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    • #29737
      David Read
      Keymaster
        @david

        Have you seen examples from your own experience where e-learning both lived up to it’s promise of delivering effective and engaging content/learning and where it failed to deliver what it promised? I would imagine you might have seen some in the last year or so ;-) Can you briefly describe and explain why?

        Also, think of one question you have about the article, maybe something that didn’t make sense or something you’d like to know more about and add it here.


        To give my own responses:

        One occasion where I think e-learning lived up to its promise for me was in helping us to flip our pre-sessional summer school a few years  back. To deal with increased numbers, we moved half of the course online, with students asked to work through interactive content before going to their classes. I think this worked really well with most students fully engaging with the content and freeing up time for the teachers to provide more individualised practice in class. I think it worked because the content was carefully designed by a team of teachers to meet the goals of the programme and was tested thoroughly with students beforehand.

        One time where it really didn’t work – and this is a definite case of when I lost sight of the goal – was when I persuaded our centre to buy a pair of not inexpensive Google Glass (remember them? Glasses with a display in them) as I believed we could use them to record lessons etc and help improve teaching. In this case I hadn’t really thought in much depth about how they could be used and just wanted a chance to play with them. They got used a few times and then became a play toy for our tech team!

        As for the question about the text:

        In EFL/EAP what would be the equivalent language skills that would equate to near and far transfer? I’m not sure I can fully map those to what we do in English.

      • #30578
        Robert Anderson
        Participant
          @robert

          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?

        • #30666
          Sue Everest
          Participant
            @sue

            One example when e-learning lived up to its promise:

            Last summer during the pre-sessional, I was having problems getting students to submit written work. One day, I decided to use Padlet to share and comment on each others’ work. I had to be patient and give them time to submit, but once they got going I suddenly got a lot more engagement.

            One example of when e-learning failed to live up to its promise;

            When first going online at the start of Covid, we found that students wouldn’t do the pre-lesson tasks on Moodle, and a lot of teacher time was wasted in class. Later this had to be linked better with student attendance records as an incentive.

            Article questions:

            I would like to find out more about the Guided Discovery architecture to see whether that would suit L2 learning. Also, the article highlights the gap between research and practice, which the authors intend to address. I feel this is common in EAP teaching. Schemes of Work and learning outcomes are often based on theory but are they flexible enough for individual student needs? A teacher can become dispirited knowing the ideal learning outcomes as opposed to the reality of students’ abilities. However, frequent anonymous online surveys appear to be a better way of checking understanding and learning than face to face checks.

             

             

             

             

             

             

             

          • #30701
            Naomi Rabin
            Participant
              @naomirabin

              One example when e-learning lived up to its promise; Erm, I’m not the most motivated online learner, but I did think the Corpus for Teachers course was well designed – as it had a range of activities to keep me engaged. I also did an orienteering course online in the height of lockdown (instructor lead) and that was great as it offered a range of activities and orienteering puzzles. But I was particularly enthusiastic about the content which might explain my positive review of the course.

              One example of when e-learning failed to live up to its promise; I did my Masters’ in Applied Linguistics distance learning at quite a well renowned university, and the content was a bunch of PDFs with written information and then a reading list, plus an email from a tutor once in a while. They said something about forum discussions but there never seemed to be much response. I didn’t mind at the time as it was a means to an end but in hindsight I would question why I paid thousands of pounds for some really quite lazy course development….

            • #30733
              Paul Middlemas
              Participant
                @paul-m

                One example when e-learning lived up to its promise 

                Similar to @robert I found the LTEAP course really engaging and it struck a good balance between the theory and the practical. I was familiar with a lot of what was introduced, but the course definitely improved the way that I used these e-learning tools, and allowed for reflection. One example would be EdPuzzle, which I’d used quite regularly beforehand without actually creating my own videos or necessarily considering its efficacy as a learning tool. Going through the whole process of making my own EdPuzzle highlighted that the content and pedagogical decisions are vital, and that just using e-learning in itself isn’t a recipe to success.

                One example of when e-learning failed to live up to its promise 

                Perhaps not ‘failing to live up to its promise’, but I’m still unsure of the best platform for promoting student interaction, comments and reflections on message boards. I have used Blackboard’s Discussion Board, Google +, Google Classroom, Padlet and perhaps others, and I think they all have positives, but also don’t feel like learners have ever taken full ownership of these platforms (in my classes!). It may be to do with how I’ve used these in the past e.g. for sharing information, encouraging students to share their work, peer feedback, social stuff like posting photos. I have thought that it could be students don’t warm to posting on a public forum, or maybe that more gamification in these kind of platforms could increase interaction…

              • #30749
                Andrew Burke
                Participant
                  @andrew

                  One example of when e-learning lived up to its promise

                  My impression (without empirical evidence) is that students progressed sufficiently on the online course delivered last term. Perhaps the lack of travel needed to the classroom improved some students’ energy levels.

