Why e-learning is so hard


I found this infographic created by Lean Forward on the fine educational website Edudemic and I thought I would share it with you. The author of the post, Jeff Dunn, feels it is missing one important role, the teacher. My take on this infographic is that these are the roles the teacher takes on when implementing e-learning. Yes, the teacher does have to ensure good pedagogy is involved in any e-learning but on the other hand e-learning can be seen as THE pedagogy. Whatever way you look at it, though, it’s a fairly large workload to take on.

As Project Manager, the teacher ensures the learning is on track, supporting the students in managing their time and workflow. As well, the teacher must also instruct the students in how they become their own Project managers so they can organize themselves effectively.

As Instructional designer, the teacher is ensuring that the students have all the necessary skills and tools to complete their task. The teacher is also responsible for identifying that the task is meeting required learning outcomes. There is no point in a creative, technological presentation if it doesn’t involve quality learning and part of e-learning is striking a balance between the technology use and the learning that needs to take place.

As Multimedia designer, the teacher’s role is to support the level of creativity that is possible through using tech tools. Often students don’t know how to use the tools creatively. You only have to look at their overuse of WordArt and animated laser text in PowerPoint as evidence that software features does not equal creativity. Teachers need to provide good models of creative use of software so students produce something worthwhile. The creative use of software can enhance the learning from products created; poor use can hinder learning.

This is the key pedagogical component. As E-learning developer, the teacher needs to “control” the mix of technology and human interaction in the e-learning environment. We need to make sure we are not substituting teaching for whiz bang tech that doesn’t drive discussion and interaction on its own. The teacher and students drives the engagement and interactivity, not the technology. The tech is the instrument or tool to enhance the learning but by itself, without true engagement from the human participants, it’s just tech for tech’s sake – the too regular result of educational technology lacking purpose and control.

As Quality Assurance, the teacher role is self evident. We expect quality. The use of technology should produce quality in appearance but we need to make sure we get quality in content as well. This is sometimes overlooked as we get dazzled by the technical wizardry of a Prezi or a Glog. Bells and whistles teach us nothing if they have nothing to say.

What also comes across in this infographic is the need for each “person” to have some skill level in the tech tool being used. While I have often said that teachers don’t have to be experts to allow students to use technology, I’ve also said that students know how to use tech but don’t necessarily know what to use if for. In the experimental stages of technology learning in classes, it’s OK to let the students do the teaching of the basic “how to’s” but for truly effective e-learning teachers need to improve their knowledge. And that’s why e-learning is so hard to do well. Students can e-teach; we need teachers for students to e-learn.

Finally, this infographic highlights how much time is involved in effective e-learning. To me, this stresses the need for teachers to work as teams for e-learning to take place. This is the way teaching is moving anyway, so it’s a matter of teachers realising that e-learning is achievable if they work together. Share the planning, collaborate between grades, bear the burden of these roles together, not individually. Utilize the strengths of individual teachers for the common goal. Who is the Project Manager among you? Who can best deal with Quality Assurance? Who has the creativity in them to be Multimedia designer?

Whether you are implementing an iPad program, starting blogging at your school, using social media like Edmodo for collaboration, using Web 2.0 tools for the first time, or any other tech based initiative, teachers have to take on all these roles. And if you look at it closely, teachers have been taking on these roles well before technology came into prominence.

10 thoughts on “Why e-learning is so hard

  1. Mark,
    I subscribe to your blogs and thank you for sharing your information. I look forward to continually reading your posts.

  2. I really appreciate this post. I am just beginning to design and teach online classes. This really captures the amount of work that goes into creating the class. Fortunately, I was able to work collaboratively to design a class, and I highly recommend collaboration. I would love to see another post entitled “What does it take to facilitate effective e-learning?”

    • Welcome to the Mr G Online, Drinda. Definitely needs to be a collaborative effort for maximum result. Our school I beginning to use Edmodo for elearning possibilities. Need a lot of PD before exploring full potential. But early signs are promising.

  3. Mark,
    What you have to say is very relevant in today’s teaching environment. The trick is finding and using the tools that will stimulate discussion amongst the students that demonstrate their learning outcomes. For example, students selecting and using the right tool for their purpose is every bit as valid as the work they produce. They need to engage their critical thinking skills to discuss why one tool will work better than another to present their work and what will engage the audience to participate in their learning.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Brigid. I think for many Tech is still a presentation/publishing tool rather than a thinking tool. This is where PD should be heading. I think we can work out the how to You tube videos to learn the creating tools. We need help with the thinking tools.

  4. Where does the content specialist fit in? For example, if you’re designing courses on modern physics, English literature, or Hegel’s philosophy, wouldn’t you need people with specialized knowledge in those fields? Furthermore, this is not simply a matter of adding just another role to the ones described above (which would add 16-40 hours to the total). The team would have to work together to devise effective, content-specific pedagogic strategies. For instance, would a computer game be an effective device for learning Hegel? To answer such questions, everyone would greatly benefit a working knowledge of Hegel’s philosophy. Similarly, to prepare a course on modern physics, the team would need some idea of what relativity, quantum mechanics, etc. are about; it would also need people with specialized skills germane to this specific subject, such as computer simulation, computer methods using probability and statistics, etc.

    • A terrific responsive, Marsh. Sometimes content knowledge is underplayed to the detriment of learning today. It’s all about independent passion based learning but sometimes the students still need teachers with great content knowledge to draw them towards new learning.

  5. Hi Mark,

    I am a frequent reader of your blog and have seen you feature infographics from time to time. Anyway, when you featured this particular infographic, I thought I could share one which I recently have had a chance to be involved in the development of. You can find it here: http://newsroom.opencolleges.edu.au/learning-analytics-infographic/.

    Let me know what you think. And if you can feature it on your blog, I’d be really ecstatic! 😀


    Krisca C. Te
    Open Colleges, Sydney

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