A few years ago, I remember hearing the word eLearning for the first time. I had accepted a job with NRC circa 2001. I knew there was an eLearning team in Moncton. I remember thinking they were lucky because Moncton is a relatively cool city.
I vaguely remember meeting Stephen Downes for the first time. He probably doesn’t remember me though. I was in a basement and had nothing close to an office. It wasn’t so bad though, but because very quickly we moved to a beautiful office where I had a gigantic office. In any case, I see this tall angry man come in and try to plug is laptop. Can’t remember what wasn’t working, but I remember he was quite angry. This was eLearning for me at the time.
Fast-forward a few years. I’ve grown convinced that eLearning is there to stay. As Stephen might put it: we’ve now integrated technology without changing our ways in any fundamental manner. Next step is to change our ways. Gone will be the lecture halls. Campuses will be lifestyle choices.
It is easy to predict such revolutions, but you need evidence to back your statements. Well, blogging is one such sign. I read many exciting blogs by students, but two come to mind right now Claire’s and Didier’s. Claire is struggling to finish her Ph.D. while Didier is probably a top 1% undergraduate student. Of course, there are many examples of exciting blogs by students… but I pick these two because they are great examples. There is a tight integration between the learning process and the content of the blog. The blog is part of the learning process. You can see it live. In Claire’s case, it is not so much the content of her Ph.D. that is integrated with the blog, but rather the process of writting the damn thing and the usual Ph.D. versus employment struggle. Though Claire might have another blog strictly about the content of her Ph.D. As for Didier, he writes about the content of his classes and textbooks.
In many ways, I feel like Didier could be a student at my school. A relatively close student. Claire could be down the hall some place and we could chat about academia, industry and all the usual stuff. But this is happening on-line. This is all happening without a building. There is no brick-and-mortar involved. I suspect I might know a bit more about Didier and Claire than some of their professors do… This is what physical campuses are up against.
Technology in the classroom is not what eLearning is about. eLearning is about abolishing the classroom just like libraries have been abolished. I still go to libraries, but for the lifestyle effect… not to buy books. If I want to buy a book, I do it on-line.
In many ways, on-line learning is more human, it has more soul. It is about real people communicating, becoming part of a rich networking. Learning and growing together.
(Oh! And my blog is a student’s blog as well. I just happen to be on the other side of the fence, the side charging tuitions…)