Contact magazine just released its spring edition, and one article caught my attention right away: Exploring the Feasibility of E-Learning in Ontario ESL Programs by Geoff Lawrence et al.
Because I have been doing my own feasibility exploration, Lawrence’s report resonated with me. One thing that I did notice, that I now seem to notice whenever I do any research on e-learning and LMS’s – is the use of the term “robust”. It appears to be the adjective of the day to describe how engaging and attractive a computer program is. The term always reminds me of coffee.
Yes. I can see the red squiggly line under the above title. The word, however, has been adapted into the Urban Dictionary to mean “the power to perform with great vigor, if not overkill.”
Why the anthropomorphism of a Learning Management System? Well, it makes perfect sense to inject some element of life into it. Computers and programs often do take on their own personalities. An LMS that inspires conversation and engages the participants is considered robust and lively. One that lacks this je ne sais quois eventually dies out due to disinterest.
So, how about the FEASIBILITY?
Incorporating e-learning into mainstream adult ESL programs is going to take some time. Also, stop signs are red.
Unsurprisingly, there is sometimes a disconnect between what administrators want and what instructors envision. As I have noted here, there is not going to be widespread buy-in of e-learning from the teachers, especially if e-learning initiatives are dumped on them en masse, with little training and outdated computer labs.
Admin has got to put their money where their collective mouths are. Do you really want to make your site e-learning friendly? Then you have got to invest in the infrastructure firstly. Next, you have to hunt down a dedicated posse of instructors who have the requisite KSA*s to use e-learning. Then you have to ensure that this group can develop these skills (read: paid and continuous professional development). This tech-savvy group needs to:
- develop their own skills – get caught up on what is available
- explore different e-learning opportunities and decide which one would best suit both the learners at that particular site and the instructors who would be using
- present findings to colleagues in a PD-sharing moment
- address concerns by colleagues in said moment
- begin to roll out the e-learning themselves
- continue to develop and learn about e-learning by attending conferences and reading stuff
- have dedicated time (outside of teaching time) to the maintenance and honing of their e-learning skills (use it or lose it applies here big time – I have not logged onto my teacher website in two months and have now forgotten how to get onto the site…I need to dig out my notes because I have not kept this skill active)
- act as peer support for colleagues who will be expected to develop some e-learning platforms
Once all of these factors are nailed down, then you start rolling out your e-learning initiatives.
One thing that needs to be figured out fairly early on is how the e-learning platform is going to work? Is it:
- a tool that is to be used in a CALL environment with no at-home expectations?
- part of a blended learning curriculum that has a significant amount of face-to-face (say 80% f2f and 20% at home)?
- part of a flipped classroom with the significant e-learning to be done independently with some dedicated check-in with an instructor (20% F2F and 80% at home)?
- completely done online, with maybe only the final outcomes done in the presence of an instructor?
- both a CALL tool and a homework tool?
Lawrence et al encourage the e-learning to have a significant amount of face-to-face time to assuage the isolation that learners can feel when they are not a part of a classroom. Also, from the “Flipping the MOOC” article I referred to in an earlier blog, the instructor noted that flipping the classroom resulted in far more learner alienation, and a loss of some of the joys of teaching that instructors often feel when delivering a well prepared and engaging lecture. As a learner in Lawrence’s report said:
“We need to keep the human feel in the class… the teacher is very important in motivating me and helping me to learn.” (Lawrence, 2014)
E-learning is coming… no doubt about that. Now, excuse me. I’ve got to get back to my LMS – she’s been very fussy lately…
*Knowledge, Skills, Abilities