Come on, let’s drop the “e” in e-learning.

I wouldn’t dream of calling modern websites “Web 2.0” these days. Well, not without the risk of being mocked on Twitter.

Yet I still use the term “e-learning”. Which, when you think about it, in 2014, is ridiculous.  When I use a cooking app I’m not “e-cooking”. When I use Netflix I’m not “e-watching”. 
If I go for a run and use Runkeeper I’m not “e-running”. But when I decide to learn using technology it’s OK to say that I am “e-learning”.

OK, the terms e-book and e-cigarette have not helped the cause and added yet more stature to the big “e”, and I understand it’s a way to differentiate the analogue vs its digital counterpart, but surely e-learning has matured enough so we can finally drop it.

The teaching and learning industry has tried experimenting with other acronyms such as TEL (Technology Enahanced Learning), amongst others.
But let’s face it, we are trying too hard to find an alternative to something that just isn’t needed anymore.

So why do we find it so hard to drop the word “electronic”?

There is a fundamental difference between “e” and “online”.
Buying something via the internet is called online shopping. Banking via the internet is referred to as online banking. Learning via the internet should therefore be referred to as online learning.

Back in the glory days of flip cams, voice recorders, voting pads and a whole plethora of gadgets and gizmos, prefixing learning with an “e” seemed to fit, the “e” actually referred to anything with a circuit board in.

Nowadays, it’s all online. VLE’s, Social Media, photo sharing sites, plagiarism tools, dropboxes, over-animated slide decks and many more. The physical piece of equipment isn’t important, it’s how it interfaces with what we do online that matters.

So the “e”, in my opinion is a nod to things that haven’t worked so well in the past. There is a negative connotation with e-learning, and those who have worked in the industry long enough know exactly what I am talking about.
My 4 year children on the other hand do not. I would certainly not refer to Youtube as e-learning, or a Skype call with them when I’m working away as an “e-meeting” or “conference call”.
It just is…well..what it is. I use Skype as a verb these days, like Google and Hoover.

So I think, as the new academic term approaches. We should stand up, unite, and finally drop the “e” in e-learning . It could be quite liberating.

Yes, teaching and learning uses technology. Let’s get over it. It’s just learning.

10 predicted e-Learning trends for 2014/15

“Or how we learned to stop worrying and love the learning technology.”

In this blog post I shall countdown and discuss my predictions in e-Learning for the next academic year. 2014/15.

 10. Heutagogy

A contentious one this but I’ll just come right out and say it. Pedagogy is old hat. Let’s face it. If an online course is done correctly, then why do we need the presence of a tutor?   Heutogogy places focus on the process and not on the outcomes or the content. If we finally want to kick PowerPoint’s into touch and make the shift away from repository style courses then let’s stop talking about Pedagogy and Andragogy and start facilitating learning, not teaching. (I told you it was contentious). So let’s drop the resources and build out activities.

Thinking, please wait..

 9. MOOCs, VOOCs

The jury is still out on this one.

Was this just an e-Learning craze? Has the bubble burst on Massive Open Online Courses? So why would MOOCs be in my predications for 2014/15? For the simple reason that MOOCS were all about trying something different, about pushing the envelope on massive scale online delivery. Poor completion rates and lack of resources gave MOOCs a bad name. And this is exactly my point.

A MOOC is simply a bad name. Online courses delivered at scale are not going to go away. They will be more prominent than ever as class sizes increase and learner contact time decreases. They’ll just be called something different. Maybe SOOCs (Scalable Open Online Courses). I’ll trademark this just in case.


 8. Scenario Based Learning

Online learning is designed to keep users glued to a screen, whether it be a desktop, tablet or phone. But what if it was more organic than this? What if online tasks became group based, whereby learners solve tasks and problems using a combination of learning environments such as tablets, classrooms, playing fields and workshops. When learners are given practical, real-life scenarios to complete they are better engaged.   When faced with real, critical incidents, learners are more involved, simulated and more able to reflect, observer and self-assess. The VLE provides part of this solution, all we have to do is change the content we deliver (see Heutagogy) and make all environments a classroom.


