Integrated E-LEARNING: Implications for pedagogy, technology & organization
reviewed by Adrienne Andi Sosin - 2005
Title: Integrated E-LEARNING: Implications for pedagogy, technology & organization
Author(s): Wim Jochems, Jeroen van Merriënboer, Rob Koper (Editors)
Publisher: Routledge/Falmer, New York
ISBN: 0415335035, Pages: 206, Year: 2004
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How people learn with technology, and how to structure distance learning experiences effectively is an area of great interest to many educators. External pressure to purchase computers and technology come from the policy sector, business interests, the media and parents. The academic community responds to the pressure with various efforts aimed at delivery of technology-mediated instruction. The power of computer-mediated instruction is touted to educators, resulting in some who adopt and many who refrain or resist using technology in their teaching (Cuban, 2001). Studies of technology infusions provide a growing body of literature that offers explanations for the outcomes of different modes of technology incorporation at different levels of education. Conclusions are varied, but overall, most researchers agree that there is a long way to go before technology and learning can seamlessly merge into an effective and undisputed combination package.
The book that is the subject of this review, Integrated E-LEARNING: Implications for pedagogy, technology & organization, edited by Wim Jochems, Jeroen van Merriënboer, and Rob Koper, presents an integrated approach to designing instruction and learning tools in the hope of moving forward towards learning via technology. My ken of knowledge is from the United States , and I wondered if the same issues present themselves and are understood differently around the world. So I am pleased to have been able to review this book, and find out that similar issues are under discussion and development in Europe, as the authors describe progress in the field of educational applications of technology in the Netherlands, where the editors are associated with the Educational Technology Expertise Centre of the Open University of the Netherlands (OUNL), which emphasizes its distance education offerings.
While most of the conceptual framework for designing instruction and the technical information could be applied to the elementary and secondary spheres, the focus of Integrated E-Learning is on higher and adult education that can be carried out over the Internet, with the benefits of a distance environment primarily for adults who appreciate the flexibility of education conveniently made available. Reasons for developing the e-learning systems the authors describe are for adult and professional students to meet their roles highly complex needs and to solve difficult problems. While the authors do not directly reference the adult education literature, the tone of the book is clearly from the perspective that adults engage in learning experiences as a willful act, rather than one that is compulsory. Very little attention is devoted to the rote level of training; most examples involve high level decision-making.
The totality of the books chapters present a developmental picture of a strategy for creating integrated e-learning, progressing from theoretical underpinnings of learning and instructional design to the practical issues of implementation and evaluation. In an introductory chapter the entire concept of integrated e-learning is defined and analyzed for pedagogical consequences. The term integrated takes on meaning to imply a variety of coherent measures at the pedagogical, organizational and technical levels for the successful implementation of e-learning . . . (p. 5). Subsequent chapters provide views on issues around the technological supports necessary to design and deliver e-learning, and specific applications of e-learning, citing virtual business enterprise learning and specific cases from the authors experiences as designers of the e-learning environment created for the Open University of the Netherlands . A particular contribution is the creation of an Educational Modeling Language (EML), a structured code that provides a means of translating the postulates of integrated e-learning into computer programs that create usable learning activities and curricula. The chapters focused on implementation of integrated e-learning address both positive and negative characteristics, including a chapter about enhancing the quality of interactions over distance, and a chapter that presents a detailed method for evaluating e-learning. An epilogue critically discusses the aforementioned issues surrounding e-learning. While chapters generally build upon the common foundation, whole chapters and portions of chapters stand independently because the concepts are well-described and sufficiently illustrated.
According to the authors definitions of e-learning, it is constructivist and student-focused. In the virtual world of education, the role of student changes from passive to active, the teacher facilitates learning, and collaboration is emphasized, in much the same ways constructivism has reshaped traditional classroom roles and organization. In integrated e-learning, a structured approach the authors call 4C/ID (Four Component Integrated Design) takes advantage of the benefits of distance learning. The components to the 4C/ID design model are authentic learning tasks, supportive information that scaffolds learning, just-in-time information presented at the point of need, and part task practice to enhance automaticity of recurrent tasks. The authors propose that the e-learning environment is thereby integrated through carrying the 4C/ID design approach throughout the cyclical process of design, development, implementation and evaluation.
There is a high level of abstraction and analysis in this book. It is written in an academic voice, accompanied mainly by organization charts that illustrate concepts graphically with boxes or circles linked by lines. While the language used is understandable and the subjects of discussion well organized, the tone implies basic understanding of computer functions and of concepts such as domain models (p. 67). The lack of technical standards for equipment used is cited as an issue that impacts e-learning (p. 69), but to the authors credit, the discussion of developing an e-learning architecture is handled generically, so it doesnt matter which type or brand of computer provides the virtual environment for e-learning.
Although the authors stress the positive qualities of e-learning, particularly through their experiences and cases from their own institution, they describe the current status of e-learning across Europe as high-level ambitions with poor implementation (p. 151). In the chapter devoted to management and organization of integrated e-learning, the authors acknowledge problems in adapting to technology, such as in a short vignette entitled The teacher as Don Quixote, (p. 153) in which students (at an unnamed institution) used to traditional teaching resisted the introduction of technologically mediated self-directed learning. Almost schadenfreud, and certainly jealous of the cited successes of the OUNL e-learning project, I found it comforting to know that problems and challenges posed by resistance are not mine alone.
There are implied messages about e-learning that can be gleaned from this book, particularly in regards to a European viewpoint, (although a British executives review of this text distinguishes between the UKs Open University and the Netherlands and calls the cases limited to OUNL work . . . undermining the credibility of the book, . . . making it feel somewhat parochial (Fox, 2004). However, to an American, as an exemplar of the European progress in technology implementation, this book presents formidable examples of progress. In addition, there are comparisons to be made between U.S. policies like No Child Left Behind and standardized testing requirements currently in political ascendance in the United States , and the European authors global outlook and interpretation of e-learning as a constructivist effort. The authors create this comparison implicitly by declaring a shift from a test culture to an assessment culture (p. 40) for integrated e-learning. Just looking at the American environment of standardized testing (albeit using computers to administer some tests), and the holistic view of evaluation proposed by the Dutch authors of this book makes one conclude that American is not ahead of the world in employing technology for learning, as Americans insularly assume.
For an American audience of educators curious about the European experience and approach to e-learning, this book is a gift. It provides a well-reasoned and detailed blueprint for designing and developing an integrated approach towards a successful distance learning endeavor. I found some portions of it easy, some more difficult to understand, but all worthy of attention. Educators, particularly at the post-secondary level, who are invested in distance learning ventures or who are just interested in the issues surrounding the infusion of technology in learning, can profit from reading this book.
Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom.
Cambridge , MA.: Harvard University Press.
Fox, M. Book review: Integrated E-learning. (Retrieved
September 17, 2004 , http://www.epic.co.uk/content/resources/book_reviews/integrated_elearning.htm )