Mixed Messages about Elearning

Do we know what’s happening to elearning out in the wide world? I’ve been getting mixed messages. Here are three US ones for us to reflect on, and another from South Africa.

The US market for self-paced elearning will reach $16.7 billion in 2009 according to a new report by Ambient Insight*. The demand for online training is growing by 7.4% annually and revenues will reach $23.8 billion by 2014. “We see the highest growth rate in the healthcare segment, followed by Pre-K-12 and higher education,” comments CEO Tyson Greer.

The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research in Boulder, Colorado, has an annual report on US undergraduate IT use*. It is in its fifth year and now includes some data on mobile technology use. Students “consistently report that they prefer only a moderate amount of IT when it comes to their courses”.

Here’s a summary of a report on the 21st-Century Campus*, based on a survey of 1017 US students. This finds that only 38% of students indicated that their instructors “understand technology and fully integrate it into their classes” although, in contrast, the higher education instructor view was that 74% “incorporate technology into every class or nearly every class”. 52% of students said they use social networking tools for education, but only 14% of faculty members said they use social networking for teaching purposes.

I can’t say I’m at all surprised to hear these statistics: while IT producers and sellers push their wares, staff and students in higher education live in the real world of widely varying provision and have to get by with what they’ve got. And more isn’t always better.

I was pleased to have news, however, from the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Educational Technology of Facilitating Online*. It is a course written to train educators as online facilitators of fully online and mixed mode courses . It comprises a Course Leader’s Guide and a specimen website. The guide contains the course model, week-by-week learning activities, general guidance to the course leader on how to implement and customise the course and specific guidelines on each learning activity. Tony Carr, who has visited BDRA, is one of the originators of this course.

And a forthcoming internal event at the Open University will showcase very interesting uses of Google Earth, iTunes, image galleries, Elluminate, structured content and interactive DVDs, all in the Arts Faculty, not always the one that first comes to my mind. By the way, iTunes U for the OU has just recorded its 10 millionth download since launch 75 weeks ago: now that’s mass elearning for you! Have a listen for yourself.

David Hawkridge

PS I need more training in inserting URLs into blogs, but if you want any of these, just email me at d.g.hawkridge@open.ac.uk, please.

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