                  One example of when e-learning didn’t live up to its promise

                  It relies heavily on trusting the student. Are students ever really doing e-learning? It lacks some of the more obvious and immediate checks of face – to face learning. For example, when I created pre-lecture materials on Rise, I would occasionally ‘check’ students were doing the materials by adding a task that required a name. Uptake on these particular activities was low; did this mean students weren’t doing any of the pre-lecture materials or had they just decided not to do those ones?

                   

                • #30759
                  Georgina Lloyd
                  Participant
                    @georgie_l

                    Hi everyone,

                    Both of my examples are from a teacher’s perspective. Firstly, teaching a 10-week pre-sessional course this summer using Teams worked pretty well. A lot of the content was still delivered using Word documents, but two things worked particularly well. One, the flipped nature of the course – the students did a few hours work every day before attending the class. The live sessions could then be used to consolidate learning. Secondly – TEAMS – in my humble opinion I think this is fab! :good: My class had it’s own team, I only had 8 students. Every thing from the course (almost) is in one place. It’s really easy to interact, post messages, have meetings, and the live classroom teaching also takes place from there. So in answer to @paul-m questions, for me it’s defintely Teams.

                    A course that I teach on for a online university here in Spain does not live up to the promise of e-learning. Although there is some interactive content, too much of the course is still delivered through really long and confusing PDFs, and there are glitchy things with their platform that makes it really user-unfriendly. However, there are positives too, they have developed a software where students have to interact looking at different prompts in a live, recorded video call. The students quite hate it, but it a great way to gauge their real language level as it’s one of the few activities that they can’t prepare (or use Google translate) for!

                  • #30762
                    Brenda Allen
                    Participant
                      @azurial

                      Coming rather late to the party, I endorse much of what has already been said.

                      For me, e-learning most lives up to its promise when I have the flexibility of working with my own private online students.  Utilising technology to the full tends to be second nature to these students and I therefore have found it a symbiotic process where they can also take ownership – contributing their own ideas and twists on activities.  Materials can very easily be customised to their specific needs on an ongoing basis and a range of flipped classroom approaches can be tailored using a wide variety of online tools and media.

                      Unfortunately, the complete reverse has been true on the two summer pre-sessionals I have taught online.  (Although an earlier in-sessional with a different university, taught right at the very beginning of the pandemic, was conversely successful – partly because it was realistic in scope and also as it now transpires to have followed much of the underlying theory.) As with all forms of teaching, it is disappointing when valid pedagogical trends are hijacked and exploited in a lazy and facile way.  (EG: ‘Flipped classroom’, ‘Groupwork’, ‘Communicative Approach’, ‘Peer Feedback’.)  It is also deadly dull for teachers and students alike when no attempt has been made to adapt set materials for online delivery.  (Although, admittedly, I suspect that the materials in question would have been no less successful in a live classroom.)  It was doubly frustrating to know that a fair number of other universities have made strong attempts to adapt to the online environment and to combat the dead hand of the likes of Blackboard.

                      Oh, and my question regarded the current research on the efficacy of online learning, pretty much echoing @robert all round.  It will be very interesting to see what the formal research undertaken over the pandemic reveals and how it will affect future approaches. In the meantime, anecdotally, the success of, say, a standard pre-sessional course would still appear to depend heavily on the role the teacher plays both in facilitating the learning experience and in fostering an inclusive atmosphere, in tandem with the design of the materials provided.  I have myself been a student on a diverse selection of online courses and, ultimately, they have risen or fallen on the strength and level of participation of other course members.  Although, as @sue attests, assessment procedures do play their part, this can again be greatly influenced by the teacher’s engagement, enthusiasm and commitment – whilst the effective design of materials becomes ever more paramount when exclusively being relied upon on an online platform.

                    • #30769
                      David Read
                      Keymaster
                        @david

                        Thanks @robert @sue @paul-m @georgie_l @azurial @andrew for your comments on this.

                        I think what’s coming through from your initial comments is that e-learning works when a clear effort has been made to design the lesson for the online environment rather than simply dumping the contents of the face to face course into a VLE with no consideration for how the students will interact with it.


                        @paul-m
                        and @andrew you both raise the issue of levels of engagement with online materials and environments and whether students are fully involved. It is a challenge certainly, but I think that’s where the teacher can really help in how they ‘sell’ or ‘present’ the online materials to students. The danger is that it can become a little bit like the infamous workbooks (connected to a course book) that students were supposed to work through on their own or do for homework for extra practice – and rarely did. If the online content is made a key component of the course and presented that way, it can make a difference (not always of course!).

                        We also have to allow for the fact that students are different, and just as we’ll get a range of involvement in the face to face class (the keen student at the front raising his/her hand, the bored student at the back staring out of the window) you’ll get different levels of involvement online. The way that we combat that online is the same way we do it face to face, by getting involved as teachers, contacting them, chivvying them etc. The greatest mistake is when we think that online courses will magically run themselves once set up and don’t need any further teacher intervention. All your examples of good e-learning refer to courses where teachers were actively involved in the process.


