E-learning and digital cultures 1: how to prevent overdosing #EDCMOOC

Interested in teaching and learning in the digital age? You should definitely try the University of Edinburgh’s introductory massive open online course (MOOC) on e-learning and digital cultures. While you’re at it, sign up for the excellent course on video games and learning, offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that not only teaches you how game experiences get to be designed for education purposes but lets you participate actively in research on the topic. The New Teacher Center’s latest course on blended learning is, of course, a must for everyone interested in latest didactical models for personalization of education. And did you know Columbia University offers a course on big data in education? Indispensable if you want to know more about knowledge inference in online learning. Signing up for these courses is free and all they require is active participation in online forums, twitter, blogging weekly (though higher frequency is allowed) and, to earn a certificate, assignments and quizzes.

E-learning is happening right now. It’s not difficult to start your engagement with it – but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sophisticated discourses that takes place at such a high speed on so many different  platforms. How to prevent overdosing on e-learning and, eventually, opting out altogether? I’ve been learning on and working in the domain of e-learning for years and I’ll give you the key to my success: immerse yourself,  then carefully select what’s on offer and learn effectively by applying online subject matter to real life opportunities.

Luctor et emergo is the official motto of the Dutch province where I was born and means to say: I wrestle with the sea, and I emerge. And it totally applies to e-learning: plunge into it and trust you’ll make it out more informed and better equipped for learning an teaching in the 21st century. Sign up for all open e-learning courses that appeal to you, check out their resources, look for related twitter debates using appropriate hashtags, start following relevant people, and see who they follow. Sign up for e-learning alliances and online networks.

Onto the next part: delete. You’ll find  some courses more appealing then others – depending on content (from healthcare to maths, e-learning design, use for adults versus children, user data analysis) but also on didactical models and teaching styles. Don’t be afraid to un-enroll from courses you don’t like, download specialist lectures for later, ignore assignments if they don’t appeal to you and only go for certification or tenure tracks if you really feel that might actually make sense for your professional or personal development. You’ll soon appreciate certain people on twitter – they respond to your questions and offer additional information in blogs – and unfollow others. Read the mails you receive from networks for a while (this will require some patience) and see which ones are the more active and offer groups to your liking. Within a few weeks you’ll have a manageable and nice variety of e-learning sources that cater to your needs and topics of interest and, just as important, cut down on the time you spend on e-learning.

Remember how you used to learn in school? Memorization, passing a test, then clearing your mind of subject matter to stuff in other material. Adult learning and, increasingly, learning for children is not like that anymore: it’s about problem solving. You need to become conscious not just of the kind of learner you are and the content of subject matter, but also the context in which you’ll apply your acquired knowledge. Not because this adheres to some nice new didactical theories, but simply because you remember subject much better if you apply it to the context that’s relevant for you. Turn the assignments of your e-learning courses into blogs. Make summaries of the resources you use and write about the way you could apply them to your professional or personal projects. Look on course forums for active peers that are interested in the same topics and ask them to comment on your blogs. Do the same with people in e-learning networks. Use their feedback. Don’t mindlessly retweet for quantity but rather read up on subject matter behind it and tweet for quality: how it contributed to your knowledge, and a link.

E-learning is addictive, no doubt about it. The speed of technological changes in learning and teaching as well as their nature is dazzling. Many of the people engaged in them are fascinating creatures to befriend and their communities stimulating. Knowledge on e-learning can be to your professional and personal advantage. Yet in the end e-learning is like any other addictive substance: enjoy, and use it wisely.

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