Defining what is and isn’t eLearning!

Elearning is REALLY hard to define! Almost as hard to explain what makes excellent teaching – you often just know it when you see it and there are many facets to it.
In the early days of eLearning (and I like using a small ‘e’ – it makes the learning part the focus) the phrase was used to describe any type of classroom experience with an ‘e’lectric device. I think now, however, most would admit that an ‘eLearning’ pedagogy has emerged.
But how would you explain it? It is about creating, communicating and collaborating but I”ve designed a model that explains it as I see it.
The venn diagram below is my attempt to show three sides of this new pedagogy and how they can interact to form this emerging teaching practice.
(Click to enlarge) Download blank version pdf
The three parts are Social Construction, Feedback and the Digital Element. Any part of the learning experience could fit into one, two or even three parts of the venn. So blogging, for example, can be a digital element when a post is written by someone on their own but, when they work with a partner it has the social element. It then becomes part of the feedback element when the post receives a comment.

Here’s another example. A class is set an inquiry problem to redesign an outdoor area for their school that would benefit other students. They work in co-operative groups and research some solutions to the problem, based on what other students would like (Social Construction). After working through a technology design process that involved using Google Sketchup to design some plans and Skype (Digital Element) to interview a landscape designer they then build a garden for students to spend some quiet time in. They then take photos and a small video of their garden and post them to their blogs, asking for some ideas from other students in other schools about how they could improve the garden (Feedback).
This example is very close to an inquiry my class took part in last year – all except for the final part.
On the flip side, I think this venn could also be used to explain how a learning experience isn’t the best example of eLearning. Taking a photo and putting on a blog fits within the digital element. But, if the post gains some constructive comments then we have two of the elements.
I’d also suggest that for an experience to be truly an eLearning one then it would involve all three at some stage of the process.
What do you think?
Post script – I discovered two other ideas for what the ‘e’ could stand for in digging around for this post
‘e’nabling – the ability for the student to do things and putting them at the centre of the creating and learning.
‘e’verywhere learning. This is probably my favourite take on it, especially with the growing smart phone movement. It’s all about wireless and mobile!

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