Robert Anderson

      One example when e-learning lived up to its promise was when I took the Learning Technologies in EAP course at the ELTC, University of Sheffield. A variety of online activity types within the course area (e.g. videos, readings, padlet posts, interactive tasks, forum discussions) were combined with practical tasks that involved us creating materials with some of the tools being studied (e.g. Socrative, TedEd, Flax, Quizlet). I then used those materials in class in order to try them out and obtain feedback from students. I think one of the reasons why the course worked well was because of this mixture of theoretical input and collaboration via e-learning, and practical ‘fieldwork’ away from the e-learning environment.

      One example of when e-learning failed to live up to its promise was in some of the synchronous teaching sessions that I led on our university’s virtual classroom Blackboard Collaborate over the last year or so. The first issue seemed to be with frequent connectivity and audio/video quality issues for both teacher and students. This seems to be an example of when ‘delivery and accessibility were impeded by technology problems’ (Tallent-Runnels at al., reported in Clark and Meyer 2011, p.13) thus reducing effectiveness of e-learning. The second issue with the platform was that opportunities for engaging interactive activities on screen during the lessons were severely limited by the very basic tools available. Both of these problems often resulted in stress for the teacher and a less than ideal learning experience for the students.

      For me, one question that arises from the article regards the apparent lack of empirical evidence proving the superior effectiveness of e-learning over more traditional methods (Clark and Meyer 2011, p.12). The authors suggest that it’s not the medium but the quality of the instructional methods which are the key to effective learning (ibid., p.14), though this convenient caveat doesn’t help to satisfy my curiosity about the relative effectiveness of different media for learning. My question is (finally!): Since the authors made their comments (10 years ago), what other empirical evidence on the comparative effectiveness of the use of e-learning and traditional learning has emerged?