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E-Learning Design for Diverse Learning Environments: Course Reflections

E-learning Fueled by Web 2.0 Technology

My current school is on the cutting edge of technology, and we have had a one to one laptop ratio since the day we opened five years ago. Many teachers are taking advantage of e-learning through flipped classroom modules, cloud computing, and social media platforms. However, many educators still default to traditional methods for a multitude of reasons—they are afraid to try something new, they do not want to re-create the wheel, effective e-learning design takes an exorbitant amount of time, etc. Wankel and Blessinger (2013) posit, “Whereas Web 1.0 is considered a content-centric paradigm, Web 2.0 is considered a social-centric paradigm” (p. 3). Social technologies foster critical and collaborative thinking and also a sense of belonging and group cohesiveness (Wankel & Blessinger, 2013, p. 6). While I agree with the authors, it takes training and expertise on the part of the instructional designer to create e-learning that achieves this level of collaboration.images

The influx of Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, and social networking sites, has certainly changed and will continue to change the way instruction is designed and have a direct impact on instructional designers, teachers, and students. Instructional designers will be able to access many more resources and make learning more engaging for students. They can utilize social bookmarking so that they can organize websites and resources online and share them with others (yearn2learn4ever, 2011). Teachers will also be able to share resources with others and collaborate with people across the globe. They will be able to connect with parents more effectively and have information on their students in real time (yearn2learn4ever, 2011). Students will be more engaged because the technology in the classroom is an extension of the technology they use in their everyday lives. Their attention will be captured by all the design elements of Web 2.0, such as color, video, etc. Web 2.0 taps into multiple learning styles and students can ask questions at any time. The most empowering aspect of it is that students are the content creators, thus giving them a choice and voice in their learning. Although Web 2.0 will make learning better for all groups, there are real concerns about privacy. Schools need to protect the privacy of their students and teachers. It will be difficult to create a system to do so because the Internet is vast. Also, all three groups need access to the latest technology so that they can realize Web 2.0’s full potential.

Accessibility as a Human Right

The most iimgresmportant issue in the world of instructional design for e-learning is accessibility. There are still people with limited access to the Internet, which puts them at a disadvantage. Holmes and Gardner (2006) assert, “It is essential for the economic prosperity of the individual and society, and for the social cohesion that sustains it, to have the facility to acquire knowledge when it is needed and in a form that meets the purpose for which it was sought” (p. 51). Thus, society has an obligation to ensure that all people have access to information, 21st century skills, e-learning resources, lifelong learning opportunities, and Internet resources that meet various needs and interests (Holmes & Gardner, 2006, p. 51). Further, there should be no time or location limitations and all people should have access to education through e-learning and an ability to make global connections to foster cultural competency (Holmes & Gardner, 2006, p. 52). Holmes and Gardner (2006) quote the European Commission, a group that expresses, “…e-Learning can promote social integration and inclusion, opening access to learning for people with special needs and those living in difficult circumstances (marginalized groups, migrants, single parents, etc.)” (p. 60). As a society, we will surely fail unless we make e-learning available to everyone. This makes it paramount for instructional designers to address issues of accessibility.

The Science of E-learning Design

During this course, I found myself fascinated by the science behind e-learning design. Instructional designers must be aware of differing perceptions that learners from diverse backgrounds and cultures bring to education. De Bortoli and Maroto (2001) state, “In an increasingly competitiimages-1ve and saturated market, communication needs to be carefully targeted. Few companies have a brand that is powerful enough to generate a quasi uniform perception world-wide” (p. 3). For example, something as simple as color can impact the learning for diverse populations. De Bortoli and Maroto (2001) discuss a plethora of the considerations needed about color choice: different colors have different meanings across the globe, learning will not be transferred if a group does not have the language for certain colors, people from different places prefer different colors, men and women notice colors differently as well as people in different age categories, schizophrenic people do not perceive color in a typical way, nor do the color blind (p. 4-5, 11). One of my students is diagnosed with synesthesia, in which he sees letters, words, and numbers as different colors. His perception during learning is certainly different than someone without synesthesia. These are considerations I started to make during e-learning design that I never thought about before.

E-Learning & My Personal Journey

At the start of this course, I believed that digital media did most of the work when it came to e-learning. I still agree with Reitz (2012) who says that e-learning includes some kind of electronic device or computer and is digital media or software supported (p. 86-7). However, there are so many other components that go into effective e-learning design besides the technology. I decided to use SmartBuilder for my module, but did not realize that the free version used Flash. It was incredibly difficult and time consuming to design the e-learning. Even though I am ending with a product I am proud of, I know that my module can in no way compete with the video games my students play. It will be my personal mission to advocate for better and cheaper design software and a system that is more organized.

Questions Remaining: What do you think is the most important issue facing the future of e-learning? What considerations do you make while designing online instruction?

References

De Bortoli, M. & Maroto, J. (2001). Colours across cultures: Translating colours in interactive marketing communications. Proceedings of the European Languages and the Implementation of Communication and Information Technologies (Elicit) Conference. University of Paisley.

Holmes, B., & Gardner, J. (2006). E-learning: Concepts and practice. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Reitz, S. (2012). Improving social competence via e-learning?: The example of human rights education. Frankfurt: Lang, Peter, GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften. Retrieved from eds.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook?sid=8651241c-3438-402e-9d19-5257917acdb4%40sessionmgr110&ppid=pp_84&hid=103&vid=0&format=EB.

Wankel, C., & Blessinger, P. (2013). Increasing student engagement and retention in e-learning environments: Web 2.0 and blended learning technologies. Bingley, England: Emerald. Retrieved from eds.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/ebookviewer/ebook?sid=be042b56-bead-47b8-98da-e7bcf53e6b57%40sessionmgr4003&ppid=pp_1&hid=4111&vid=0&format=EB.

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