Keith Tellum is our Education Support Manager and expert in staff development and technology-based learning. He agreed to share his experience in the eLearning field with our readers to help you understand and leverage the power of online learning technologies.
1. What is the most important change in eLearning you have witnessed in the past years?
For me, this is the widespread availability of cloud technologies to education. At a basic level this has hugely increased the amount of storage available to pupils/students and staff which means that it’s now possible to make much more use of video and sound for assessment. This expands the ways you can teach and learn, and people can start to become more independent in their learning by the ability to watch or listen to themselves. Link this to one of the tools which allows you to include questions and information points in streaming video and we’re starting to develop new ways of learning outside the classroom. In a recent interview with some students, they also mentioned that it made it impossible to lose their work owing to lost or corrupted USB drives.
Another aspect of cloud-based learning is the ability to share documents and work on them as a group. In the past we’ve asked groups of students on educational trips to update a shared presentation with their photographs and reactions to their trip, and let students still at home share in the experience.
However, the most important thing here is that it can increase the opportunity for pupils to have feedback on their essays and tasks via the comments feature. From my experiences working in the educational field one of the most common requests from students was to have more formative feedback on their work so they could be sure they were on the right track.
2. Is there an eLearning influencer you admire? And if so, how does he/she inspire you?
As you can probably tell from the comments I’ve made so far, the thing I’m looking for in technology is that it changes and expands what we can do in learning. The most useful encapsulation of this concept was, for me, Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model.
This model gives stages of moving from using technology simply as a substitute for things we do already (e.g. typing up work instead of writing it) through to the redefinition stage where we can learn in ways not possible before the introduction of technology. An example of redefinition (the R of the SAMR model) would be a recent class where a teacher invited several local businesses to contribute to a class discussion via a Twitter hashtag. It would have been impossible to get several people to give up their time to come to the school for a short session, but they were all willing to contribute from their own offices.
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of online teaching and learning?
For most teachers the major disadvantage comes down to time. Creating effective online courses and setting learning tasks can be very time consuming, and there are many other demands on them during the working day. If someone in the school can be given time to develop the platform or learning materials this will obviously help, but technology should aim to be able to save time where possible.
In my early career I was faced with the challenge of taking what I’d been working on as an e-learning mentor and actually applying it in the classroom. There was quite a high workload at the beginning putting the online part of the learning together, but I found that as the year went on the work put in at the beginning paid dividends and I had much more time to work with the students on their projects.
In some cases, especially with older age ranges, the preparation doesn’t have to involve intensive work, but extends the learning process through discussion forums, and, more recently, the use of social media.
One of the main advantages of online learning however, is to make learning more accessible. I’ve seen various instances where students have been provided with screenreaders, coloured overlays and magnifiers which have made it much easier for them to learn. In some cases, technology has enabled a student to participate in a higher level course than would have been possible had the technology not been available. For me, this has always been one of the main factors in why technology is now an indispensable part of learning.