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The eLearning Ecosystem Metaphor: Key Characteristics And Basic Components

What is an eLearning ecosystem and what do eLearning professionals need to know about it in order to develop eLearning environments that foster learner success? In this article, I’ll explain the key characteristics, as well as the benefits of using the eLearning ecosystem metaphor in eLearning deliverables.
The eLearning Ecosystem Metaphor: Key Characteristics And Basic Components

Key Characteristics Of An eLearning Ecosystem

The term “ecosystem” is usually associated with the scientific community. However, in recent years the eLearning industry has begun to view the eLearning environment as a self-sustaining ecosystem that provides learners with the tools and surroundings they need to achieve their learning objectives. But what, exactly, are the characteristics of an eLearning ecosystem and how can eLearning professionals create such an ecosystem that encourages change and inspires learners?

What Is An eLearning Ecosystem?

In many respects, an eLearning ecosystem is very similar to a scientifically-based ecosystem. Science defines an ecosystem as being a community where organisms interact with one another and with their physical environment. Every organism has a role to fulfill and there must be a harmonious balance between all aspects of the ecosystem in order for the organisms to flourish and evolve.

In the world of eLearning, an eLearning ecosystem is an eLearning environment wherein educational technologiesauthoring tools, and resources are all present, for the sole purpose of instilling knowledge and developing skills for all learners within the eLearning setting. Every member of the eLearning environment must contribute and participate in order for all learners to get the most benefit, just as every learner must utilize the resources available to achieve goals and objectives.

For an eLearning ecosystem to be successful, all participants must be empowered to learn and feel as though they are part of the overall ecosystem. While eLearning professionals can create an eLearning ecosystem that offers learners all of the tools and resources they need, as well as a setting that is conducive to learning, if the learner is not a willing participant the ecosystem will fall apart. In other words, learners will only acquire knowledge and fulfill their role within the ecosystem if they choose to do so.

Basic Components Of An eLearning Ecosystem

There are a variety of elements that come into play within the eLearning ecosystem. All of these elements must be present if both the learners and the entire eLearning ecosystem as a whole are to thrive. According to the scientific definition, in every ecosystem there are three main components: organisms, a physical environment, and relationships between the organisms and their environment. Likewise, an eLearning ecosystem must also have these three main components in order to be successful:

  • learners/facilitators, the actual “organisms” of the eLearning ecosystem,
  • the eLearning space and resources, in other words the eLearning platform where learning will actually take place and the eLearning content learners will access, respectively, and finally
  • the eLearning culture, that sets a positive attitude towards the overall eLearning process and participants’ interaction with the eLearning course.

There are also a number of other core ideologies that are part of a thriving eLearning ecosystem, such as:

  1. Engaging eLearning content.
    One of the most important aspects of a successful eLearning ecosystem is high quality eLearning content that engages and emotionally connects the learner with the eLearning course. This eLearning content may be in the form of text, branching scenarios or interactive multimedia presentations. Regardless of the format, the eLearning content should always be geared toward achieving learning goals and changing learning behaviors, so that learners have the power to improve their lives outside of the eLearning ecosystem.
  2. Continual assessment.
    Assessment is the key to any learning process. However, learners can only truly benefit from assessment if they are offered on a regular basis, such as upon completion of each lesson or module. This not only gives eLearning professionals the ability to track learners progress and assess how much they have acquired, but also allow learners to reflect and review key concepts so that they can commit them to long term memory. These assessments can come in the form of eLearning scenario questions, online exams, or simulations.
  3. Modern technologies.
    Modern technologies and learning tools allow learners to fulfill their specific roles in an eLearning ecosystem. In essence, they give them access to the knowledge and skill set development they need to achieve their goals and offer them the chance to interact with their peers in a virtual environment. Likewise, eLearning professionals can use technology to fulfill their roles by supplying learners with the information and resources they require to meet the learning objectives. For example, mobile devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, are invaluable tools that can help to create an engaging and immersive learning environment for every member of the eLearning ecosystem.
  4. A solid support structure.
    A solid support structure is at the heart of every successful eLearning ecosystem. If learners do not have access to the help and feedback they need throughout the eLearning process, then they are less likely to achieve the desired outcome. They are simply not able to be active participants in the eLearning ecosystem, because they lack the motivation and support to do so. This is why a support structure is of the upmost importance, in addition to a supportive eLearning culture.
    Learners must feel as though they have access to supplemental online resources that they can use to further expand their knowledge base and broaden their understanding of a particular topic. They must also be able to reach out to either their instructor or peers if they are in need of assistance. For example, if they are unable to complete an assignment because they do not have sufficient resources, they can collaborate with their peers to receive the help they need to progress through the eLearning course. Above all else, an eLearning ecosystem must offer learners encouragement and motivation in order for them to become active members of the group.

Creating an eLearning ecosystem that encourages behavioral change, performance improvement, and skill set development is key to the success of your eLearning course. Use this guide to create the framework for the eLearning ecosystem for your next eLearning deliverable, so that you can give your audience the opportunity to get the most out of their eLearning experience.

Speaking of experience, are you interested to know how to create eLearning experiences that your learners aren’t soon to forget? Read the article 7 Tips To Create eLearning Experiences That Stick where you can find tips on how to develop eLearning experiences that stick, giving your learners the opportunity to put their knowledge to use outside of the virtual learning environment.

 
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