The Dummies’ Guide to E-Learning

Laura is a writer and recent Cambridge graduate with particular experience in the area of education technology. She has worked with a variety of different education companies and is active in the 'edtech' community on Twitter, so she prides herself on always being in touch with the latest developments and exciting new tools in e-learning.

E-learning and education technology have become such a big part of teaching over the past few years that it can be daunting to know where to start if you don’t have much technical experience. With established personal learning networks running successfully online, thousands of tweets per day revealing new techniques and a new educational app released every five minutes, the e-learning scene might seem overwhelming to somebody who doesn’t know where to start. But if you don’t know your Edutopia from your Edudemic and acronyms like BYOD leave you in the dark, fear not! Here are our answers to some of the most common starter questions e-learning newbies might ask…

 

1.   What is e-learning?

E-learning does just what it says on the tin! It simply means any form of teaching and learning that is supported or enhanced electronically. This could mean using the internet to communicate teaching and resources from professor to student, allowing people from all over the world to study courses from top universities like MIT and Harvard. Or it might refer to specific programs and electronic resources which are designed to enhance education, such as educational apps, online quizzes and digital learning programs. To put it simply, if it involves electronics and it involves education, it’s probably a form of e-learning!

 

2.  What is ‘edtech’?

Edtech is an abbreviation of the words education technology. The term has exploded in popularity in recent years as the market has been flooded with new technological advances for use in the classroom. Generally speaking, ‘edtech’ refers to the tools used for e-learning; from electronic whiteboards and presentation programs to individual online learning programs and interactive online educational resources.

 

3.  What are the advantages of e-learning?

It would take a much longer article than this one to go into all the brilliant advantages of e-learning in the detail they deserve, but in brief, it allows unprecedented methods for engaging with students all over the world, connecting teachers to learners who might not previously have had any access to education. E-learning enables teachers to integrate technology into education, bringing exciting and engaging new methods to the classroom to catch the attention of students who, in this Facebook age, may be more comfortable with a keyboard than behind a traditional desk. It provides countless opportunities for new and exciting discovery, with students able to use the internet to travel amongst the stars, experience deep-sea submarine rides or tour the collections of some of the most famous museums in the world, all at the click of a button. Interactive tools and learning programs can tailor education technologically to the needs and speed of individual students, allowing for sophisticated and targeted approaches to maximise student progress. And e-learning has led to hugely exciting advances in the world of education, with ideas like flipping the classroom shaking up the teaching world and forging new avenues of innovation.

 

4.  What are the disadvantages of e-learning?

It is always important to bear in mind that any technological advance risks leaving behind those people who are not able to access the electronic equipment required in order to take advantage of it. One disadvantage of e-learning is that it could bring new and exciting learning opportunities to those students lucky enough to have constant internet access, laptops, iPads and mobile phones, whilst students from less affluent backgrounds may be unable to benefit from the same resources. But on the other hand, exciting schemes to bring technology to classrooms in more disadvantaged areas and BYOD (bring your own device) projects are making great strides in bringing education technology to as many pupils as possible, regardless of their background. It is also true that e-learning carries some of the risks associated with any internet-based activity, such as internet fraud and the potential for cyber bullying or abuse of vulnerable young people. But these drawbacks can be carefully planned for and guarded against using internet protection, cyber training and vigilant supervision.

 

5.  What is the easiest way to get started with e-learning?

The best way to get started is to get involved with the online community of educators and edtech fanatics who will be more than willing to give you advice and information and point you in the direction of the best e-learning resources for your particular needs. One of the best ways to get plugged into the e-learning pulse is to create a Twitter account and start following the fantastic #edtech and #elearning hash tags, which are goldmines of information on the best e-learning resources out there. Take a look at some of the great edtech sites like Edutopia, a brilliant online community for connected educators. And if you’re feeling daunted by all that interaction, you can always start simply, by setting up a classroom blog and encouraging your students to write posts. The links and connections you will start to make will pull you gently into the e-learning arena! Soon you’ll be so submerged in all things e-learning that you’ll be ready to start the really exciting stuff, like using Skype to let your pupils communicate with their peers in classrooms across the world…

 

What are your top tips for those who are new to e-learning? If you have any fantastic resources for teachers just starting out, let us know using the comments box below!

 

Image courtesy of Flickr, flickrsven.

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Horia Varlan

  • Jill davidson

    Don’t E VER entitle anything with the word ‘dummies’ again, as an educationalist that word should never enter your mind, let alone cross your lips. It is not clever, or current or funny, ever, just degrading – a relic from an awful, ignorant past.. Apart from that, this is a good summary, and I love this link.

    • FractusLearning

      Hi Jill,

      Thanks for posting the comment and I appreciate and respect what you have said in regards to the title. Hopefully we have not offended and I want ensure that the phrase ‘dummies guide’ is in reference to the famously successful books (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Dummies).

      I also want to make it clear that the intention was to create a light-hearted and familiar title that would catch the attention of educators looking to “get started” in e-learning. At no stage was the intention to label or poke fun at any disability or minority group. I do truly understand your position on this and I hope the context of the article made it as clear as possible that we meant no disrespect.

      Really glad you like the link and all comments (good or bad) are always welcome.

      Cheers
      Nick

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