learning from elearning

Are we out of date by even mentioning the term e-learning here? Is it even necessary these days? Let’s look at the facts.

According to learning entrepreneur Jay Cross he coined the term “elearning” in 1998.

Then Blackboard Inc. were awarded a patent for the term “e-learning” in January 2006.

A web backlash against Blackboard Inc. came about shortly after and a wiki was formed which attributes e-learning to Vannevar Bush all the way back in 1945 when he wrote an article about a proposed hypertext-like machine called the Memex.

Does this mean that if we offer “e-learning” as one of our services we run the risk of infringing on a patent set by a competitor?

Elearning, e-learning, electronic learning, enhanced learning  whatever it’s called it would appear to have been around for a while now.  Does this mean elearning is an old term though?  Does the term e-learning have any place in this technologically advanced world?

Our company, Marton House is of course synonymous with the term e-learning as it is a massive part of our company offering.  Though we quite often recommend instead a blended approach to learning, with facilitators and trainers supporting the material or vice versa with the materials supporting them.

So does that mean e-learning as a stand alone product has had it’s day?  On the whole probably not as the benefits of e-learning still outstrips many more traditional approaches.  It’s cost effective, it can be simultaneously rolled out in multiple locations world wide, it can feature data and accurate result tracking which is very difficult and slow to achieve in more traditional forms of delivery, and it can replicate and simulate complex systems during the learning process which means training mistakes do not occur on live customer facing systems.

Is it evolving though?

I’m currently doing some e-learning myself in the form of learning Spanish via my Nintendo DS.  Suddenly I find myself as the student rather than the deliverer and as much as I have every belief in this game and what it can offer me on my path to speaking Spanish there is sadly one thing that is sorely lacking – the human touch.  I met up with a buen amigo of mine at the weekend who speaks Spanish and for the first time I could put the individual words I had learnt into sentences.

Having someone to quiz and bounce off is sometimes the most vital need for the learning process.

The trick to effective training and learning is all about support.

So we mix e-learning with more traditional methods of delivery and we get “blended learning”, a term that does the job but doesn’t exactly get everyone in the room jumping up and down with excitement.  It’s not a new term either.

Then we have feedback and peer learning as an extension to that approach.

So should we be pioneering a new term?  Maybe it’s just me but electronic learning does make me think of the children’s learning aid machines from the 1980’s such as Speak ‘n’ Spell and blended learning makes me think of learning how to make cocktails.

We are dangerously close to the term “e-learning 2.0” cropping up and that makes me shudder.  It’s too easy these days to strap on the term “2.0” to anything which is new but, as the evidence shows it is happening across all areas (see web 2.0, business 2.0, Jake 2.0 etc.)

Tomorrow we take a look at the journey from “e-learning 1.0” to “e-learning 2.0“.  How did we get here and how on earth did we end up versioning everything?