Elearning Talk

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Elearning has been around for a long time now, and reflecting back, I think we are finally approaching the final stage of the Gartner “Hype Cycle”: The Plateau of Productivity.


Image: The Gartner Hype Cycle (Source: Wikipedia)

Stage 1: The Technology Trigger.

I first got involved in elearning as a medical student in the late 1990s. Half-way through our medical training, we were required to undertake a research project to qualify for a BMedSci degree. My research project was to create an elearning course about Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. I created the course primarily using Macromedia Authorware. The course was published on a CD but I knew that to be really effective we needed courses published on the web. The web was the “Technology Trigger” for elearning, and it was just about to take off!

Stage 2:  Peak of Inflated Expectations

As I completed my medical training, I followed the trends in elearning closely. I watched as Flash became all the rage and elearning companies seem to be doing their part to inflate the dot-com bubble. During this time I started produced elearning courses for the medical market, primarily using Macromedia Flash. At the same time, I started creating some discussion forums for medical students.

Stage 3: Trough of Disillusionment

Lots of people wanted Flash animations to educate their workers but as time progressed it became obvious to me that students preferred chatting with each other on the forums than watching Flash animations. Some organisations started to revert back to “traditional” learning and the concept of “blended” learning tempered some of the initial enthusiasm for the technology.

Stage 4: Slope of Enlightenment

In the past few years, I’ve gradually witnessed a shift back to elearning again. Organisations are not willing to blow thousands of dollars on expensive multi-media productions, but they are realising that recording lectures as podcasts or hosting an online forum are really cost effective ways of adding to the students learning process.

Stage 5: Plateau of Productivity

I think we may nearly be in the final stage of the hype cycle now. Most educational organisations have elearning embedded in their courses. They use a LMS; they record lectures and publish them as podcasts; and they provide social media tools to their students and staff. As this stage progresses over the next few years, I can see corporations and non-academic organisations start to use elearning more. We’ll see new hype-cycles for the various bits of elearning technology that pop up, but I think it’s safe to say that elearning is now here to stay. It’s not the cure for all our educational ills that we once thought it was, but it is productive and it does have a major role in the education process.

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