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eLearning scenarios

In «normal» cases, Margraf Publishers use for their eLearning courses the «Collaborative Learning» («e-Learning 2.0») approach. In this approach,

  • Training courses take place at fixed times to motivate the participants and to create a group of learners  in a similar situation. It is not possible to join a curse at any time (like in Self-paced learning).
  • Participants are accompanied by skilled e-tutors, specialized trainers who on one hand have the expert knowledge to answer the participants questions adequately can also support the participants;
  • Networking, forming of a «class» of the participants and communication among the learners is a most important element.

Main approaches used in today's eLearnings are:

Blended Learning & In-house Training

  • A nickname for all mixes of online and offline content elements.

How is it normally used?

  • An online course or a CD-ROM course to bring participants to a similar level, followed by a test and a Face-to-face course [or an actual tutor-accompanied e-course] for the most committed participants.

Generally, a Blended Learning describes all forms of a didactical mix between online and offline components. Depending on the needs of the participants or their organisations, the content has to be delivered in different ways:

  • (1) Hand-Outs (to be printed and used offline);
  • (2) Face-to-Face Training (uses all the prepared material);
  • (3) Training content on a CD-Rom;
  • (3) e-Learning (Distance learning).

The trainer and the organization can therefore decide about the form of delivery of the training.

An approach which is often realised provides the course content to a large group of participants in their home countries using the e-Learning format. After the e-Learning courses and the online tests, a small group of successful and committed participants are then invited to join a specialized face-to-face training.

The In-House Training is a just a special form of learning, adapted to the needs and the demand of a certain utility/organisation and it's workmates. The demand may arise of the need to steer the participants presence at the workplaces or of special knowledges needed in the utility/organisation. Normally, an In-House training is used to get all participants to a similar level and then to continue the training with traditional form of learning.

In other cases, an In-House Training is used as a constant and growing «knowledge base» in form of an interactive manual for the existing staff and an introduction to newly hired colleagues.

[Graphic: Angelique Strgar]

MOOC (Massive open online courses)

  • The abbreviation means «Massive Open Online Courses». MOOCs are mostly filmed lectures provided by universities.

How to earn money with MOOCs? 

  • There are some organisations like for instance «coursera» which offer MOOCs on commercial level, produced mainly for the western world. The participance (unless you are not a student to the producing university) is not cheap. MOOCS earn money mostly through certificates for successful participants and advertisement.

What is the main advantage / disadvantage?

  • PRO: Opens lectures to an unlimited number of learners from remote areas and allows open access via the web;
  • CON: The drop-out is very high, depending on the scenario between 90-98% of the participants give up their studies before a certification (data from coursera suggest a completion rate of 7%–9%).

A MOOC – a «massive open online course» is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions. Some later MOOCs use closed licenses for their course materials while maintaining free access for students.

Many MOOCs use video lectures, employing the old form of teaching using a new technology. Because of massive enrollments, MOOCs require instructional design that facilitates large-scale feedback and interaction. The two basic approaches are

  • (1) Peer-review and group collaboration, and
  • (2) Automated feedback through objective, online assessments, e.g. quizzes and exams.

So-called connectivist MOOCs rely on the former approach; broadcast MOOCs rely more on the latter. This marks a key distinction between cMOOCs where the 'C' stands for 'connectivist', and xMOOCs where the x stands for extended (as in TEDx, EdX) and represents that the MOOC is designed to be in addition to something else (university courses for example).

Assessment can be the most difficult activity to conduct online, that's why MOOCs often use the approach of a final examination as presence (face-to-face) event and the need to finalize the course with a personal written exam.

As MOOCs are more appropriate in the academic environment, Margraf Publishers uses for the eLearning courses program rather the format of tutor-acompagnied courses, which are more suitable to the context in developing or newly industrialized countries.

[Poster, entitled «MOOC, every letter is negotiable» exploring the meaning of the words «Massive Open Online Course». Source: Flickr, Mathieu Plourde]

Self-paced learning

  • Participants decide themselves when to start/stop the training

How is it commonly used? 

  • SP-Learning brings participants to a comparable level. It is mainly used for software training, training how to use manuals, or technical trainings, etc. Very often used as a «Knowledge base». Communication between the users does not play an important role.

Self-paced instruction is any kind of instruction that proceeds based on learner response and without the need of a tutor. The learner can start and end the formation at any time (there are usually no fixed course dates).

