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Another common trap is dumping text online. Text is inherently more difficult to read on screen, learners will almost invariably print out text and read off paper when given chance. Unfortunately, much online text is not set up to print cleanly. Online text is also often broken up into smaller blocks and linked for multiple access points. This is great for learners navigating to find what they need, not great if learners need to repeatedly refer to or work with volumes of text.
Finally, most effective 'resource' in face to face environment is of course presenter or lecturer. Often projects to go online simply adapt existing print and media resources. Effective online courses find ways to maintain that personal contact, or develop tools that go some way to performing same functions. Simply offering chat or bulletin board facilities does not, of itself, resolve this issue. The analogy is putting a learner in a car, but not showing them how to drive, or giving them a reason to go anywhere. The delivery methodology needs to be designed to stimulate and guide online communication.
Disadvantages For learner, technology can be intimidating, or actually impede learning. More self-motivation and discipline are often required, and communication technologies may be a poor substitute for face-to-face contact.
For producer of learning, significantly higher development costs are likely, and specialised skills are required. There are also problems of overcoming scepticism amongst potential users, and adapting organisation's culture and systems for new delivery method.
Despite range of challenges and issues inherent in online learning, there is no doubt that it is revolutionising face of training and education. In race to assimilate technology into educational delivery, it is not development of training that is goal, it is depth of learning that results from it. Be wary of claims by vendors of online training solutions that one product is all that is required to develop and deliver an effective (online) package. Any educational course will require planning and good educational design. Subsequent articles in this series will overview that design and development process.
Phil has been involved in a number of projects in the field of flexible delivery, both research based and product-based. In addition he has developed a number of industry based flexible delivery packages and open learning packages in the Polytechnic sector. He also works as a staff development consultant. http://www.toucanhouse.co.nz