HOW CAN E-LEARNING WORK FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGES?
Dr. Merrill Irving
NCCET National Director
Oakton Community College
WISE EMPLOYERS LOOK TO THEIR COMMUNITY COLLEGE PARTNERS TO PREPARE EVER HIGHERSKILLEDWORKERS, AND CLOSE SKILLS GAPS WITH EXISTING EMPLOYEES.
The Quality Group
E-learning began in the eighties with interactive videodisc technology. In the nineties it was CDROM. Production costs were high back then. Typical e-modules featured an elegant instructional design, video of actors as trainer-hosts, tight scripting, live-action examples, opportunities to self-assess understanding, control over pacing, flexibility in navigation, and the potential to quickly advance through material already mastered. E-learning was used to teach basic information more effectively and productively, often in 60-70 percent learning time. When in class, students could then focus on knowledge application and real-world problem solving.
Enter the lost decade' for e-learning (2000-2010), concurrent with the dawn of the Internet. E-learning at last became scalable. Everyone could access e-learning from anywhere there was an Internet connection. Regrettably, however, most e-learning producers developed poor-quality content with stock photos, streaming video of instructors, and homemade voice-over. An e-learning course felt like a regurgitated PowerPoint. Why such dumbing down of content? Reasons include lack of bandwidth, availability of lower-cost, cookie-cutter development tools and a speed-to-market sense of urgency. Prognosticators also touted the end of classroom based learning. Learning would soon be 100 percent online. And so, academic and corporate training leaders, attracted by the lure of huge savings and an intense desire not to be left behind, forced many an educator to try the then in-vogue e-learning. Hype quickly met reality. For the most part, other than in areas such as compliance and IT, e-learning was a dismal failure. ?-learners rebelled, acceptance was low, usage was disappointing, and outcomes were underwhelming.
Welcome to the 2010s! The Internet has caught up, educators realize that 'all e-learning is not equal', e-learning quality is much improved and the industry has validated blended learning. Good e-learning, used for blended learning, is back on the launch pad. Community colleges-our country's local, entrepreneurial learning innovators- are wellpositioned to lead. Wise employers look to their community college partners to prepare ever higher skilled workers, and close skills gaps with existing employees. These employers expect all their vendors to continuously improve- lower costs, improve service, increase quality. Why should they expect anything different from their education provider? Community colleges get the message. They know that 'all in-class' is unsustainable, call online' is insufficient, and that 'blended e-learning' (done well) can be a 'force multiplier Carpe diem!
THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE LEARNING TO THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE CANNOT BE OVERSTATED OR IGNORED.
It's no secret that community colleges are being challenged to do more with less every day.
USA Today reports that as companies cut back on internal training, the burden of skills development shifts to the individual as he or she prepares to enter, advance in, or re-enter the workforce (Davidson 2012).
Many turn to local community colleges to get the skills they need, and schools are struggling to respond. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently highlighted the glut of students applying to the California Community College system (Gardner and Blumenstyk 2012). And while a new initiative sponsored by Jobs for the Future brings valuable real time workforce development data to curricula planning, it also increases pressure on schools to respond more quickly to the needs of the areas they serve (Jobs for the Future 2012). …