In previous courses I have taken on e-Learning there has been numerous discussions around teacher presence in an e-Learning context. Many discussions and readings have centred around the concept of the teacher moving from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”. It seems one of the draws of using e-Learning in the classroom is the ability to “teacher proof” (Guri-Rosenblit & Gros, 2011, p. 6) teaching and learning in the classroom. The teacher can be taken out of the learning process and students are able to use technology to individualize their learning.
What this view of e-Learning tends to forget is that just because students have access to technology it does not mean that they are engaged in the learning process. Guri-Rosenblit & Gros (2011) comment that “…the fact that putting students in the center of the learning process, and assuming that…technologies have the power of turning them into self-directed and autonomous learners have turned out to be quite naive and unsubstantiated assumptions” (p. 10). In my experiences I have seen this time and time again. The perfect example is researching. My students know how to use Google, they can find multiple websites on a topic but when it comes to analyzing the content for usefulness, and synthesizing the information (which are higher level skills) they are at a complete loss. In a situation like this being a guide does not help get down to the root of the problem – students do not have the skills to translate the information on the webpage into a meaningful product. Teachers need to teach them the skills but when the teacher is taken out of the learning equation, where will students learn those skills?
Maybe instead of the idea that a benefit of e-Learning is the ability to “teacher proof” a course, the benefit should be an increased quality of teaching. By promoting the idea that teachers who use e-Learning are quality educators and they are innovative, creative and focused on new methods of instruction this will move the argument away from “sage on the stage”/”guide on the side” to looking at teaching practices. These teachers are on the cutting edge and along with their students, central to learning in the classroom. The Canadian Council on Learning states (2009), “E-learning is a tool, not a pedagogical method. To be effective, e-learning must be linked to teaching practices that have demonstrated benefits, and should be used appropriately to reflect the nature of the content and learners’ needs and abilities” (p. 62). This sentiment is the conclusion I have reached and is something I strive to implement in my classroom and communicate to my colleagues.
Canadian Council on Learning, (2009). State of E-learning in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/E-learning/E-Learning_Report_FINAL-E.PDF
Guri-Rosenblit, S. & Gros, G. (2011). E-Learning: Confusing Terminology, Research Gaps and Inherent Challenges. The Journal of Distance Education, 25(1). Retrieved from http://www.jofde.ca/index.php/jde/article/view/729/1206