IN THE MAIN, elearning is thought of far too narrowly. Indeed, in some of these explanations, elearning is defined only by the delivery mechanism, which most often boils down to a learning management system. This is clearly not adequate.
We need to broaden our horizons and include the whole range of digital tools available that sustain learning, both in the classroom or outside – at home, at work or wherever. And these tools are not just teacher-enabled. They should encompass the tools that students also use, in order to understand, practice, memorise, demonstrate, share and collaborate.
Basically, we can define elearning as the whole range of electronic (digital) tools and devices that are used in learning.
We need to create a classification system for these tools; otherwise we will continue to have methodological issues in studies and surveys if the classification is not all-encompassing, and we are forced to add more items to the list as they continue to come on stream in the future (which of course they will).
So, let’s put forward these categories (acknowledging that there may be some tools that cross over categories):
- Collaborating tools – blogs, wikis, social networking, virtual world, virtual classroom (Elluminate, etc).
- Communicating tools – email, messaging (SMS), telephone (voice), forum (asynchronous), chat (synchronous), VoIP.
- Mapping tools – Google Earth, GPS, digital maps.
- Modelling tools – specialised tools such as Building Information Modelling (BIM).
- Presentation tools – website, CD-ROM, powerpoint, podcast.
- Simulating tools – animation, specialised eg flight simulation, operation simulation.
- Storing tools – database, spreadsheet, eportfolio, LMS, CMS.
- Testing tools – for example, quizzes, puzzles, games.
- Transforming tools – draw /paint, video, audio, image / photography.
Because of the range of computing devices that deliver elearning and the converging technology capabilities in them (for example, interactive TV or smartphone), these are best classified simply as:
- desktop (fixed) – includes the standard computer, TV, interactive whiteboard.
- mobile – includes smartphone, mP3 player, GPS device, games console, laptop, tablet.