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PART I: E-Learning: Emergence of the Profession

Stephenie Buehrle, Deborah Crowder and Aimee Willis November 2011

E-Learning is experiencing a great evolution and growth as the capacity for education is no longer limited by time, physical or technological constraints. Part I of this narrative provides an historical overview of instructional design and technology, distance learning, E-Learning and emerging technologies. Additionally, several key models and terms central to these practices are summarized. Part II of this report will focus on three current technology trends, including cloud computing, mobile learning and social media and how they relate to the field of E-Learning.

Parent Field: Instructional Design and Technology

Instructional design and technology (IDT) is a vast subject that can be likened to a deeply rooted tree that has, over time, towered and branched into various practices and models that continue to define what it is and how it has developed. Truly understanding IDT requires examining the seeds that were planted in order to give rise to such a hybrid field. Educational technology, instructional technology and instructional design are all alternate labels defining IDT. Instructional technology utilizes technological processes, systems and resources, which can include media, to facilitate learning; whereas educational technology encompasses not only hardware, software, applications and activities, but also contemplates instructional and learning theory in order to develop a learners capabilities. If instructional and educational technologies are contributing factors in defining IDT, then instructional design is another cornerstone. Designing instruction that applies research, theories and strategies to increase the appeal and effectiveness of learning is integral to IDT (Horton, 2006). Although instructional design and instructional media are often addressed together, these practices have developed separately. The design aspect of the profession includes the approaches by which educational problems are solved, whereas the media side of the profession signifies the resources utilized to deliver instruction (Reiser, 2001). The most notable implications of IDT within the United States are concentrated within the last century. The first quarter of the 1900s saw important developments in audio and visual media, including innovations in radio and film. The need to quickly train military personnel served as a catalyst for new instructional designs and audio-visual media in the form of training films. As a result of this demand, educational and psychological professionals entered into the field and applied their expertise to design instruction and assess learning success (Reiser, 2001). Throughout the 1950s and 60s, behavioral objectives were popularized to aid in designing instruction and were inspired by models such as Blooms Taxonomy, which theorizes that there are levels, or domains, of intellectual behavior that are critical to learning. Robert Gagns Conditions of Learning drew from fundamental concepts in Blooms Taxonomy and set forth nine instructional events necessary to achieve successful learning (Reiser, 2001). Both of these models are foundational to the field of IDT and are highly regarded as a basis for the design of

instruction. During the 1970s the ADDIE model of learning provided a five phase process by which learners approach problems. These phases include analysis, design, development, implementation and evaluation and are still a staple of the instructional design process. Again, we find learning objectives playing a key role, here within the analysis phase of the process. It is in this phase that the instructional problem is clarified, along with the learning objectives and goals. Objectives and former theories are evident as building blocks to the continuation of solution models within the field. The select few milestones, models and influential figures discussed above are by no means more important than many others not mentioned. However, this sampling provides a sound basis to illustrate the interwoven nature of the ideas and solutions that have been influential in improving instructional design, as well as the foundation upon which the field continues to grow. Instructional design and technology continues to be an ever changing, ever growing field that caters to both business and educational sectors and the military in order to improve the knowledge and performance of learners. If knowledge is the single most important commodity in the prosperity of [a nation], then the design of instruction and the technology utilized to design and deliver it is a platform on which success and prosperity are built (Saba, 2008, p.13). Distance learning and the emergence of E-Learning are notable offshoots of IDT worthy of in depth discussion because they share history with and embrace the professional spirit of delivering knowledge and enhancing the learning experience.

Distance Education: Another Set of Roots

Distance education shares a common history (see Figure 1) with and employs the bulk of the principles of instructional design. It differs primarily through the way learning is delivered. Several key features define distance education. Many definitions of distance education are available, but one that is pure and simple is, distance education is learning without the physical presence of the instructor. Distance education is characterized by the following (Mantyla and Gividen, 1997):

Separation in place or time, or both, of one or more of the following: instructor and learner, learners from one another, and learners and learning resources. Interaction of one or more of the following: the learner and the instructor, learners and other learners, and learners and learning resources conducted through one or more media. Processes that employ a multiple set of delivery methods in the learning experience, such as written correspondence study or electronic media.

