The e-Learning Revolution

I contributed a video on ‘The e-Learning Revolution’ to Bitpod’s ‘In a Nutshell’ series. The script is shown below (it started out at 700 words but was trimmed to 300 to create just two minutes of video).

To be successful in today’s knowledge economy we need new ways to learn, ways that don’t rely on us turning up in a classroom with the teacher.

E-Learning has been around for a while but is often seen as the poor relation to learning delivered in the classroom. This view is rooted in the idea that ‘teacher knows best’ and without a teacher a class is incapable of learning. This position is misguided in two ways.

Firstly the quality of the classroom experience depends almost entirely on the effectiveness of the teacher. If you have a great teacher the learning is effective. If you don’t it isn’t.

Secondly it assumes that learners aren’t self motivated; that without a guide the learning won’t get done. In practice today’s learners are much more self-directed and they need a guide only occasionally.

E-Learning, if it is well designed, can be just as effective as classroom learning but it does have different strengths.

Undoubtedly the single biggest advantage of e-learning over the classroom is efficiency. If you need one thousand people in your organisation to learn something quickly, then e-learning is the only realistic solution. That’s why pretty much all basic compliance training is done online.

E-Learning is also tremendously flexible – its available 24/7 and accessible pretty much anywhere – in the office, at home, or on the train to work. This always-on capability has fuelled the growth of e-learning and the demand for what is called just-in-time learning – learning that’s available at the moment of need.

E-Learning is also cheap – an e-course is typically a quarter of the cost of a day in the classroom. That’s Buy One Get Three Free in the language of Tesco or Walmart.

That’s a powerful driver for the e-approach.

Adventures in Online Learning Infographic

Adventures in Online Learning

TEDx Exeter, 12 April 2013


Earlier this month I attended a TEDx for the first time at the University of Exeter. I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t the speakers – they were inspirational in all sorts of ways – but the format. First of all the theatre venue was quite depressing – dark with the audience in full auditorium style. Great for packing people in but poor for audience interaction. The lack of natural light was also a problem. Ideas are much better shared under sustainable natural light. It seems that most TED events happen in the dark – maybe it’s to do with the fact that everything is videoed for putting on the web. Each speaker speaks for 18 mins, they share some slides (it seems important that they stand in the red spot), the audience claps and if the talk is really good there is a standing ovation (we had a couple of those). There is no opportunity to ask the speakers any questions at the end and therein lies the big issue with the TEDx format – apart from the clapping there is no audience interaction all. Zilch. I left early. This is my audience interaction. To finish on a positive note I was inspired by:

  • Matt Harper’s poetry
  • Tom Crompton on the ‘The Conscience Economy’
  • Kirsty Schneeberger’s Question – ‘How old will you be in 2050?’
  • The TR14ers’ dancing
  • Keister Brewin’s celebration of pirates


Next year I might give TEDx a miss.

Update 23 April: Over the years I have attended hundreds of conferences and though in the main I have found them positive, sometimes I come away feeling that the real beneficiaries are the organisers and the sponsors (and even these stakeholders struggle to get value sometimes). For a conference to be successful it needs to balance the needs of many stakeholders and this is always a challenge. I’ve been contributing to a collaborative effort (based in the Westcountry) on re-designing the conference – “How do you design the Ultimate Conference Experience?”   I’ve also attended a couple of ‘Unconferences‘ based on Open Space technology. Clearly the Unconference is quite a radical disruptive approach and I can’t see many professional conference organisers going down this route any time soon but maybe it’s time to at least introduce some ‘ideas worth spreading’ into the conference format. I’ll leave the last word to TED.

TED isn’t a typical conference. The TED audience has high expectations of the speakers; the TED speaker team works with speakers well in advance of the conference to help shape a presentation that will succeed on the TED stage. TED is the place to give the talk of your life.

BETT Show 2013

BETT 2013Well I made it to BETT this year by staying over in London after Learning Technologies. I had hopes that the new Learning at Work specialist conference thread would be useful but on the day I was there it was poorly attended and both sessions that I went to had little to do with learning technologies. The whole thing felt like a last minute add-on to try and attract some corporate L&D people. It’s a pity I missed Day 1 because both Nick Shackleton-Jones and Steve Wheeler were speaking – I’m guessing they drew a bigger crowd!

The show itself was massive – probably four times the size of learning technologies but of course there are a lot of schools and colleges buying a lot of IT kit in the UK. The big hardware vendors were there including Apple, Dell, Acer and Samsung plus specialist PC education suppliers such as RM and Viglen. Microsoft and Google were also there promoting their education software and services.

As I’ve noted before BETT is about technology in the classroom. It’s main audience are teachers in primary and secondary schools. For this audience online learning is something that isn’t going to happen in their schools anytime soon. Having said that there were a number of VLE vendors but it most cases the VLE simply provides an extension of the classroom experience. Children can access homework tasks, do some research, complete a quiz while parents can monitor their child’s progress.

Moodle was on show by Webanywhere and the good guys at Synergy Learning but it’s used once again to extend the classroom rather than replace it.

There is of course lots of fun stuff at BETT – programmable Lego, cool physics experiments and all sorts of learning games designed to be used in a classroom environment. There are also stacks of interactive whiteboard vendors and people who make charging and security trolleys for iPads that can be rolled from class to class.

Is BETT changing? In the education market is the technology finally breaking out of the classroom? Only very slowly.

Learning at Work BETT 2013

Peer Evaluation on a MOOC

This is the second video update on the Stanford Venture Lab MOOC that I’m following. The work is ramping up a bit but I’m still managing to fit the assignments in. With such a large number of learners there is no way that staff can grade or feedback on assignments so the solution is peer evaluation. This video shows how it works on the Stanford Venture Lab platform.

New Model Learning

A radically new approach to learning but would it work outside of education?

…new visions of learning better suited to the increasing complexity, connectivity, and velocity of our new knowledge society. We now have the capability to reimagine where, when, and how learning takes place.

Connected Learning


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