Exploring e-learning in all its forms

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In preparing for a workshop next week, I have been putting together a short presentation to explain the full breadth of e-learning, and to direct attention away from the fixation, in workplace learning at least, on self-paced interactive content. My model breaks down e-learning into three main forms:

  1. Online content: e-tutorials, games and simulations, videos, podcasts, presentations, software demos, quizzes, etc.
  2. Live online learning: real-time collaboration with peers and tutors in virtual classroom sessions, webinars, online meetings, etc.
  3. Asynchronous online learning: collaborating with peers and with tutors at your own pace using tools such as email, forums, blogs, wikis, social networks, etc.

What’s interesting to me is how each of these forms is capable of operating at three distinct levels:

  1. Formal: top-down interventions packaged as courses.
  2. Non-formal: content and activities that have an explicit learning purpose, but which operate outside the bounds of a formal course.
  3. Informal: content and activities that are typically learner-generated or learner-initiated.

Online content

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Formal online content is likely to include full-blown self-study courses. In the non-formal category, I’d include rapid e-learning content, podcasts, demos, presentations and so on. The informal category comprises all sorts of user-generated content, including blogs.

Live online learning

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At the formal end of the scale, live online learning will include those virtual classroom sessions which are packaged as courses or which form part of formal, blended solutions. The non-formal category will include webinars and other facilitated sessions, while the informal category will cover the use of web conferencing, instant messaging and similar tools for meetings initiated by learners themselves.

Asynchronous online collaboration

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Asynchronous online tools such as forums play a major part in many formal distance learning courses, but can also be used on an ongoing basis to facilitate discussion and provide support. Wikis and social networks, on the other hand, provide the means for collaboration between learners on a bottom-up basis.

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