Processes may be synchronous meaning real time or simultaneous participation of all students and the instructor (Moore and Kearsley, 1996) or asynchronous, which signifies instruction that does not require the simultaneous participation of all students and instructors (Moore and Kearsley, 1996).

There are three types of interactions typically seen in distance education applications (Moore, 1989). Each type of interaction could have different effects on learners or the effectiveness of a course. These interactions are:

Learner-Content Interaction. The first type of interaction is interaction between the learner and the content or subject of study. This is a defining characteristic of education. Without it there cannot be education, since it is the process of intellectually interacting with content that results in changes in the learner's understanding, the learner's perspective and mind. Learner-Instructor Interaction. The second type of interaction is interaction between the learner and the instructor. The learner is able to draw on the experience of the instructor to interact and respond in a way tailored to the needs of each individual. The instructor is especially valuable in responding to the learners' application of new knowledge. Learner-Learner Interaction. The interaction is inter-learner interaction, between one learner and other learners, alone or in group settings, with or without the real-time presence of an instructor.

In application, distance education assumes the learner is capable of self-direction, and the instructor is more facilitative than directive. Garrisons Community of Inquiry model incorporates elements of both the constructivism and connectivism models which see the learner in active terms:

cognitive presence (the ability to construct meaning through sustained communication) social presence (the ability to connect on a

meaningful level with other learners and teachers)


teaching presence (the creation and facilitation of cognitive and social processes that lead to meaningful educational outcomes)

This approach is more holistic and attempts to capture not only the content, but also the context in which we learn and work in today's world. Therefore, learning is dynamic, ongoing, and dependent on internal cognitive processes as well context and social interaction, whether face-toface or online (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). Regardless of the delivery method, level of interaction or model used, technology is penetrating all aspects of education and changing it dramatically especially as E-Learning moves to the forefront.

E-Learning: Emergence of the Field

The first use of the term E-Learning was in commercial applications. In the 1990s, the International Data Corporation saw great prospects for booming investments in businesses that leveraged the Internet to deliver their distance learning modules to corporations, thereby meeting the market need to keep the knowledge base of existing employees current (Morri, 1997). Of course, educators saw the opportunity in E-Learning, as well. While some still view ELearning as that learning facilitated on-line through network technologies (Garrison & Anderson, 2003), others apply the term more broadly to include all forms of knowledge transfer in formal and informal settings using any type of electronic media such as television, telephone and the Internet (E-Learning Fundamentals). As previously described, educators have worked tirelessly to incorporate the latest developments in instructional design as it applies to traditional classroom and distance education settings alike. With the advances in technology and adoption of E-Learning, participation in distance education has eruptedrecognized not only as a highly accessible means for learning, but also as a reputable one. This reputation is due, in part, to the offering of E-Learning and online education by accredited institutions, but also due to the ongoing application of instructional design. While the early applications of E-Learning (in the 1960s and 1970s) were largely behaviorist in nature with the distribution of electronic lessons that provided straightforward positive or negative feedback to a learners input, later implementations grew much more complex. With the technological development of wikis, platforms for discussion threads, the increased accessibility of audio and video technology and other media that promote interaction, educators moved on to employ a wide range of instructional design models. For example, a design may include the introduction of a perceived problem or issue in the form of an assigned reading, podcast or video followed by student participation in a discussion hosted in an electronic thread. In an E-Learning lesson such as this, educators can encourage and monitor the engagement of learners and their collaboration with their peers to construct a

