In a word, what characterises good e-learning?

When it came to choosing a name for my blog, someone suggested ‘good to great’ and it seemed perfect – it’s been one of my ‘themes’ over the past year or so. The way I see it, there are some golden rules for creating good e-learning, but I also think that good isn’t always good enough. Isn’t the whole point of all this blogging, tweeting and networking to continually develop ourselves and our ideas, so that we can go beyond ‘good’?

I’ve got my own ideas about what makes good e-learning and what makes really great e-learning (too much for one post, but all of which I’ll blog about at some point). I’ve given a few presentations and webinars on this theme and I always start with a question: if you had to sum up what good e-learning looks like in a word, what would that word be?

When I first asked myself this, it seemed like an impossible question – how to sum up good e-learning in one word? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there are three headline characteristics that (for me) define good e-learning. My view has since been validated in a few different forums – when I ask that question at the start of a session, the answers of course vary but there are three words that come up time and time again.

So, before I reveal what my three words are, what do you think? If you had to describe good e-learning in one word, what would it be?


7 thoughts on “In a word, what characterises good e-learning?

  1. Nick Simons

    How should we characterise good (or great) e-learning? My personal list includes: engaging; respectful (of the learner); conversational; relevant; behaviour-focused; timely.

    If I have to select just one of these characteristics, I’m going to choose relevance, in the sense that e-learning needs to be relevant to the choices that the learners make in their day-to-day work.

    Looking forward to seeing your answer!

  2. janarose

    I think interactive is the most important. We so often forget that education shouldn’t just be something we listen to, but something we actually DO. So I think that e-learning should be something that students learn and then actively engage or lead in.

  3. stephaniededhar Post author

    Thanks all for your input! I’m pleased to say that your responses to the question more or less align with my thoughts on the topic – I ‘ll be adding another post later today to reveal my three words – watch this space…

  4. Pingback: Good e-learning: engaging, relevant and effective | Good To Great

  5. Rachelle

    I’m new to the world of instructional design, so it has been very informative reading through your posts and gaining more insight about the different components of ID. I realize your original post was a month ago, but I wished to add my thoughts.

    In response to your question; the three things (I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one) that I feel are most important in describing e-learning would be relevance, engagement, and efficiency.

    I am starting to use web-based learning with my high school physics students. One of the main challenges to the material is relating the content to the learner’s day-to-day experiences, making it relevant to their lives and their future education (most of my students are pre-engineering and bio-medical students). It is easy to explain definitions, theories, and procedures; but it is more meaningful and engaging to the learner if they can see how the material affects them as individuals. Which leads me to the second key term of engagement. Simply clicking ‘next’ on power point slides or listening to the narration is not what I would consider engaging. Engagement to me, means that the learner is consciously active in the process and making cognitive choices during any e-learning course. This could be through an active discussion board of peers, or an individual media application that can be manipulated with different choices (I’m thinking specifically of the flash programs for my students that allows them to manipulate variables in ‘experiments’ online then post their results to our class forum).

    The last thing that I think is important to successful e-learning is efficiency. It is very easy to make presentations, programs, and activities that have the lasted bells and whistles. But there is a line that delineates between active and exciting materials and those that are too ‘busy’ or complex that ends up detracting from the learner’s experience. If the learner has to expend energy deciphering the pertinent information from the extra add-ons, they are more likely to not retain the information presented in the program. Even within the content itself, there is a limited number of items or actions the human brain can process in working memory before losing information to new items presented. Which would explain why many learners are unable to retain much information from a text-only presentation that is 20 slides in length.

    1. stephaniededhar Post author

      Hi Rachelle, thanks for your comment – I’m glad you’re finding the blog useful so far. As you’ll have seen from my later post, I completely agree about the importance of engagement and relevance. I’m also with you on the efficiency issue – like you say, having the latest bells and whistles is not always a good thing. The way I see it, everything you put in your course – whether it’s text, graphics, animations, interactions, audio, video or anything else – should be there for a reason. Otherwise the bells and whistles can end up distracting or boring the learner and underminding all the good work that’s been done elsewhere!


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