Archive | February, 2009

The Problems with Technology-based Learning? The Technology Itself.

10 Feb

I’ve been working in the technology-based learning industry for many years now, initially as an instructional designer on Computer-based and Web-based training courses for information technology users and school children and later managing technology-based products and projects for higher education.

Technology has been in use since times immemorial. Leaves, rocks,  and paper are the earliest forms of technology. These days technology has become synonymous with the Internet, though other electronic devices such as audio and video tapes, projectors, and mp3 players are examples of technology too. Technology solves a number of problems, most notably convenience and learning. You can use technology to make your life convenient (ebooks) or you can use technology to learn a subject matter (online videos). The problem arises when one is confused with another. A still bigger problem is the perception that technology will help people learn a subject no matter how poorly designed or presented the content is. A case in point is the conversion of  a physical book into a pdf document or a Web site and the conversion of a pdf document to a Web site. Having a Web site instead of a book has its benefits such as searching or anytime, anywhere access, but a static Web site does not help with learning any more than a book.

Many people believe that multimedia elements such as podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, and videos will help people learn effectively irrespective of the design, context, or structure of the online materials. Unfortunately, learning is a very complex and time-consuming endeavor. Even more difficult is the transfer of that learning to new contexts. The developers of online courses mostly focus on learning, that is, scoring on quizzes. The quality of quizzes is definitely a factor in learning but again, assessment itself is a difficult task.

Do online videos on real-world situations help people learn and transfer that learning to new situations? May be, may be not. It depends on a number of factors. But the perception that technology solves all learning problems is a myth. And learners pay the price.