resolution to the issue. Educators can utilize a range of electronic formats to interject in these discussions, providing resources that further each students understanding of the concepts. Furthermore, one of these more complex E-Learning designs might incorporate the requirement for students to blog or otherwise capture their reflection demonstrating their cognitive learning. And so it goes, the innovative spirit that inspired educators to exploit the demonstrative capabilities of film (Reiser, 2001, p. 55), utilize audio technology for language labs (Wilson, Orellana & Meek), and harness the power of the Internet and all of the tools deployed therein to cultivate rich learning experiences for students continues to instigate new developments in ELearning. Perhaps the definition of E-Learning will become widely accepted as the use of all things electronic and digital to enhance the learning and mastery of skills. In the same way that educators have exploited and become the primary consumers of technology in the past, they may embrace the idea that technology is doing for learning what it has done for pretty much every other aspect of living, which is to say that it has dismantled the walls between spaces (Corbett, 2010). Instead of schools with classrooms, grade levels and subjects, educators may come to foster learning spaces and discovery spaces where children collaborate to build, play and deploy their own electronic gamesall the while refining their reading, writing and mathematics expertise (Corbett, 2010). This could characterize the application of social constructivism in an E-Learning environment. E.O. Wilson, a Harvard educated evolutionary biologist, would certainly see this as the education of the future. If he is right, Thomas Edisons prediction that books will soon be obsolete in the schools (Reiser, 2001, p. 55) will come to fruition about 100 years after the time that he made it. Rather than the motion picture revolutionizing the institution of education, Wilson predicted that games are the future in education [and]were about to leave print and textbooks behind (Corbett, 2010). While it is unlikely that print materials and books will become obsolete, it might very well be true that game development and application will be incorporated in the instructional designs of the future.

Concluding Thoughts
Instructional design, distance education and E-Learning have certain similarities. All three traditions feature a common shared history and all have been influenced by many of the same key contributors and models. However, each tradition in application presents itself with different perspectives and nuances. Instructional design at its core is a reasoned approach to developing training and education solutions to pass knowledge. The theoretical and conceptual underpinnings of modern instructional design and technology are supported by many contributors, especially the works of Bloom and Gagn. Not only did Bloom and Gagns work influence the instructional design field, but it is also evident in todays distance education and E-Learning practices. The significance of distance education is in the way technology began to be harnessed to provide non-traditional learning.

E-learning is opening up an entire new world of opportunities and challenges. Maturing technology is bringing about an interactive environment for learners. Examining emerging trends in E-learning provides insight into approaching and impending developments in the field. As the industry moves forward, the interaction and individual contribution of these core practices make it possible to deliver sustainable educational and training solutions that produce results in a complex, ever-changing world. Ultimately, these three practices have demonstrated that they are sufficiently dynamic enough to allow for the implementation of viable new technologies and models that make their way into the instructional landscape. These new technologies and platforms are evident in the emerging trends that continuously shape and redefine the field of Elearning.

Part II: Trends

It is clear that E-Learning is a mainstay in 21st century learning environments. Part I of this narrative provides an historical overview of instructional design and technology, distance learning and E-Learning. In this section, or Part II, we will present emerging technology trends that are currently influencing and affecting instructional design and learning professionals. As evidence of the viability of E-Learning, one can look to the U.S. Department of Education, which devotes a significant amount of resources to the development of its National Education Technology Plan (NETP). The plan calls for applying the advanced technologies used in our daily personal and professional lives to our entire education system to improve student learning, accelerate and scale up the adoption of effective practices, and use data and information for continuous improvement (U.S. DOE, 2010). Teaching professionals, by their nature, do not tend to wait for policymakers to prompt them or to provide the means to adopt new tools and methodologies to reach their participants. They certainly are applying advanced technologies to their classrooms. What might be more difficult is keeping up with the advances in technology and their impact on trends in education. In Part II, we are highlighting just three trends that are having a significant impact on teaching and learning, but make no mistake, these trends are but a sample of the creative applications of instructional technology.

Cloud Computing
There is a movement underway that will affect most everyone who uses computers called the cloud. Seen as a cheaper, faster, more convenient alternative to traditional information technology (IT) infrastructure and services, the cloud is similar to paying for any other commodity, such as electricity, cable TV, or cell phone service. In the cloud, fundamentally, a providers computing resources, service and expertise are pooled to serve multiple consumers with varying needs for a cost.

