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Collaborative learning – Learning Technologies preview


Learning Technologies 2003Howard Hills explores collaborative learning and preferences for it, as an introduction to his session at the forthcoming Learning Technologies Conference, where he and Clare Howard will be presenting some of the findings of their ongoing research to explore the link between personality characteristics and e-learning activities.

The biggest single difference between Technology-based Training and e-learning is the communication aspect of the Internet. Why should this be important for learning? Because for some of us the interaction with others is an important feature of learning, some of us gain motivation from working with and helping others, but not all of us. Some of us prefer working on our own, perhaps finding a book a more useful learning tool than a classroom of chattering learners, some of us thrive on the energetic exchange of ideas and the stimulus of debate, some of us appreciate the support of a few people who will share with us the task of learning.

E-learning must cater for these differences if it is expand beyond its current base of IT Training. There are more people who like to learn practically with other people than there are who want to learn from concepts and ideas in an exclusively rational world that much of e-learning exists within.

E-learning is so much more than CBT and yet most of the offering of generic material differs little from what was available ten years ago on CDROM. The market in short generic technology delivered courses is over saturated and I have seen little really new stuff appear on the market.

Why? Because the really new stuff requires a trainer to support it and most trainers like to be with others to help them learn practically. There are on-line tutors who support short courses but many of them are not an integral part of the course. To include a tutor as part of an online course is an expensive option. There are other ways we can make e-learning more appealing to more, and that is by understanding the relationship between e-learning and personality.

Two of the conclusions from the research conducted so far are that e-learning must be practical in nature to appeal to the majority and that slightly more than half the population will appreciate studying as part of a group. The undoubted success of the CIPD Certificate in Online Learning (ask the participants what they think of it) show that the big future in e-learning is in the cohort study course and in the Virtual Learning Set.

We can thank Reg Revans, who sadly died at the beginning of this year, for the concept of the Action Learning Set. E-learning gives us the opportunity to upgrade and refresh the concept, focus it on learning and enable it to be fitted in to the pressurised pace of the modern working world. An understanding and application of the MBTI makes a Virtual Learning Set more productive, more understandable, more tailored and more enjoyable. A sharing of MBTI preferences in a virtual space requires a level of trust in others and confidence in oneself, not always easy to achieve and a very important role for a facilitator.

The predominance of IT training in e-learning is directly related to the fact that three quarters of the population seek practical real world solutions to their learning needs, not theory, or concepts or analogies. IT training in e-learning is intensely practical and may also give opportunity to learn theory as well and thereby has the widest possible appeal, particularly when people may chose which parts of a course they can do. They may exercise their preferences for learning activity which will be rooted in their personality type. If e-learning is not primarily a training medium it is a communication, planning and resource tool for trainers.

To find out more about the Conference and Exhibition, and to pre-register, go to Learning Technologies Conference.

Clare Howard is Managing Director of e-coaches. Howard Hills works with e-coaches and with Optimum Learning on the implementation and Project Management of e-learning. He also advises on the strategic and cultural issues of making e-learning work.


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