Photo of student on lawn with laptop

Batson, T. (2011) The Myth of eLearning: There Is No ‘There’ There Campus Technology, January 19

This stimulating blog about e-learning challenges the idea that the ‘electronic’ part of e-learning really changes teaching:

‘we find that there was and is no revolution, just a gradual shift in emphasis toward certain kinds of existing learning experiences….Distance education is not, and never should be considered, a replacement of traditional on-the-ground learning….The glitter is off the for-profits, distance education is an oxymoron, and the real revolution (so to speak) is in discovering the learning opportunities on campuses as they exist.

Batson then goes on to argue that the important change is a move to more authentic learning using technology, such as e-portfolios:

Many institutions are already moving toward more authentic learning and assessment; many faculty members are adopting problem-based learning and more experiential learning.

His basic argument is the need to make greater use of other learning opportunities on campus as well as those in the traditional classroom.

Comment

I always find Batson’s blogs interesting and stimulating and usually I agree with his views on the use of technology on campus. But I didn’t realise how campus-focused he is. In this blog, he is undervaluing good quality distance education, which has since the first online courses focused heavily on collaborative and experiential learning. I agree that distance education should not replace campus-based teaching for those that need and want it. However, it is a mistake to equate all distance education as merely content delivery, just as it is to argue that all campus-based teaching is now interactive and experiential.

Furthermore, many learners either cannot or do not wish to attend campus on a regular basis, particularly lifelong learners, who often have already had the full campus experience. The challenge for instructors now is to identify not just the students who will benefit most from online learning, but in the campus context, what is best done face-to-face when much can be done online just as well and more conveniently for learners.

This requires rethinking the design of teaching to exploit the benefits of both. On this I think Batson and I agree. But it doesn’t make e-learning a myth or distance education an oxymoron.

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