The ASTD E-Learning Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case Studies for an Emerging Field

By Zittle, Frank; Johari, Abbas | Quarterly Review of Distance Education, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

The ASTD E-Learning Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case Studies for an Emerging Field


Zittle, Frank, Johari, Abbas, Quarterly Review of Distance Education


The ASTD E-Learning Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies and Case Studies for an Emerging Field, by Allison Rossett. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002, 535 pages, $49.95)

The promise of "anytime-anywhere learning" has been the Holy Grail of distance education providers for the past 25 years. In the last decade, books written on the topic of e-learning wildly tossed about hyperbole and hype extolling the benefits and availability of rich, media-driven learning systems that were independent of geography, time, and classroom availability. The future looked good indeed. That was before the dot-corn bubble burst. Now a more reasoned approach is needed to lend credibility to the claims of e-learning and distance education in general. Enter Allison Rossett and the ASTD E-Learning Handbook. Although this handbook has a distinctly corporate emphasis, distance educators, learning architects, and administrators from K-20 institutions will profit from the hands-on approach of this book.

As editor, Rossett has assembled the best and brightest in the Internet-based training field. This book explores such nagging questions as: "What are the ingredients of a successful e-learning endeavor?"; "How can we decrease online student dropout rates?"; "How much interaction and collaboration is necessary?"; Are all e-learning programs created and managed in the same way?"; and "Is it technical sophistication, expensive authoring tools, superior knowledge of instructional design, or artful teaching that determines a successful program?"

The E-Learning Handbook is separated into six sections containing 41 individual chapters from recognized experts and emerging scholars and practitioners such as Marc Rosenburg, Gloria Gery, David Simmons, Zane Berge, Brandon Hall, and Elliott Masie, to name a few. Opening with a general exploration of the current state of e-learning, the handbook unfolds to successfully strike a balance between the exploration of e-learning in conceptual forms and the giving of practical, experience-based advice. The latter is provided through sections devoted to developing e-learning programs and managing e-learning success.

Rossett begins the first section, "The State of E-Learning," advising that "the e-learning honeymoon is over" and it is time to carefully examine both the good and bad, and even the ugly, of e-learning. Dave Simmons, Gloria Gery, Elliot Masie, and other contributors present a cogent picture of e-learning at the beginning of the new millennium, illustrating challenges, techniques, and research findings to support current claims and procedures. They present a Zeitgeist of cautious optimism supported with field-based research.

According to some, there has been a rush to populate online e-learning cyberspace with classroom-in-a-box (teaching online as you would in the classroom) programming and development. This early tendency, fortunately, is gradually being replaced by evidence-based instructional techniques, grounded in experience and the experimental literature, and buttressed by the systematic design of instruction for Web-based environments. The second section of the handbook, "Developing Great E-Learning," offers blueprints for instructional soundness and the art of converting the curriculum from classroom-based to the World Wide Web. Examples from this section include Pam Northrup's argument that "interactivity is crucial for success in web-based learning." She offers a framework for designing interactivity and engagement into e-learning that includes coloration, conversation, intrapersonal interaction, and performance support. Assisting this interactive position are two additional articles about learning through instructional games. Other chapters in this section provide valuable insight on the pragmatic side of e-learning, offering a thoughtful treatment on evaluating Web-based training software and systems (Le'a Kent), while Berge and Muilenburg provide an informative article on the design of online discussion questions.

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