Addressing the E-Learning Contradiction

Addressing the E-Learning Contradiction

Colla J. MacDonald (University of Ottawa, Canada), Emma J. Stodel (Learning 4 Excellence, Canada), Terrie Lynn Thompson (University of Alberta, Canada), Bill Muirhead (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada) and Chris Hinton (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch005
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Abstract

In 1997, Drucker suggested that due to the availability of the Internet for delivering university courses and programs, traditional higher education was in deep crisis. He claimed that university buildings were about to become “hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded” (Drucker, 1997, p. 127). Yet in spite of this, and the technological advances that support the design, development, and delivery of alternative pedagogical approaches, many universities and university professors have resisted integrating educational technology into their teaching practices. A look at today’s university campuses, over a decade after Drucker’s prediction that university buildings are “totally unneeded,” suggests that the “brick and mortar growth” within universities is thriving. Part of what has prevented the proliferation of e-learning and other educational technologies is resistance on the part of teachers and professors to adopt it.
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Introduction

In 1997, Drucker suggested that due to the availability of the Internet for delivering university courses and programs, traditional higher education was in deep crisis. He claimed that university buildings were about to become “hopelessly unsuited and totally unneeded” (Drucker, 1997, p. 127). Yet in spite of this, and the technological advances that support the design, development, and delivery of alternative pedagogical approaches, many universities and university professors have resisted integrating educational technology into their teaching practices. A look at today’s university campuses, over a decade after Drucker’s prediction that university buildings are “totally unneeded,” suggests that the “brick and mortar growth” within universities is thriving. Part of what has prevented the proliferation of e-learning and other educational technologies is resistance on the part of teachers and professors to adopt it. For many, the amount of time necessary to learn new educational technologies and prepare materials and learning activities, as well as the lack of available support and resources, is a strong disincentive to the adoption of e-learning. Ironically, although it is common for universities and learning organisations to campaign professors to integrate technology into their teaching practices, in reality, resources and support for developing e-learning and other technology-based learning tools are scarce and difficult for professors to secure (Thompson & MacDonald, 2005). There appears to be a growing contradiction between the goal of many universities to support the integration of new technologies into education and what is actually occurring. We have coined this situation the “E-learning Contradiction”.

MacDonald and Thompson (2005) found that creating quality online courses takes an enormous amount of time in terms of research, design, and development. They suggested that the drive to create online courses is often due to the determination of the professor, his/her ability to marshal the necessary resources, and his/her willingness to take risk. To expand the development and integration of online resources, faculty require greater support systems to meet the challenges of authoring technology-enhanced learning resources that will help address the E-learning Contradiction. The need for more systematic and strategic approaches to educational technology innovation and implementation resounds in the literature (McGorry, 2003; Parrish, 2004). In this paper we suggest that sharing knowledge, resources, and expertise by way of cooperatively designing online learning objects is one step towards addressing this problem.

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Background

Learning objects are small, instructional components that can be reused a number of times in different learning contexts. They provide many enhancements and benefits to the learning process: (1) an alternative way to learn that is engaging, interactive, and fun; (2) flexibility and convenience because they can be accessed at anytime and from anywhere there is an Internet connection; (3) a way to save time and resources as they can be reused and adapted by different users, with new versions available immediately; (4) any number of people can access and use them simultaneously due to their Web-based nature; (5) opportunities to share resources amongst colleagues thus creating an economy of sharing (the Linux model of shared benefits); and (6) an opportunity for learners to actively interact with the content. Interactions allow learners to tailor the learning experience to meet their specific needs or abilities. Being able to control the pace of their learning, learners have time to reflect and process information. The potential for reusability, adaptability, and scalability make learning objects a possible solution to many of the issues associated with the E-learning Contradiction (Gibbons, Nelson, & Richards, 2000; Hodgins, 2000; Urdan & Weggen, 2000).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Online Learning Objects: Small independent instructional components that can be reused in different learning contexts. They provide flexible and convenient learning opportunities because they can be accessed at anytime and from anywhere there is an Internet connection.

E-learning Contradiction: The incongruity between the goal of many universities to support the integration of new technologies into education and what is actually occurring.

Constructivism: A learning theory that posits people construct knowledge by modifying their existing concepts in light of new evidence and experience. Development of knowledge is unique for each learner and is colored by the learner’s background and experiences.

Learning Object Repositories: Websites that facilitate the exchange of learning objects between educators, thus creating an economy of sharing.

E-Learning: Learning that takes place via the Internet. The term is adapted from Khan’s (1997) definition of Web-based instruction to reflect a sociocultural emphasis on learning and refers to instructional experiences that utilize the Web to create a meaningful environment where learning is fostered and supported. The term e-learning is often used interchangeably with online learning or Web-based learning and may apply to synchronous or asynchronous learning experiences.

Blackboard: An e-learning platform and online course management system used extensively in colleges, universities, and other educational institutions. Blackboard supports online tools such as discussion forums, email, live chat, and whiteboarding, as well as content in various formats (e.g., html documents, Web pages etc).

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