eLearning: What is it good for?

When Rob Hubbard (Chair of the eLearning Network, UK) was asked this very question he replied:

“EVERYTHING – if you ask some people, NOTHING, some others.  First off we were a victim of our own success.  eLearning became huge and the course became king.  eLearning courses were viewed by some (and still are I suspect) as the pinnacle of what technology can offer learning.  I think they have their place but for me eLearning encompasses any form of electronic learning – that is after all what the ‘e’ stands for!  When we take into account mobile apps, social learning, simulations, gaming, informal media, screen-casts, 3-D worlds, video and all other lovely stuff we can design for, there is clearly a lot ‘eLearning’ has to offer.  My feeling is that there are oceans of untapped potential just waiting to be discovered.  The challenge is, to set out on a voyage of discovery takes guts, determination, money and vision … and not all voyages are successful.  What should we use as a compass to guide us?”

In an article ‘The Problem With eLearning’ (Croner-i HR, March 2012) our own Judith Christian-Carter wrote:

“There can be no doubt about it, whether through financial necessity or through a genuine desire to help people to learn, the use of eLearning has really taken-off in the last few years.  It’s not just large public and corporate organisations that are investing heavily in eLearning, so are small and medium enterprises, as well as many educational sectors.  However, as words such as ‘boring’, ‘mundane’, ‘page-turning’, ‘dull’ and even ‘painful’, have also been used over the past few years when mentioning eLearning, a question still remains: is there a problem with eLearning per se or is there a problem with how people see it as a result of having had some bad learning experiences?”

Taking a snapshot of eLearning today (© J Christian-Carter 2012), the picture looks something like this:

snapshot of eLearning


  • ‘Interactivity’ = the extent to which the learner can interact with the screens/pages or instructor/facilitator
  • ‘Linear’ = the learner has to work through all the content and screens in a linear fashion
  • ‘Push’ = the content is pushed at the learner
  • ‘Pull’ = the learner is allowed to pull the content they want to look at
  • ‘Stand-alone’ = can run on a non-networked computer
  • ‘Online’ = the computer has to be connected to a server, an intranet or the Internet
  • ‘Asynchronous’ = one-way communication predominantly from the computer to the learner
  • ‘Synchronous’ = two-way communication in real time
  • ‘Social Media tools’ = for forums, chats, blogs and wikis.

Here are some of the current main failings of eLearning as reported by others:

  • inappropriate delivery medium
  • poor design
  • poor treatment
  • poor delivery
  • poor testing
  • inadequate learner support.

So, whether you are a user of eLearning, a supplier, a designer, a developer or someone who commissions eLearning, what do you think?  What, exactly, is eLearning good for?

If you need some links to help you, then check these out:






Back-channelling in Operation – Getting the Best from Learning Live

Those of us who were privileged to take part in the last Dave Kelly inspired #chat2lrn must have left the session with a long list of ideas to try out in gaining value from back channels in the upcoming conference season. One of the first opportunities will be the UK’s Learning Live organised by the prestigious Learning and Performance Institute. #chat2lrn is delighted to be partnering with Learning Live and it’s conference back channel to give our friends the opportunity to learn and practice skills and to benefit from a programme that includes Jane Bozarth, Steve Wheeler, our very own Nic Laycock and other great speakers. For those of our friends on the American continent this is an opportunity to become involved in a UK conference. LPI invites you to join with the conference using hashtag #LearningLive.

We highly recommend that you join in with the delegates’ discussions, reflections and learning. An official curation team, which includes some of #chat2lrn moderators, will help facilitate, provide context and ‘serve’ the backchannel.

Dave Kelly – what a star he is – has happily agreed to provide further helpful material based on emerging ideas from the last #chat2lrn which can be tried out during the conference.

Thursday’s #chat2lrn runs parallel with the conference’s conclusion and will aim to summarise key learning emerging from the conference, as well as what the experience has taught us about how to create and gain from a conference back channel.

This is a great way for us all to put into practice the ideas we created together and then to chat together about what has worked and to develop future ideas.  We hope you will join us for #chat2lrn on Thursday 13 September at 16.00 BST/11.00 EDT and that you will be able to join Learning Live on #LearningLive on Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13 September. The first part of our conversation will major on what the online community perceived and was able to learn from the backchannel. The later part will focus on how well the backchannel worked and how it could be improved as a vehicle for learning for a future conference.

If you have never taken part in a back channel – don’t miss out on this opportunity!

If you are unable to join our practical learning experiment we would still love you to join #chat2lrn to help ussummarise and evaluate what we have experienced in what promises to be a really exciting conference. For more information go to the Learning Live website.

In the meantime enjoy and benefit from the resources below from Dave Kelly – the undisputed master of the backchannel.  We are really grateful, Dave!