There are two major challenges confronting e-learning.
The two challenges confronting e-learning in higher education contexts are access to technology and professional development.
Despite some resistances, access to technology in the classroom has expanded rapidly in higher education, with many classrooms being outfitted with some form of technological enhancement in recent years. Televisions, DVD players, desktop computers, and projectors are all part of the makeup of the higher education classroom now and the rollout of new technologies seems to be proceeding apace.
When it comes to professional development, however, higher education is sorely out-of-date. Despite the presence of new technologies in the classroom, many instructors are ill-equipped to use them and report rarely doing so in current research. Resistances on the part of instructors to new technology is certainly a part of the problem, but the most pressing issue is the lack of professional development opportunities for expanding one’s knowledge and training in such technologies.
When it comes to e-learning, the situation is even worse. In many cases, there is a significant investment in technology infrastructure without an accompanying investment in professional development. Oftentimes, there is simply no training beyond the basics for instructors using learning management systems (LMSs) to teach hybrid or fully-online courses.
One of my employers provides some basic training in D2L, their chosen LMS, but does not offer advanced classes for instructors who wish to utilize the full potential of the system. This fact from my personal experience underscores a huge problem with e-learning: despite the shift in focus from instructor to learner in the virtual classroom, pedagogy remains stubbornly fixated on the instructor’s role in transmitting knowledge rather than on the potential for enhanced learning brought about by new technologies.
The reason that these deficiencies are so important is the fact that the technologies that undergird e-learning are the same technologies in which students are immersed in an increasingly digital and inter-networked world. Facebook, Twitter, social sharing, and the like are part of the environment in which college students, like it or not, grow up. Educators must meet students on their own ground and be prepared for some difficulty and discomfort in these transitional years.
Every moment that we, as educators, fail to keep up with the ubiquity of new technologies by refusing to implement them in the classroom (using innovative pedagogical techniques that move the locus of knowledge-creation from instructor to learner), the greater students’ disconnect with classroom-based learning. Learners must feel like their education is relevant to their everyday lives or they will learn little to nothing in the traditional classroom.
I can see the way that my students’ eyes glaze over during a lecture and understand that there must be a better way to impart knowledge besides these tired speeches that educators feel the need to give in order to “transmit” the knowledge of their chosen subject. The how is less important than the why, and educators must work toward their own individual solutions to the problem of technology. For technology is not going away and we must learn to live with it in our daily lives as well as in the classroom.