When I think about how e-learning and learning management systems need to respond to changing times, I think about Scrabble. Yes, Scrabble, the board game that tests your word knowledge and skill at arranging those words on a board in a way that gains you points, has undergone a dramatic transformation.
I used to consider myself rather adept at the game, reaching into the muddy backwaters of my brain for words that I’d probably used only once or twice in my lifetime. You only received seven numbers to work with, but I can usually make do and come up with something. Truth be told, I’ve always been rather proud of my healthy vocabulary.
With the internet, of course, everything has changed. In face-to-face Scrabble, if I’m not sure the word I want to use is a real word, I either refrain from playing it or play it and take my chances. If you aren’t familiar with the game, the chances were this: if a person wants to challenge my iffy word, they can do so–grab a standard dictionary and look for the word. If it isn’t there, I have to take my non-word off and forfeit my next turn as punishment. If the word does exist, the challenger has to forfeit their next turn. This part of the game was always, for me, quite essential–one could almost say it was at the heart of Scrabble.
But you couldn’t say it. Because in online Scrabble, this part of the game is no longer relevant. And yet people are still playing and loving cyber Scrabble. I don’t play it myself, but I asked a friend who does how it works, and why it’s still fun. “Can’t you just look up words?” I asked her. “Can’t people just cheat?” “Well, it’s not cheating to look up words on online Scrabble,” she replied. “So, of course you can.”
E-learning may run into the same conundrum. From online training and learning content to the use of discussion boards and other Web 2.0 tools for educational purposes, who’s to say a student isn’t simply looking up the answer, copying and pasting responses, learning nothing? This is possible in some settings, and depending on the content, it may have a profound impact on the course effectiveness.
But just as online Scrabble involved a shift in priorities, skills, strategy, and format, education in its online form must undergo the same growing pains. One of the most common complaints I hear from e-learning students is that courses are simply too easy. Peer originality becomes dubious. And for educators, student effort becomes harder to monitor. But does it have to be this way?
What we really need is smarter e-learning design and deployment. It’s not enough to create good content, get it out there, and expect students to be engaged. The effective use of Web 2.0 programs, learning management systems, and online courseware in an online learning context requires strategy.
This strategy can be built into the course, developed and maintained by a course administrator or educator, and/or enforced in a face-to-face learning environment if one exists. Tools like Coggno’s Activities feature allows LMS administrators to track student activity. Another strategy is to build exams that effectively test student knowledge, rather than asking them to solve problems and post them on a board.
If you’re choosing a learning management system for e-learning training or a virtual classroom, choose one based on its built-in solutions to an evolving, information-heavy world.
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