What Is Missing From E-Learning?
Background to the article: My main observation of going through the formidable and very informative process of achieving, for instance, the UNIQUe E-Quality label of the former European Foundation for Quality in E-Learning (EFQUEL) or achieving quite recently, for example, the E-xcellence Associates’ label of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), is how reputable e-learning accrediting bodies prefer to view e-learning generically, subsuming it within the context of the institution. Moreover, this view is resonated in the detailed recommendations made in the following two policy documents: (1) The HEFCE revised approach to e-learning strategy for enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology, and (2) the UK Quality Assurance Agency higher-education strategy for flexible and distributed learning.
But, is such an approach to e-learning certification creating a situation where the wondrous and complex forest of the human heart can’t be seen for the pigeonholing trees? Or put another way, isn’t something very important about humans missing from such classifications of e-learning?
“Did you know that according to Google, the spelling of e-learning with a hyphen is apparently more than 10 times more frequent than the spelling of elearning without a hyphen?” I say to myself.
“Yeah, and so what?” I reply.
“I prefer the hyphenated spelling. And if you believed, as I do, that the human spiritual heart can blow the universe up with flowery love-might, you would too,” I say to myself.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I reply.
“The hyphen separates the human learner from the ‘e’, and I’m not that interested in the ‘e’ unless it helps me to understand how the human actually learns. And for me, the only learning that is valuable is learning that leads to flowery love-might being spread throughout the universe.”
Is E-Learning Quietly Taking Over?
If one were to peruse the increasingly exhaustive requirements stipulated by the growing number of prominent e-learning accreditation bodies, one might surmise quite quickly that e-learning benchmarks for learning institutions have become remarkably multifaceted encompassing the institutional strategic plan, curriculum design, course design, course delivery, staff support and student support. Furthermore, universities to a greater extent are now offering fully online undergraduate and postgraduate degrees; for examples click here to see a fairly up-to-date list compiled by the DLIT Unit in October 2015 of fully-online master-degree offerings in UK-universities .
The scandent stems of e-learning have therefore been creeping their unrelenting way up into institutional crevices achieving a tighter new-is-good-but-newer-is-even-better chokehold. Are we not in the name of progress now experiencing the most monstrous teacher-student transmogrification in human history? I mean this ‘newfashioned e-learning thing’ has only really been kicking arse over the last 10 years or so, and ‘us’ humans have been teaching and learning in ‘the folklore way’ for apparently approximately 200,000 years. So isn’t the wry e-face of e-learning inevitability smiling approvingly and saying tauntingly, “I know you can’t survive without me now”? Isn’t powerfully disruptive e-learning artificial intelligence, particularly in the form of AI tutors, also going to pop out of this Pandora’s e-box of wonders and wizardries soon, and then what?
Regrettably, we’re actually living in a global era of increasing transmogrification and decreasing collective common sense. It’s an era of cemented brains, mushy bigotry, marionette gestures, lamebrain economics, sledgehammer corporations, screwjob dreams, harrowing poverty, stupefying opulence, debilitating fear, cavity-search scrupulousness , sunless carbon-footprints, bail-in fleecing, iniquitous outsourcing, tearaway migration, peak everything, fiat to infinity, war on war, and a nutty patchwork of much more.
So What Is Missing From E-Learning?
Well drawing mainly on the EADTU quick scan, it’s not the institution's accessibility (disability) policy or accessibility in the openness widening-participation, virtual-mobility or lifelong-learning sense. It’s not flexibility in the retention-rate-any-time-any-place-study sense. It’s not the level of interactivity (student-to-content or student-to-student) or the amount of personalization. It’s not the products (curriculum design, course design and course delivery), support (staff and student) or management strategy vision and policy. It’s not the monitoring and implementation of emergent technologies and educational developments. It’s not the equipment purchase, software implementation or recruitment of staff. It’s not quality procedures, formatively and summatively assessed learning outcomes, regular feedback through self-assessment activities, guidelines concerning layout and presentation, or impersonation and/or plagiarism prevention. It’s not technical infrastructure maintaining the e-learning system is fit for purpose, meta-data-learning-resource labelling, student metrics, IPR policies, using OERs, single sign-on access, strong end-to-end encryption or production quality standards.
So What Is Missing From E-Learning (once again)?
Where is the laughter? Where is the aliveness? Where is the kinetic and tactile group experience? Where is the camaraderie, the closeness, or the warmth of humans being together? Where is the body language, tone of voice, or the subliminal learning? Where is the kaleidoscope of everything humans have been doing naturally in the classroom before e-learning came along? E-learning is slashing mercilessly the teacher-student bond, and the introduction of AI-powered LMSs with AI tutors by some bright spark will morph things beyond belief.
But human-to-human teaching is not old-fangled, nor is it 'all-ego'; quite the contrary, the human teacher may be tweaking to some degree, knowingly or unknowingly, something in the human student heart. A correctly tweaked metaphysical human heart can climb the highest mountain, play the most intricate musical work, or formulate the most complex scientific principles; it might be the most powerful thing in the universe, and if all the human hearts got tweaked at the same time, they might blow the universe up with flowery love-might.
So I’m looking forward to the day e-learning has really cool super-HD holograms (or some kind of teleportation option), so we can start doing things more like we have/had been doing in the classroom!