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Shot through the heart and quick to blame, you give eLearning a bad name

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Boring, not as effective as classroom learning… whether or not you’re a Bon Jovi fan, eLearning did get a bad name.

World over, several educational institutes did a tremendous job of providing continuous uninterrupted education when Covid-19 disrupted the world. Yet eLearning is met with resistance and disdain by most students and educators alike.

As students were forced to become online learners, some lamented...

Others complained, "I can't focus on a screen for that long."

Parents worried about the increase in the already high screen time.

But let's be real, is any of this really just about eLearning itself? Or is it just a matter of change being difficult?

Think about it. When was the last time you heard someone enjoy the commute or monotonous lectures?

"Are the complaints about eLearning just a cover then for the fact that people are largely averse to change? Or is there a deeper, yet solvable, issue?"

Let's give a quick prayer of thanks to the benefits of eLearning: it's convenient, it's flexible, and it can be just as effective as in-person learning (we hear you protest; but more about this later). And let's not forget the recent global situation, where eLearning was the unsung hero that offered safety and continuity of learning to students, and safety and job-retention to educators.

Good or bad, eLearning allowed for continuity of education.

Ah yes, while countries like Singapore had synchronous and asynchronous learning happening without a break all through 2020-2021, some other countries weren’t as well-prepared, willing or able to adapt. While people lost jobs, most educators continued to hold theirs, holding the fort and investing in our future, preparing the citizens of tomorrow. Was the eLearning experience great? Probably not? Let’s see why.

While educators adapted quickly to the sudden need for digitising content, it wasn’t really an entirely positive watershed moment for the online learning and education technology industry.

Especially in K-12, people who have been traditionally teaching in classrooms had to use new technology tools. A lot of content was quickly digitised. Students got bored of Zoom classes. But that’s web tutoring, not the full (and might we boldly yet confidently add: glorious) spectrum of eLearning, isn’t it?

What led to a poor perception of eLearning for education in schools?

One of the most obvious ones was technical issues. Not everyone had a dedicated device for every child’s use in every family. Besides the obvious “schools need to assess digital access amongst their students and provide viable means to access online learning”, there were four main factors.

Poorly designed courses:

The instructional strategies for classroom teaching and online learning differ. The ecosystem of both is different. For example: while a one-hour period/lesson works in physical classrooms, teacher-led lesson time needs to be much shorter to keep students alert and engaged.

Lack of engagement:

Teachers were catapulted into quickly needing to rush out online content. Were they trained and guided on learning design for online learning? While teachers can hold students' interest in a one-hour classroom lesson, the online medium requires different means, tools and planning to help students engage.

Lack of structure:

Without a clear structure or schedule, it can be difficult for students to stay on track and motivated. Teachers need to modify their lesson plans to incorporate offline, online, media and teacher-led activities.

Lack of integration:

There were classes held over zoom. PDFs were shared. Links to videos on YouTube were provided. Assignments were submitted online. A lot was done but it was mostly piecemeal content that did not seamlessly integrate together to form a clear and consistent learning ecosystem.

Learning designers, with degrees they spend thousands to earn and/or years they spend in the industry, engineer the learning pathway to maximise engagement, retention and application of content learnt online.

"So next time you find yourself giving eLearning a bad name, remember: like it, love it, or hate it, technology is here and it’s unlikely to go anywhere. If it's not resistance to change, it might be the lack of learning design expertise that's the problem."

The need for experienced, committed individuals devoted to learning design is critical.

In this 5-part miniblog series, we’ll dissect the “failures” of eLearning in K-12 education and endeavour to provide tips and insights into making it work for your educational institution.

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Matthew Hagen
Matthew Hagen
Jan 16, 2023

Fantastic article! So many ill equipped but well intentioned folks tried their best to do with what they could. I am eager to see where e-learning really can take us.


Entirely agree with the views presented.

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