The content itself can be curriculum, corporate training, technical tutorials, or any other subject that does not require the immediate response of an instructor. Self-paced instruction is constructed in such a way that the learner proceeds from one topic or segment to the next at his/her own speed. This type of instruction is becoming increasingly popular as the education world shifts from the classroom to the internet.

[Artist unknown]

eLearning 2.0 – Tutor-guided training

  • A tutor-guided course. Participants are forced to commit themselves and to take part at the course actively.

How is it normally used? 

  • Course takes place at a certain time. Interactive elements are accessible only during the course period. E-mails, phone calls, SMS, WhatsApp and/or messages using social media (Facebook, Twitter) from tutors to the group or to individuals are keeping the participant's motivation on a high level.

What are interactive elements? 

  • All «user-centered» software components allowing participants to interfere and to actively join discussions. Common examples are Pinboards and Forums, Audio/Video (Webinars), Online tests and evaluations etc.

eLearning 2.0 uses instructional methods designed to encourage or require students to work together on learning tasks, allowing social learning.

It is similar in concept to the terminology «Computer-supported collaborative learning» (CSCL) and «Networked collaborative learning» (NCL). With the web 2.0 advances, sharing information between multiple people in a network has become much easier.

Learning takes place through conversations about content and interaction about problems and actions. This collaborative learning differs from instruction in which the instructor is the principal source of knowledge and skills (face-to-face training).

eLearning 2.0 uses social software such as blogs, social media, wikis, podcasts, cloud-based document portals and discussion groups. Social networks are fostering online learning communities.

Margraf Publishers encourages course participants to use their handheld computers or cell phones to join a training. All courses are prepared for the use with devices like computer, iPads or Smartphones (responsive design of the courses «ask» first with which device a user is approaching to then offer a suitable layout for this device).

e-Learning participants are increasingly being asked to work in teams, drawing on different sets of expertise, and collaborating to solve problems – and increasingly they are promoted to do so at their workplaces as well.

Therefore, our eTutors must have a good understanding of the technology being used and its advantages over more traditional methods to support participants in this. If there is a lack in either of these areas, technology will be seen as a hindrance and not a benefit to the goals of teaching.

Although the tutor-accompanied courses have a much lower drop-out rate compared to MOOCs or Self-Paced courses,  the most observed obstacle of the e-Learning courses is the question of motivation and the (sometimes) wrong self-estimation of the participants. While this is understandable from the view of participants, the trainers nevertheless need to be trained in order to help overcoming simple access and technical problems as well as the difficult question how to train a complex content in a distance learning environment.

Mobile Learning

  • Mobile learning is the delivery of learning, education or learning support on mobile phones, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) or tablets.

How do we use it?

  • Margraf Publishers use this interactive potential for most of the online courses because most of the participants (and tutors) own a smartphone with an existing access to Social Media.

What are Social Media?

  • Participants meet in a closed Facebook or Twitter-group to discuss about the issues they learned in the course and/or about topics which have been raised by the tutors.

Mobile learning is the delivery of learning, education or learning support on mobile phones, PDAs or tablets. E-Learning has provided the ability for traditional learning to break out of the classroom setting and for students to learn at home. Mobile learning has enhanced upon e-learning by taking it a step further and allowing students to learn virtually anywhere a mobile signal is available. This allows participants to stay connected to the course while traveling, vacationing, during breaks or during any other free time one may have.

Beside the optimization of the existing courses for the use with mobile devices, Margraf Publishers mainly use the Social Media networks as a communication tool between participants and tutors for their e-Learning courses. This decision was taken due to the fact that almost everyone among the participants and the e-tutors already own a smartphone or a tablet (and sometimes both). On the other hand, people are often reluctant to login to another third-party communication service. This explains the weak usage of the numerous services and on the other side the increasing use of social media.

Facebook for example is such an online social networking service. Its website was launched 2004. After registering to use the site, users can create a user profile, add other users as "friends", exchange messages, post status updates and photos, share videos and receive notifications when others update their profiles. Users – in our case participants of e-Learnings – can communicate with each other and the tutors in closed groups which means that the content of the discussion stays confidential outside the circle of the participants.

Welcome to the brave new world of MOOCs

[Video by the The New York Times explaining the term MOOC]