Pulling Together Parts of an e-Learning Ecosystem
By Mark Sivy, Ed.D.
The particular technologies and strategies that an organization ultimately includes in its e-Learning Ecosystem (eLE) approach depend on many factors such as the mission of the organization or institution, finances, human resources, learning culture, socioeconomics, personnel, and learners. Even though learning tools are initially selected based upon their function, further scrutiny should include cost, support, training, maintenance, user friendliness, and user acceptance. The following are categories of core tools that might be considered:
Learning Management System
In an eLE, a LMS should serve a specific set of functions. Primarily these should be for the purpose of managing learning and records, and as such would be used for administration, tracking, reporting, and delivery of information and documentation. These also can provide a learning framework and serve as a common point of access to other resources and tools.
These options enable the instructor or instructional designer to step out of the LMS and be creative and flexible in developing original learning content. Tools in this category can be used to create engaging slide series, rich multimedia presentations, develop interactive tutorials and learning materials, assemble simulations / demonstrations, perform assessments, and do live screen captures.
The choices in this category enable a range of opportunities from the creation of learning tools such as flash cards and interactive gamification to tests that can be integrated with a LMS or performed in a secure environment.
Web Meeting / Virtual Classroom
These are often used as a means of introducing individuals through real-time voice and video. Synchronous events such as this enhance the senses of presence and community of individuals in an online learning group. This enriches social connections and course interaction, which in accordance with social constructivist learning theory, can improve learning outcomes.
Providing a free and ubiquitous virtual location that allows access from multiple devices, whether mobile or not, can significantly augment the individual learning experience and offers an outstanding resource for collaboration and document exchange.
Social Media and Networking
Academically-oriented social tools can readily facilitate learning, particularly in the realms of shared and social constructivist learning. Since this is a relatively new and innovative use for these otherwise common means of communication and connection, there is still much to be explored to reach their full potential. This also includes the need for additional research and professional development opportunities.
Closely related to the sharing and social creation of learning are tools that enable the co-construction of knowledge and learning. This includes group organizers, shared productivity tools and workspace, and social calendaring.
Dozens of other learning technology categories exist such as collaboration, communication, document sharing, productivity, and blogging. Many of these additional categories meet more specialized options and may exist within or in association with the core items stated above. What will be covered in a future article is a discussion of the support, professional development, maintenance, and communication that must exist in association with the eLE to produce optimal learning and to maximize the return on financial investments.
Reflection Point – “Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.” ~Alvin Toffler