Who's afraid of e-learning?
Some faculty, because technology-enabled learning requires a shift in teaching approaches and an investment from faculty in learning about learning.
Academic Chairs, because e-learning is just one of many structural challenges they face in running a program or department, and they can't give e-learning enough attention to drive its improvement.
Senior academic administrators (Deans, VP's, etc.) even though they might put positive spin on their support of e-learning. Their fears? Financial commitment, faculty backlash, managing culture shift. Their desires? Increasing access, making the institute appear "with it".
Some instructional designers, because they react to a perception that much of e-learning is technologically, rather than pedagogically focused.
CIO's and IT Directors, because they are swamped with just "keep-the-lights-on" IT activities and do not have sufficient resources to take in learning technology architecture design, development and support. Some are afraid of open source models becuase they only have experience with proprietary software.
Many learners, because some e-learning is so boring they give up (bad course design in clumsy LMS delivery models).
Parents (of K-12 learners), because there is an inconsistent model of support for learners who may not yet be self-directed or know how to be advocates for their own learning.
Mainstream LMS vendors, because they are afraid of the power of social networks and web 2.0 tools.
Maybe only the e-learning research community is not afraid.
I wonder if that is because of the dichotomy between research and practice. I know in my own practice, as Director of a well-funded curriculum development, faculty development, educational technology unit, I have had to seriously cool my jets about being an e-learning advocate because of institutional policy and cultural issues.
We should be careful to say what we mean by terms like "e-learning." Does the telephone count? Fax machine? Those are pretty non-threatening - it would be hard to have a phobia about the phone, wouldn't it?
We might invite some of the resistance we encounter by not being clear about what we mean by these terms. E-learning can simply mean using any electronic means to access or interact, including some familiar ones you don't actually have to sharpen your teeth to learn how to use.
Would this make it easier to get people interested, or at least to inform them?
I think one of the reasons, is that there are a number of vested interests, who tend to focus on the actual quality of the e-learning; the pedagogy of the content, and the actual delivery systems. Still, I wonder if the same level of scrutiny focused on elearning actually makes its way to traditional learning modalities. Or, is it that it's so entrenched, why would anyone question it....?
Physicians: Even though they often feel isolated in their practice, they view e-learning as 1. frivolous 2. time consuming 3. not offering real contact with others.
Medical Residents: Double what I said above, many residents on my campus say they would never use online courses, blogs, wikis, Second Life. They complain loudly about patients using online resources to educate themselves because it takes physician time to re-educate them. (Pretty traditional bunch)
Control issues seem to be major themes for physicians.
F2F education is a huge economic driver in any community. I live in a small city where there are two major, publicly-funded PSE institutions that employ a lot of people, best jobs in town. There seems to be almost a one-to-one ratio for support personnel to faculty. Many support personnel are related to faculty and admin so it is a pretty tight community. I'm talking about the admin assistants, the tech support people, the groundskeepers and tradespeople, the absolutely critical layer for any institution.
All this PSE related, economic activity is very important to the commercial sector as well, the landlords, the employers of low wage contingent workers (students), the retailers etc. is tied to F2F. A good number of the lawyers in town are on retainer or contract to one school or the or the other. These people occupy seats on various PSE committees, senates, advisory boards.
In this scenario politicians have an vested interest in F2F as well. The people who are directly and indirectly dependent on traditional PSE infrastructure for their livelyhood and status are taxpayers in their constituencies but more importantly they are voters with a lot of political clout.
All these people view F2F, bums-in-seats education as their their bread and butter, see distributed education as a threat and exert direct and indirect pressure to maintain the status quo.
These issues don't lend themselves to a standard, evidence-based research methodology that focuses on pedagogy or educational practice.
I like music. I buy CDs from musicians I like and I like to play them a lot. But sometimes, when the right band comes to the right venue, I like to go see the same band in person. Each is it's own separate experience, but I happen to like both. Recently, I have found that I like some bands in a large auditorium, and other bands in a more informal "living room" setting. Does that mean that the music changes from place to place? I don't think so. It's the same music but in different settings.
I would willingly take a class from an established educator f2f, but if I can't reach that objective, then I don't mind taking a class from the same educator on-line. Does the educator change what he teaches when he switches from one to another? I don't think so. Perhaps only the presentation changes.
If anything, I think we should be in the business of expanding "venues" of practice...finding new ways to deliver a product, instead of saying there is only one way to do it. Let's take all the things we do best and focus on that, as opposed to "dissing" those who do things slightly differently.
One additional thought:
Please don't misinterpret my thoughts to go so far as denying funding to one approach over the other. In fact, let's find ways to fund all the approaches, but let's be rational about it. Let's figure in all the supportive costs of any effort and charge a reasonable fee. I certainly to not condone charging the same amount for an on-line and/or f2f class if the supportive costs are truly different. We may find that on-line can be delivered in a less costly manner, or it maybe that when we factor in all the additional costs of delivering on-line content, that it is more expensive. Whatever the ultimate "bottom-line" may be, while we examine it, let's take at least a moment to think about ways to make a way for the least fortunate to participate in a financial situation that they can achieve.
You have made excellent points. I use blended learning so that I can enjoy both e-learning and f2f interactions. My dream is to see e-learning free for all. However, that would probably mean fine tuning our mindsets. Anyone interested in the job?
I think we have to discuss this by looking at the context..
In sri lanka the awareness level on e-learning is very low.So some can argue that many people afraid of this.. but once you aware the subject you will like it.I think we can explain this by using following curve of Rogers Adoption Innovation ..most of the late majority as well as laggards afraid of e-learning because they are not like innovators and early adopters.but in e-learning innovators(like you!!) can play a important role. You in Marketing,can consider as an opinion leaders!!!(I am a lecturer in marketing and I have been with the subject for last 14 years)..people like you can create the awareness level and interest of the people on this subject.