Cloud computing is not Web 2.0 tools or networking. Rather, it is the enabling technology. Cloud computing can be viewed as digital outsourcing or the farming out of computing capabilities and software applications to another company on pay-per-use or pay-only-for-what you need basis from anywhere at any time without requiring much in the way of consumer expertise or human interaction with the service provider (Shor, 2011). The advantage is the consumer gets the service at a stable, predictable cost and computing capabilities are rented and no hardware or software assets are purchased outright by the consumer. The business or educational institution does not have to invest capital in building organizational computer infrastructure and support staff. Additionally, convenience, cost, reliability, scalability and environmental factors are other benefits anticipated in the deployment of cloud-based workplace and learning solutions (Marks, E. & Lozano, B., 2010). Cloud computing falls under three categories: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) (see Figure A). y Software as a Service (SaaS) provides consumers with software over the web. The time savings that come with on-demand software, where nothing needs to be installed on a PC and new users can be added easily along with the pay-per-use business model have made SaaS a success (Miller, 2010). Popular and familiar examples of SaaS are Google Apps and Blackboard Learn. Platform as a Service (PaaS) provides consumers with a stable online environment to develop custom applications using visual, point-and-click browser-based software development tools like Googles AppEngine and Microsofts Azure rather than a programming language. There is less work involved in creating an application using PaaS than the traditional approach, which involves procuring and managing one or more servers for development, testing and production, and installing and configuring server software (Miller, 2010). Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides consumers with administrative, web-based access to fundamental computing resources such as processing power, data storage and high-speed networks. The low entry costs and the pay-per-use charging model make it attractive to businesses. More importantly the web interfaces, empower the consumer to administer the computing resources as if they owned them (Miller, 2010) Amazon is a leading provider with its AWS (Amazon Web Services) offerings and learning professionals may utilize this type of service to host files like large online training videos (Miller, 2010).

Cloud computing represents a radically different way of procuring a full range of IT capabilities. It is the service nature of cloud computing that makes it such a disruptive force in the IT industry. Although there are multiple cloud computing services that the learning and performance professional can immediately apply in a practical way, almost everyone is now grappling with how to best take advantage of cloud computing capabilities to reduce costs and enhance productivity. What is certain is path-breaking and people-centric technologies continue to be experimented with and established to empower and address situational needs that provide for the developmental growth and value for learners. There is no doubt that learning equity issues with cloud computing relate to the availability of financial resources to purchase the devices that utilize this technology. Perhaps unwittingly, many across the globe have been participating in cloud computing for social purposes and some for educational purposes for quite some time by utilizing applications on their smartphones. Mobile devices greatly contribute to cloud computing implications, as the use of tablets and smartphones for mobile learning increases. Some colleges have even begun distributing tablets to all of their students (Madan, 2011) which rely on cloud computing for storage and bandwidth. The best way to serve learners is to establish environments that incorporate this type of integral technology.

Mobile Learning
Mobile devices are closing the gap between resource and recipient at a dizzying pace. Today, information is available at the touch of a button in the palm of ones hand. Information seekers do not have to physically travel anywhere to access a continually growing catalog of information. The implications that mobile access to information has on learning is exponential. Delivering the right information to the right people at the right time is positioning todays learners at the greatest vantage point, which is where they can find what they need when they need to know it (Lykins, 2011, p. 2). The advent of the Internet was, indeed, the precursor to mobile learning. Just a mere decade ago users were dependant on a fixed line in a static location in order to gain online access (Lykins, 2011, p.2). Users increasing expectations for unlimited access, as well as the fact that cellular access to the Internet [has outpaced] more traditional networks, has spawned this age of rapid expansion and development of mobile learning (Horizon, 2010, p.22). The trend in mobile learning is made apparent by the fact that access to the Internet via mobile devices exceeded desktop access in 2008 and each year, thereafter. By the end of 2011, market research firm Nielson forecasts that more than 50% of phones sold in the United States will be smartphones (Lykins, 2011). The handheld, mobile devices that bring mobile learning to the user represent an incredible extension of the learning environment, be it the classroom or the workplace. Smartphones, netbooks, PDAs, tablets and pads deliver learning in smaller, just-in-time chunks, which results in improved retention of information (Woodill, 2011). Senior technology consultant at Stanford University, Tim Flood, agrees that the mobile web has definite advantages over the traditional web, as made apparent by the comparative chart in Figure B (Lykins, 2011, p.3).

