it there whenever you want, specific to your location, and with the most up-to-date information. If you do your eLearning through apps, you can... well, what can you do? You can use an app to do (or learn) trigonometry, or social history. But what if you're so busy using an app that you forget to look around at all the other media through which eLearning may be delivered?

My plea is simple: Do not promote use of the phrase "eLearning? There's an app for that!" because there are so many aspects to eLearning that apps cannot meet, or if they can, something else can do it better. It's so easy to forget that while the phrase literally means "an app can meet this need at least as well as the other options available", the success of apps and the severity with which Apple governed the marketplace for apps means that they are now seen as the best way of doing things by many people (even those who use Android or other systems).

The rest of the article (and I can't emphasise enough how happy I am every time I see somebody say these things, because I do feel so strongly about them) talks about how the future of eLearning is in responding to the learners needs and giving learners the freedom to meet educators on an equal plane as facilitators to their exploration rather than dictators to their every action. This is what education as a whole needs to be, whether society implodes or electricity no longer works or any other rewrite of our world that eliminates the possibility of "eLearning" existing as it is generally defined.

Sadly, what defines education today isn't the carrot of interest and enthusiasm that we wave at students to get them through the doors, but the measuring stick which is applied on the way out of exactly how well they answered the questions supplied in the exam, and how they regurgitated facts on that one day, regardless of whether they have been forgotten since.

One day this will change and instead of an A, B, C system, the employers of the future will be able to rely on some other measure. Perhaps a review of the student by the educating body - including perhaps a brief part which contains formal exam reports (perhaps a 1/5th?) to demonstrate impartial assessment but the rest is made up of a report from their tutor, to outline their personality and individual strengths and weaknesses, brief subject specific reviews to enable them to move forward on an academic path, evidence of how the student works (video clips of the class, samples of project work) and a self-assessment from the student.

Sure, it's not as easy to read as "Art: A, Physics: C, English Lit: B", but how much space does that take up on your CV anyway?