Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Building Interactivity Into E-Learning

Bill Bruck points out that
the e-learning industry today has a problem. Specifically, Most e-learning replicates the worst practices of education electronically

and very much in line with my complaint of the limited "choice space":
Even when the courses are not mere page-turners, “interactive” is defined as choice points in the software, with pre-defined answers provided for pre-defined choices. “Evaluation” most often consists of is simple recall/recognition quizzes - the lowest skills in the learning hierarchy

He continues to elaborate on a "Five-Step Model for High Impact Learning":
1 Content

2 Q&A: Adult learners need to map conceptual content to their own frameworks and understand how it works in their situations.

3 Practice: Many skills are best learned when they can be practiced a safe training environment. If a skill involves critical thinking or written documentation, it can be effectively practiced in small groups within discussion forums that are optimized for learning, and coaching can be provided in this same manner. ...

4 Apprenticing: Many skills benefit from ongoing coaching over time, ...

5 Teaching: All of these techniques and technologies lend themselves to graduates serving as coaches and mentors of successive cohorts of learners, to hone their own skills and prepare for career advancement where coaching others is a critical skill, ...
[underline are mine]

I have underlined a few points which I would like to elaborate on.

I have noted here1 and elsewhere that the concept of a cohort of learners have been missing in learning technology community. Without the ability to identify a group of learners who have similar needs and willing to learn at approximately the same pace, there is little opportunity of collaborative learning. Ad hoc formation of learning group is fine, but for the complete duration of a task, the group has to work together in an agreed time frame.

Another point I noted in Bill's article is the returning to human mentor and/or teacher. This is a good point, but not very scalable for large scale implementation. While running parallel small groups is prefectly scalable both technically and pedagogically, engaging a large number of mentors, or a single human mentor to look after a large number of groups is not scalable.

In our role play simulation, while we acknowledge the need of moderator, however, the main "mentoring" does not fall squarely on the moderator's shoulder. Moderator should act and intervene at slightly as possible. The learning process is activated via team playing a single role. As a team playing a role, the team needs to maintain a consistent role personality, tones, tactics and strategy. Such a requirement will force the team member to articulate their ideas among the team member critically. Team members will also review each proposed eaction critically in order to achieve the best outcome for the role.

By removing this additional mentor, our design is more scalable than what is proposed by Bill.

1My other papers on SCORM implementation can be found at


Blogger Bill Bruck said...

Hi, Albert

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my article. I would respectfully take issue with two points you make regarding mentors and coaches.

First, on scalability, I agree that without a robust learning support platform, live online coaches are hard to scale. However, as an example, using our eCampus platform we have provided coaching to 2,500 managers in writing SMART performance objectives over a six-week period. So while it might still be hard to scale to 20,000 learners in a similar time period, we have definitely scaled to this extent. (I'd be happy to share the case study if you like.)

The related comment has to do with whether live coaches are necessary or important, and I'd like to use the same example. Even the best simulation and scenario based e-learning can teach critical thinking about SMART objectives, the ability to analyze an objective on the SMART factors, etc. But this is different from the skill of writing one, which I would assert requires feedback on actual writing samples, i.e., a real coach.

More generally, I would assert that true mastery learning of a wide range of complex skills requires application on the job, with feedback from mentors and peers; I believe that person-to-computer interaction only gets you so far.

Your take?

Bill Bruck
Collaborative Learning blog at

7:38 pm  
Blogger Saturn said...

Five Step Model for High Impact Learning is really nice one!!

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4:33 am  

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