Questions of cost and usefulness dog e-learning

June 4, 2009

Many academics see e-learning as "expensive and time-consuming", a survey has found.

About half of university staff polled believe that learning technologies are popular with students but only a small proportion of academics are embracing them.

In the survey of 125 university staff conducted by IMC (UK) Learning Ltd, a learning technology company, just 14 per cent of respondents recorded lectures and made them available online, per cent thought that e-learning saved money and 18 per cent thought it saved time for teaching staff.

One respondent, an external examiner for a university that offers distance learning, said e-learning technologies required just as much effort as face-to-face teaching. "I don't believe that simply making a DVD of a talk-and-chalk lecture is satisfactory," he added.

Another said: "It takes much, much longer to create high-quality e-learning material than to prepare for a traditional form of teaching to achieve the same level of learning and outcome."

Other respondents emphasised the importance of personal interactions for learning.

Because of its limitations in this respect, e-learning was "at best a supplement to traditional teaching", one academic said.

"E-learning is not as good as face-to-face interaction, but it is sometimes a necessity, in which case we always try to do it as well as we can. It therefore takes quite a bit of effort, and it is never our intention to use e-learning to save the educational efforts of academics," another respondent said.

There was also concern about the fact that "students are increasingly expecting e-learning resources to be sufficient for their needs. As a result, they are losing the skills of note-taking as well as of listening to and concentrating throughout 50-minute lectures."

Many respondents expressed worry about lectures being routinely made available online: "This leads to poor lecture attendance and we then observe cramming for exams at far too late a stage," one said.

Despite their reservations, other respondents said that e-learning had benefits, although many academics emphasised that it should never be considered as a "cost-cutting" tool.

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