A blog by George Engel

Archive for May, 2009

E-Learning in the worlds of work and education

Why is there need for change in instructional design (ID) in online learning across the spectrum of education, from corporate training, to post secondary and K-12 education?

I spent time exploring this question this week.  In the workforce, corporations have been using
e-learning for quite some time.  However, studies show that several issues need recognition for this type of training method to find true success (Moller, Foshay, and Huet, 2008a).  One problem with corporate training techniques do not utilize good learning theory.  Moller et al. (2008a) go on to say “It is not only possible, but likely, that users of e-learning have never encountered a product built according to sound ID principles” (pg. 71).  In fact, many e-learning training products have no means to true assessment at all (Moller et al., 2008a).  Corporations seem to have little desire to improve the training product or no understanding of why quality assessments are important.  The bottom line governs much of the training products since there is not real concern for the outcomes of corporate training programs (Moller et al., 2008a).    The following cartoon illustrates many corporate e-learning developer’s opinions on e-learning.  It is taken from http://janeknight.typepad.com/pick/2009/06/from-elearning-to-social-learning.html , a blog by Jane Hart of the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies.


Contrary to this attitude in the corporate world, post secondary training is embracing e-learning because of demand issues and the understanding that quality is important for distance education.  Moller, Foshay, and Huet (2008b) state that there is a predicted 300-fold increase of students using e-learning programs over the next several years.  As a result, universities are finding that distance-learning models are a way to sustain growth.  This growth creates a need for quality performance based standard and for true quality in instructional design (Moller et al., 2008b).  Traditionally, distance learning in post secondary education has used a “craft approach” where the professor “crafts” and maintains e-learning work based on classroom successes.  However, there are several limitations to this: a) professors use brick and mortar classroom models that are not necessarily effective in distance learning, b) there is a need to understand how new technologies are changing the way students interact, the way course content is designed, and the way communication occurs.  These limitations create a demand for new types of assignments and performance assessments (Moller et al., 2008b).

The rise in demand and the need for quality assessments are driving changes in distance learning programs in post secondary education.  These same reasons are also driving changes in K-12 education.  According to Huet, Moller, Foshay, and Coleman (2008) rapid population growth is forcing schools to explore options in e-learning.  There are benefits to distance education in K-12 schools: a) administrators can ensure that course material is aligned with learning standards, b) teachers have greater potential for more contact with the “silent” students in the classroom, c) parents can see assessments and resources that are available for students, and d) learners have all the tools for success in one place (Huet et al., 2008).  Some problems exist, however, in the use of online learning.  The principles of e-learning are little understood by administrators.  As a result, administrators tend to apply plans and policies of brick and mortar classroom to e-learning environments.    In addition, there is a concern that online learning could result in lower quality programs.  A potential exists as well for e-schools to become the dumping grounds for students who cannot function in a standard learning environment, which is a considerable “under utilization” of e-learning (Huet et al., 2008)

To meet the needs of all levels of learning, true professional development in ID must occur.  Developers, administrators and professors or teachers need to understand the idea of equivalency put forth by Simonson (2000).  Equivalency states that even though e-learning may look different than traditional brick and mortar classrooms, if done right, it can have equal results of student learning (Simonson, 2000).  As educators involved in distance learning, we need to be leaders in our districts and buildings to promote best practices in these principles so that the student is able to learn and adapt regardless of the medium of learning.

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008, September/October). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5). 63-67.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a, May/June). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008b, May/June). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Simonson, M. (2000). Making decisions: The use of electronic technology in online classes. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 84, 29-34.