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Why e-learning is blended and at least two decades old


My interest is over three decades in the making.

How many teenagers are brought up on the premises of a PLC’s training centre?

My late father, in his wisdom, created a business HQ and training centre for the PLC he ran (and created) … and lived over the shop, literally. It was an odd set up for us kids, rather like being the headmaster’s kids. We we roped in to show guests around and as we got older to entertain them at dinner too. I took an interest in the videos created by the likes of Video Arts and Melrose, in the video kit used to develop interviewing techniques and in the wise words of the Training Manager – who put me in touch with a company who were making health & safety films for the Nuclear Power Industry – which in turn, is how I found myself carrying video kit around the changing rooms at Windscale (now Sellafield).

Corporate training is in my blood

The desired learning outcomes are no different to those we worked to several decades ago – people better at the job, content, with career development, knowing what they are doing and where to turn. E-learning has evolved from linear to interactive to online learning, however, at its most fundamental level it is still just a person with a goal, or need – a resource that answers this need or leads towards the goal – and the interplay or interaction, that through engagement and assessment leads to knowledge acquisition – possibly with a qualification, more likely some CPD points or simply an ability to do their job better, with greater confidence, collaborating with colleagues.

Published in 2007, researched and written over the previous 3-5 years, this book intimates the way things are going – or should I say, the way things have gone already?

The world of e-learning is one that moves fast, so fast that the creation of e-learning has become an integrated global industry – companies, often UK based (even with a Brighton bias) span the globe like international management consultancies, law firms or firms of accountants – indeed, the clients are often international law firms, management consultants, accounts and their clients. Does advertising and PR come into this too? Probably. Internal communications? Certainly.

In ‘Preparing for blended e-learning’ (2007) the authors Alison Littlejohn and Chris Pegler say that the ‘integration of our physical world with the digital domain is becoming ubquitous’.

At least two decades ago integration was already occurring, initially internally, through intranets. Leading businesses knew that educating the ‘workforce’ was vital so they had learning centres, while the likes of Unipart (UGC) had their own ‘university’ with faculties and a culture of continual learning. Industry was ahead of tertiary education then and feels light years ahead now with learning created collaboratively on wiki platforms, often using Open Source software with colleagues in different time zones. There is a shift to globalisation in tertiary education, with Business Schools such as Insead, but also with integrated, international universities such as Phoenix buying up or buying into universities around the planet – create an undergraduate course in Geography, a blended e-learning package, and put into onto a campus in North America and South, in Europe and the Middle East, the Far East and Australasia …

‘Learners and teachers increasingly are integrating physical and electronic resources, tools and environments within mainstream educational settings. Yet, these new environments are not yet having a major impact on learning. This is partly because the ‘blending’ of ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ domains – or ‘blended learning’ – is challenging for most teachers, yet it is becoming an essential skill for effective teaching’. (Littlejohn and Pegler, 2006 L287, Kindle Version)

I’d like to see a corporate e-learning agency create blended e-learning for a university – and to blend this in several additional directions courtesy of social learning back into secondary education, forwards into the workplace and sideways into the community and home. Perhaps I should call it ‘smudged learning’ – it happens anyway, at least in our household. It’s surprising how helpful teenagers can be to their parents who work online – and it is us, the parents, who appear to click them in the right direction of for resources and tools for homework. I wanted Adsense on my blog(s) my son was happy to oblige – for a cut, which more than takes care of his pocket money.

‘Blending … centres on the integration of different types of resources and activities within a range of learning environments where learners can interact and build ideas’. (Littlejohn and Pegler, 2006: L341)

We’re in it together like a small community in a medieval market town (actually, I live in one of these, Lewes) where the hubbub of the market spills out into the home and schools. All blended e-learning is doing is returning us to a more social, holistic and humanistic way of learning.

Welcome to the blended world.

What new – the drivers for change:

Costs (spreading them, making it count)

Sustainable (shared, flexible resources. In effect, one book can be shared by all)

Methodologies (still about learning outcomes, but treating each student as much as possible as a unique and vulnerable vessel of possibilities – not a cohort, or label)

Complexity (shared through collaboration in a wiki. Academics find this hardest of all, the idea that their mind , or at least parts of it, are open source, to be shared, not held back by barriers of time, tradition and intellectual arrogance. They too are a vessel and in its purest sense their emptying the contents of their heads into the heads of others is what it is all about)

Ethical issues (when is exposure a good thing? How much should we or do we reveal about ourselves? Knowing who your students are should only be seen as an extraordinarily developmental opportunity, not an invasion of privacy).


Christmas gifts

Pyjamas, Steve Jobs and a medi-vac with which to attack house-mites. And a polo shirt from INSEAD as their 1,000th follower on Twitter. In 1987 I had three choices: buy a flat in Clapham, apply to INSEAD or take the place offered to me at advertising’s School of Communication Arts. On reflection the flat would have been by far the best move financially as I would have also taken the TV Producer position being offered. I went to the SCA but didn’t follow up with a copywriter place at an Ad agency despite being offered such a position with a tiny TV based agency.


Passion above all else? Drive? Resilliance?

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