- What are your goals in using elearning?
- What do you expect your students to get out of the experience?
- Do you have the support of administrators (resource, moral, or technical)?
- If not, where will you get the resources or technical support, and how will you motivate students to use the elearning as a way of learning?
- How much time do you have to develop the activity, course, project? How much time do you have to implement the activity, course, project?
- What are the expectations of stakeholders in using elearning?
Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to determine if this is really something you can implement. While I am a great supporter of elearning, nothing is worse than having very little time to train instructors on the use of technology for use in one day's time (yes, I have seen that happen before, resulting in total failure of "elearning"). Likewise, many organizations opt for elearning as a time saving mechanism or cost cutting. If time is not saved (which most of us involved in elearning know is rarely a savings in time, but rather an increase) or costs are decreased, but at the expense of effective learning, then administrators and other stakeholders will be disappointed. Sometimes it is better to POSTPONE elearning until it can be done well.
Different levels of education
I read blogs that address a wide variety of education levels. My own Introduction to Distance Learning course had instructors from pre-school to community learning to universities and secondary schools. I have worked with them all at integrating elearning into their curriculum. However, there are differences between the different levels. Therefore, some of the questions each level of education needs to address includes:
- What skills do students have in learning, technology, and time management coming into the activity?
- What legal, moral, educational, and technology restrictions and regulations will students and instructors need to comply with at the level?
- How much autonomy can the student and instructor have for this elearning activity?
- What skills will students need to develop in order to accomplish elearning (i.e. level of literacy, foreign language skills, keyboarding skills, communication skills)? How (and who) will these skills be developed?
- What other stakeholders will need to be consulted in supporting the students' elearning? For pre-schoolers, for example, both the caregivers and support staff (if designated as disabled, this might have included physical and speech theorpists, social workers, and special education teachers). For employees, this might be supervisors or ITS to allow access to blocked sites or special software down loads.
Make it relevant to use elearning
Finally, many just integrate elearning into learning because that is what everyone else is doing. As the first set of questions indicate, it is not always relevant to use elearning.
In my experience, there are three main reasons for integrating elearning into a curriculum:
1. To reorganize time for instructors to create a better use of time (i.e. going to a conference or teaching at multiple locations at the same time) or to allow instructors to teach when they cannot physically be present with the students
2. To provide opportunities for students that might be limited by classroom space, schedules, or resources (including funding)
3. To develop technological skills and understanding of the use of technology in the 21st century society
It is always important that you choose a course, activity, or project that will be relevant for the student, the curriculum goals, and the organizational capacity to support elearning. I always recommend that my students begin with the question, "What can you NOT do now, that elearning might allow you to do?" This might be giving individualized attention, connecting students to the outside world, allow your students more time to reflect as a means of learning, provide access to information to a greater number of people, or help to develop specific skills such as communication, writing, or reading. It depends on the organization, the curriculum goals, and the level of education.