Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Student's Experiences of E-Learning in Higher Education

Disclaimer: this one is written by people I work and study with.

This book seems to be written more to target people running e-learning at a university than the run-of-the-mill academic (or grad student). It takes the approach that the University should be treated as an ecology, where all the parts need to work in harmony together, rather than as a hierarchy. That the University as a whole should focus on Learning as its raison d'ĂȘtre, since all aspects of a university's core business are about learning - in the case of students, learning to become a member of a community of knowledge; in the case of researchers, learning by discovering new knowledge. It looks at how to try to improve the functioning of a University using this ecological approach.

What made if particularly interesting was that it was written very much from the point of view of the Uni I work at, and examples were drawn from research done at this Uni. The authors, Rob Ellis and Peter Goodyear, are respectively the Director of E-Learning at Sydney University, and my PhD supervisor. So it was quite fascinating seeing how they thought a university should be run, and comparing that to how our uni is run.

Overall I got a lot more from the high-level picture of how e-learning at a University runs than I got ideas about how students experience e-learning at a Uni, but that is probably because it covers a lot of the ground covered in the previous pile of textbooks I had read. The important idea that it contributes to my thinking about student learning is that e-learning should not be considered in isolation or in contrast against traditional teaching and learning methods; but that rather that it should be viewed holistically as part of a larger picture of how students are learning.

Perhaps I got distracted by the big picture Sydney Uni stuff which, from my point of view, came across almost as insider gossip, and was distracted from the main message a bit; but even then this was a useful viewpoint to digest, and will stop me thinking of e-learning as something that has to compete with traditional learning, and lead me more to see how to integrate e-learning with other modes of learning. Certainly, students aren't seeing it as an either/or proposition, but rather as complementary parts of a learning toolkit that they deploy strategically when figuring out how to learn effectively.

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