E-learning concepts - Table of Content
- list the optional features of an e-learning management system,
- compare and contrast off-line and on-line e-learning systems,
- define the acronyms LMS and LCMS,
- evaluate the pedagogical value of e-learning systems,
- list the tasks of the teacher when working in an e-learning system.
There is a wide range of e-learning platforms (sometimes called Virtual Learning Environments or VLEs) on offer to users. These platforms deliver a range of complexity and versatility in their functions and services. Looking at the feature sets it is easily possible to consider an educational multimedia CD and Moodle platform as different types of e-learning solutions, as both are specific software applications. However at a first level, different e-learning systems must meet the same requirements as any other software, such as:
- providing stable and reliable operation,
- providing a comfortable, user friendly interface which complies with all relevant legislation in respect of accessibility and ergonomic requirements.
- offering tools for following and recording the users' activities,
- managing authority and authentication,
- compatibility with the host computer environment,
- minimizing system requirements for operation,
- easy installation,
- on-line user support,
- options to refresh software and contents,
- offering productivity support.
Early off-line educational programs (the products of first-generation e-learning such as CBT) actually achieved many of the above requirements. However Multimedia CDs may have looked impressive but the content was very static in the sense that its content could be difficult, or impossible, to refresh or update. The single user, multimedia approach reflected a traditional, rigorous educational approach: to deliver, to strengthen and to evaluate the knowledge acquired by the student. Creating multimedia experiences can be similar in ways to creating a traditional educational movie.
It is difficult to find many examples of high quality productions where multimedia CDs actually achieved the targeted pedagogical objectives. However there are obviously some exceptions, for example many schools use "Tell Me More" – a language teaching series, which was introduced at schools several years ago.
Interactivity is a standard requirement for off-line systems. It be can easily achieved technically (at the software level) because even a mouse click means interactivity. However, achieving interactivity which supports real pedagogical objectives can be very difficult.
On-line platforms operating on the Internet are second generation computer based learning innovations and can be classified as e-learning 1.0.
Such traditional learning environments are usually developed to operate over a computer network. The learning system may also integrate some institutional services such as student enrollment or examination. Services can be categorized in two major groups:
- supporting the learning process and the administrative work related to learning,
- supporting content authoring (creating, editing and updating learning materials.
The sub-system which supports the learning process is called a Learning Management System – LMS. The tasks of LMS are:
- managing authorities, monitoring access, registration of users,
- presentation of lessons,
- managing the assessments, scheduling the students' tasks,
- providing options for practice,
- supporting the tutor’s activities
- organizing courses,
- managing enrollments,
- recording students’ activity and performance,
- managing the evaluation of the students' performances,
- producing records and statistics,
- supporting communication between teachers and students,
- supporting quality management, for example course evaluation via students' feedback.
What are the advantages of e-learning frameworks for schools? Some think that they only generate more work for teachers. However, E-learning frameworks have options that may substantially help educators’ work in the long run. For example electronically stored lessons can be saved in such way that they can be edited, renewed and used again at any time. A common repository of knowledge can be developed and built up this way. Colleagues can share their education materials, support each other and evolve into a professional community.
E-learning frameworks are well developed in many higher educational institutions all over the world. Lecturers upload lessons with many links to reading materials, and they can formulate requirements and manage examinations. This is the kind of framework is typically an ‘e-learning 1.0’ product – a virtual model of institutionalized education. Rigid, teacher and content focused, participants are not expected to contribute in the system. They may be only passive consumers of knowledge-based content.
In mixed systems, students can download educational contents saved on central servers to their own computers and use them without a network connection. While students are working on their own computers, data (such as test results for instance) is stored locally and when they re-connect to the network, data is uploaded to the central database (the system synchronizes local and network databases at each connection). Microsoft’s training courses operate in such a mixed system – for example the Microsoft Certified Partner program. In this example, the student is provided with a large quantity of training lessons, and the online examinations are organized (in a given country) at special, accredited examination centers.
Participants and TasksTasks supported in platforms are divided between the LMS and the LCMS. What visitors to and participants in a course can actually see and what options (rights) services they can access depends on what roles and authorizations they have. Administrators have the highest position and authorization, while visitors have the lowest. The distribution of authorities is the responsibility of system administrator, but the entrance procedure and the access are supported by the platform (LMS).
The LMS exempts tutors from certain administration work. They do not have to record absence, for example, and do not have to correct tests performed by students. All these are done automatically.
In Tenegen, the authors of e-learning content are called instructors. Teachers who help and supervise students are tutors. These new titles reflect the non-traditional roles they have to fulfill. For example, instructors plan student activities and they are responsible for the professional relevance and validity of the course content.
It does not matter whether we talk about distance learning or full-time courses, the role of teachers (the tutor) is crucial. Before thinking of ICT as some kind of network technology that reduces the work of teachers, consider what kind of tasks they have in an online course:
- learning objectives must be considered, syllabuses and exercises must be planned according to the goals,
- lessons, exercises and tests must be prepared and uploaded in advance,
- student activities must be planned and organized in the given LMS,
- constant presence is required! Student activities must be followed up and evaluated individually. For every little action there must be some reaction (otherwise motivation is lost).
In this kind of environment it is possible for the tutor to have to support each student individually. This is not normally possible in a real-space classroom. However, such activity can take a tremendous amount of time! It has proved a real challenge to find a business model which supports such a level of activity. Who will pay for such support?
Communication and Cooperation
In contrast to offline solutions, the great advantage of e-learning frameworks on the Internet is that there is the potential for communication and cooperation amongst participants. The “classic” communication opportunities are:
- forum , and
- video conference.
This list will rapidly become longer as web technology (web 2.0 and the future semantic web) develops.
Finally...The development of framework systems began in the 90s. First solutions are often criticized because they do not do anything but preserve the bad practices of traditional teaching within a modern technological environment. Such solutions have not become, or allowed to become, obsolete because as long as institutions based on today’s system survive, the functions which support will also survive.
On the other hand, and more importantly, modern frameworks are much more open than earlier ones. They tend to support cooperation and try to integrate the latest tools from web 2.0 technology. Moodle is an example of a web2.0 aware platform.
- Write a report in your learning diary on the possibility of implementing an e-learning framework in a secondary school. Discuss the potential benefits of all schools having their own e-learning framework. Would you be likely to use such a system? Could you include children in the common innovations of a framework?
The figure below show a schematic of an online e-learning framework.