eLearning, and the Future

Ready2NetSeveral strong topics were discussed last week during a webcast Ready2Net session at the Blackboard World Conference. The presentation had three different panels discuss “The Future of eLearning.” Some parts are better than others, but the entire webcast can be seen here:

http://ready2net.csumb.edu/webcast/webcast_archives.html#

The issue of “data that eLearning is successful” is part of the discussion. Most of the research at this point doesn’t suggest that eLearning is superior, but only equivalent, to traditional classroom learning. That prompted some on the panel to wonder aloud if the problem isn’t how we evaluate traditional classrooms. Are eLearning classrooms being held to much more rigorous evaluation than traditional classrooms, or is it that the traditional means of evaluating classes are too weak or disconnected to what happens in eLearning environments?

One could make the same argument about ROI. If we hold the technology infrastructure and online systems to strong ROI standards, are the traditional departments being analyzed in the same manner and held to the same standards? It would be an interesting exercise to quantify the educational work done with students to really reveal the value of the investment…

My sense is that much of the work a school does with students is preparatory for later stages of achievement. If later achievement is reduced because of a lack of opportunity or experience years before, how is that factored into ROI? We all know that students “make up their minds” about their interests and sometimes abilities at surprisingly young ages. If opportunities for math, science, art, languages, music, sports, history, literature, technology and other departments were reduced to only immediate returns on investment, would we be rewarding “early decisions” instead of encouraging exploration and challenging students beyond their first thoughts or struggles?

There is a possibly looming risk of schools “pricing themselves out of the market.” Balancing opportunities seems key, as well as recognizing that we can’t provide all things to all students. Some schools will specialize, which is fine. Others will be more comprehensive, and in doing so I hope they acknowledge the need for change.

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