"Elearning fails" – Eisenstadt

KMi Chief Scientist Marc Eisenstadt delivered a stinging condemnation of elearning at his keynote address to the IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies on Friday in Niigata, Japan. The keynote, entitled "Does elearning have to be so awful? (Time to mashup or shutup)", took objection to decades of false promises and research that had high intellectual merit but either failed to deliver in the real world at large scale, or alternatively delivered, but made for an awful end-user experience.

Notable exceptions to this work, including strong results from the likes of Roger Schank and John Anderson, and the Open University itself, were simply not referenced in the very conference that purported to be about Advanced Learning Technologies, possibly because they were mistakenly thought to be either ‘too old’ or ‘outside the paradigm’ of conference discussion.

This did not deny the significance of the strong research actually presented at ICALT 2007, but instead emphasised the need to roll out results in a way that involved Eisenstadt’s three key attributes of ‘scale, human warmth, and (teacher/staff) buy-in’. Eisenstadt conducted a whirlwind tour through 5 decades of false promises, including (pictured above) the 1970’s Saturday-Night-Fever-era of ‘Microcomputers for all’, which may have helped raise a generation of computer-savvy kids, but generally not done much for (say) their scientific problem solving skills.

This is a theme Eisenstadt has explored in the past, but this time he attempted something of a wake-up call to an audience that was demonstrably weak in the use of social netwoking (according to several straw polls taken during the event), despite paying lip service to its virtues.

The talk looked at the brighter side of things too, taking a personal stance on some of the ‘magic sauce’ that makes Web2.0 a genuine force to be reckoned with, and looking at some powerful lessons that can be learned from the way the Open University, and in particular its new experiments with OpenLearn, are leveraging social tools for large-scale deployment in an educational context.

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