eLearning is a relatively new field that takes into consideration information from various bodies of knowledge, such as andragogy, pedagogy, organizational studies, technology and instructional design. Most people involved with eLearning have a background in for example technology or pedagogy, but for many, it is difficult to gain an understanding of eLearning aspects outside of their domain. Yet, groups with members from extremely diverse backgrounds are again and again charged with making key decisions regarding adoption and implementation of eLearning. Little formal research exists to learn from, and the rapid development of eLearning makes the situation even more difficult.
We must, however, remember that the basic goal of eLearning is to develop various types of students and trainees to their fullest potential. The focus must always be to give the learner the best learning experience possible. To accomplish this, we need to take knowledge developed in the various fields related to eLearning into consideration, and be creative in how we apply the various principles and techniques.
This primer in eLearning discusses some of the underlying assumptions, focusing on human behavior: How are new technologies adopted and implemented, how do adults learn, and what do we know about creating strong learning communities online?
The first chapter, Adoption and Implementation of Educational Innovations, seeks to answer the following question: What do we know about how innovations are adopted and implemented, and how does that relate to eLearning?
There is an extensive body of research on innovations and innovators. This chapter discusses various phases in the innovation-decision process, different types of adopters, and what we can learn from this research that will increase the chances that our eLearning efforts will actually succeed.
The second chapter, Pedagogical Theories and Instructional Design, discusses ways in which pedagogical theory influences eLearning. It gives a brief overview of various pedagogical theories in relation to online teaching and learning, and also touches on the new mentor and learner roles and changing power structure in this new educational paradigm. The chapter also touches on design and production of eLearning content.
One of the many myths about eLearning is that high-quality interaction, facilitation and assessment is not possible in an online environment. The third chapter, Community, Facilitation And Assessment In E-Learning, will not only counter this myth, but also give specific advice on these important aspects of eLearning. In this chapter I draw a lot on Palloff and Pratt’s book, Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace (Palloff & Pratt, 1999), an excellent book for everybody involved in eLearning.
The key to success in eLearning is not to focus on the latest "cool" technology, but rather to take basic, well-documented principles about human behavior into account. I hope that this little book will help people and organizations involved with eLearning to better understand some of these underlying assumptions so we can help the learner and the mentor get the best learning experience possible.
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Dr. Engvig holds a Masters’ Degree in Arts Administration from Golden Gate University, and two graduate degrees from Stanford University: A Masters’ Degree in Sociology, and a Ph.D. in Administration and Policy Analysis from the Stanford School of Education. She is a Fulbright grant recipient.
She is the author of several articles on eLearning, educational innovation, and various topics related to management and leadership. She is also the co-author of Making a Difference: A Guide to Fundraising and Nonprofit Management, and has conduced several studies on the use of eLearning in corporate and academic settings.
She has worked for several eLearning companies (including Quisic, Docent, and XanEdu), and has consulted with the Stanford-Harvard eLearning venture and other entities.
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