 7. Networked Social Learning

Social Networking has long been the taboo in many learning organisations, workplaces and even the news.

But encouraging the use of social media to enable real-time and often synchronous learning will be at the forefront of future learning.

Dubbed “Social Learning”. The concept is simple; create, grow and expand learners’ online connections to enable them to become a more active and pervasive learner.

This is driven through emerging technologies, and social media is here to stay. Let’s hope tutors embrace it fully in 2015, and not block it through a lack of understanding.


 6. Personally Accountable Learning/Self-enabled Study

In 2015 we will see a greater need to promote independent learning outside of the classroom. This does not have to be done via a VLE. But the advantages of doing so make reporting and collating evidence much easier. Personally Accountable Learning will grow significantly if the FELTAG recommendations are adopted. 10% online delivery will require much more independent study from the learner. Online guided learning hours will only increase, and the expectation is that most of these will be delivered via a VLE. Promoting the active learner is already embedded into the curriculum; we just need to the tools that encourage it. Blogging, reflection, self-assessment and feedback.


 5. Gamification

This has been a buzzword for way too long. And there have been many interesting articles written on gamification. The reason I think this will grow next year is simply because of the access to mobile technology and the increasing use of apps in teaching. Prior to the smart phone, we tried (and failed) to do this in the VLE. Remember SLOODLE anyone? But a smart phone is the perfect place to facilitate gamification. As the ability to build apps becomes less technical, then expect a flurry of tutor-built apps hitting the app stores soon.


 4. mEnablement

Smart phones and tablets are cheaper than ever. Responsive web design and increased app usage have given birth to a whole new type of e-Learning that just wasn’t possible 4 or 5 years ago. It’s all about instant communication, real-time feedback, push notifications and access to learning on the move. Mobile access (mEnablement) will be one of the key driving forces in 2015, the only thing that stops this moving higher in my top 10 countdown is digital inclusion. College’s need to stop buying PC’s and start buying more tablets to loan to students.. A multi-device strategy is often a cost-effective solution. VLE’s are now truly mobile, and taking mobile devices into work-based locations for say apprenticeships is on the rise. It’s all about instant, real-time on-demand learning, The learner expectation to access resources from a mobile device is no longer a nice to have, but a necessity.


 3. Open Badges

There’s no getting away from Open Badges. And for a good reason, they are an effective way to combine outcomes, gamification and portfolio building.  Learning takes place outside of the classroom, it never stops. So why should recognition for learning stop once the learner achieves something away from campus? Open Badges will be big in 2015. They are cross VLE compatible, backed by Mozilla, and so easy to setup and award that even a tutor can do it! – sorry tutors, I had to say it.


 2. Personalized Learning

The increased use of VLEs to deliver course content will be huge in 2015. Changes in funding, implications of reports such as FELTAG and countless more will call for the increased adoption of online learning. “Teaching Teachers to Teach Online” will be a challenge for most organisations, and delivering personalized courses that meet individual learner needs will be paramount. Guiding learners through resources and promoting the active and independent learner will be a core requirement for many. Conditional release of resources based upon assessment, learning styles, disabilities and abilities will become a core component of online delivery as we shift the paradigm from teaching in a classroom to teaching courses fully online.


 1. Blended Learning

Apologies for stating the obvious, but yes, blended learning will continue to be the biggest trend in e-Learning for the next few years.

For many, the adoption of a VLE has naturally encouraged blended learning, and indeed given rise to the popularity of the flipped classroom. As class sizes and guided learning hours increase, contact time with students will decrease.

So the concept of blended learning to improve the quality of teaching in the physical classroom will still be the driving factor for many organisations in the UK. And as long as we still have physical classrooms and human teachers then there will always be a place for blended learning.


Who knows, perhaps those willing to push the boundaries will incorporate several of the trends discussed in this post, anyone that does is sure to be at the forefront of teaching and learning as we move towards the next academic year. A year I shall aptly name, “How we learned to stop worrying and love the learning technology”.