                        @robert
                        you raise a good question about the effectiveness of e-learning over traditional methods, though it’s a question that likely just raises more questions possibly than it answers ;-)

                        I still don’t think there is a clear cut answer to that question. I read a meta report a few years back (I’ll try to dig it out for the reference, it’s somewhere lost among all my files and folders) that indicated that blended learning – that is, a combination of face to face and online delivery – has consistently proved to be more effective than pure face to face or online delivery. I think this was purely in terms of exam results.

                        The problem of course is that these terms are somewhat loaded – even more so since COVID. What do we mean by ‘traditional’ teaching? Do we categorise a teacher reading out in a lecture format from a book in front of 200 students the same as a teacher setting up engaging group work and pair work in a small face to face class? And if that teacher gives them digital activities to do at home (quizzes etc) does that make it ‘blended’ or simply is that homework they are being given? Is an online course with no teacher involvement the same as an online course with live synchronous sessions/forums etc with engaged teachers? I think the problem is that the definitions are becoming increasingly muddied and it’s probably easier to focus on what behaviours (whether face to face or online)  help increase student involvement/engagement rather than the medium of delivery.

                      • #32138
                        Aaron Darmudas
                        Participant
                          @aarond

                          One example when e-learning lived up to its promise

                          Before I attended massage therapy school the main source of information and insight into the many different massage techniques/styles was from video resources that experts had made for their own online training courses. This was the absolute best way for any beginner to build upon their skills and learn as much as they could about the anatomy and physiology of the human body. It allowed you to follow along at your own pace or just watch them work, pause/rewind whenever you want. When it came to the practical classroom learning, there was no opportunity to pause of go back and re-watch. It was full on for days on end and you learned by repeating techniques again and again.  Similarly, there are many times I use e-learning for training on how to do use a piece of software, or as a refresher for myself to recall how to perform a certain task for creating content, for example, in adobe illustrator.

                          One example of when e-learning failed to live up to its promise 

                          Attended a Microsoft windows 10 course for managing and deploying to users in Manchester and the practical course although dull was not too bad. One day however, we were forced to attend remotely. Although the building was more than capable of dealing with online teaching, the cameras recording the classroom where not functioning correctly. Microphones had stopped working so you were unable to engage with the rest of the class. All resulted in having to return for 1 day in the future to redo the content that was missed on that day. Terrible…

                          I have not had many negative experiences with e-learning. However, I try before I buy. Sometimes if the online course content is simply PDF overload with very little user interaction or practical engagement that is assessed, then I will not enrol. Many online platforms allow you the opportunity to do this, which I think is a great feature.

                        • #32221
                          Juliet Parfitt
                          Keymaster
                            @juliet

                            That Microsoft course sounds like a teacher’s worst nightmare, @aarond! At least they gave you another lesson!

                            • #32615
                              Brenda Allen
                              Participant
                                @azurial

                                Good suggestion about trying out courses in advance. Over lockdowns I did quite a few, often through Harvard, and these invariably allow the possibility to ‘audit’ the course first. You can even follow many of them for free and take what you wish from them. It is only if you want to be assessed, have your assignments marked and gain a certificate that you need to pay very much, in many cases. As they are generally well-designed and, although largely asynchronous, pretty interactive with plenty of video content, interviews with academics and authors etc, I normally saw them through and benefited – despite never yet going for any kind of certificate. There is a huge range and they taught me a lot, not least about being an online student. An important factor here, as mentioned, was the level and quality of engagement from other course participants. This varied enormously but was generally not as good, I feel, as when there is an active course leader to motivate and at least have some level of synchronous contact.The only course I could not abide was their famous introduction to computer science. I really wanted to understand this alien subject – but was totally switched off by endless footage of undoubtedly brilliant but extremely tedious computer scientists, in full lecture mode, apparently talking endlessly to themselves.

                            • #32436
                              Jonathan Rowland
                              Participant
                                @jjdr

                                One example when e-learning lived up to its promise

                                Courses transferred from the physical classroom to Blackboard Collaborate with at most a couple of weeks notice due to the plague. Fast forward a term or two and materials are being delivered confidently, this was for a course with specific progression requirements and limited flexibility for what students could choose to work on. A case could be made for the online version being more effective and less stressful for a certain portion of the course.

                                One example of when e-learning failed to live up to its promise 

                                Perhaps not strictly e-learning but a lesson in how not to bring new tech into a classroom as a replacement for physical tools. Introduction of interactive whiteboards in a large teaching centre around 2003. Training, was principally, ‘how to use IWBs as whiteboards’, most teachers still quite excited to have a new classroom toy to play with. Problems with implementation? Remove traditional whiteboards, don’t ask whether the kit will stand up to being used in a busy teaching centre with a significant proportion of YL’s. Disillusion, reams of A3 being taken into classrooms, board pens (quite expensive apparently) falling apart, and occasionally hurled into the harbour. 18 months later regular whiteboards and markers re-installed alongside IWB’s.

                                • #32613
                                  Brenda Allen
                                  Participant
                                    @azurial

                                    Haha, yes, interactive white elephants are a very good example. Though I have seen colleagues who were dab hands and still swear by the things – as long as they work. I trained twice but luckily still had trusty whiteboards to hand as an alternative. It is encouraging to read of the success of the courses being put onto Blackboard so successfully.

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