These advantages are contributing factors to the upswing in mobile learning and the shift toward asynchronous and individualized consumption [of information] (Carroll, 2011).

Distributed anytime and anyplace learning via remote devices has increased the popularity of multimedia as learning resources. Access to Youtube for video content, Stitcher for podcasts, and sites like Facebook and Edmodo for social networking is gaining in mobile user activity due to application software that allows users to bypass a browser and go directly to the site. Direct access to multimedia and social networking resources reinforces the trend in mobile learning. Despite the obvious advantages of mobile learning, there are some drawbacks to going mobile, as well as negative social implications. These include 1) Individual ownership of mobile devices varies greatly depending on socioeconomic class. For this reason, educators should be wary of assuming that learners will arrive equipped to access a mobile pedagogy (Carroll, 2011). 2) Mobile learning is in a constant state of flux and development. Planning for and utilization of mobile learning should be future-oriented, which means continuously revisiting best practices, content and resources (Woodill, 2011, p.2). 3) Mobile learning can collide with security concerns, and the difficulty to deliver sensitive content via mobile devices can inhibit its efficiency (Lykins, 2011). 4) Mobile devices, themselves, can be seen as distractions instead of learning tools, especially among educators not trained to design instruction that embraces mobile learning. Ultimately, however, the ability to adopt and leverage mobile learning in the appropriate situations will result in positive learning experiences. The portability, any time, any place connectivity, flexibility and timely access to resources, and immediacy of communication not only engages, but empowers learners (Woodill, 2011). To ensure best practices, it is recommended that mobile learning be viewed and utilized as complementary to other forms of learning, not as a replacement.

Social Media
Similar to the impending adoption of cloud computing and mobile technology to extend learning opportunities, learning institutions are taking advantage of the widespread and growing adoption of social media. In more and more learning environments, it is becoming just as likely that you might observe participants tweeting in their responses to questions as raising their hands. More instructors are distributing assignments via Facebook, and participants are all too eager to engage in homework that involves posting a two minute video on YouTube. The use of social media is fast becoming a mainstay in education (see Figure C). New Milford High School is one of the institutions engaging and connecting with digital students of the 21st century. The principal of this New Jersey school, Eric Sheninger, and his teachers use Facebook to communicate with students and parents, and students use it to plan events (Toppo, 2011). Sheninger shares company with a growing number of education professionals who maintain that social networking tools offer us unprecedented ways to connect, share, participate, and contribute in a variety of activities (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009). More compelling may be the wave of recently conducted studies that show the positive effects of social media in schools. One study at Lock Haven University provided evidence of the value of integrating social media into teaching. In the experiment, students who were asked to tweet about their experiences relative to assignments demonstrated more than twice the improvement in engagement than the control group of students who were given the same assignments and information, but did not incorporate Twitter (Kessler, 2010, Twitter Increases Student Engagement[STUDY]). Those advocating for the incorporation of social media in schools also have strong backing documented within the latest release of the U. S. Department of Educations (DOE) National Education Technology Plan (Ray, 2011). Among the Department of Educations priorities is participating in efforts to ensure that transitioning from predominantly print-based classrooms to digital learning environments promotes organized, accessible, easy-to-distribute and easy-touse content and learning resources (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, Executive Summary). Alongside several other initiatives to meet this priority, it is stated within the document that the DOE can encourage institutions to experiment with such resources associal networks both within and across education institutions to give students guidance and information about their own learning progress and strategies for seamless completion of a comprehensive P16 education (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, Executive Summary).


The use of social media for learning and instruction is not without its detractors. Many parents and educators, too, have concerns about online bullying and they fear that sexual predators may gain access to students via social media. Legislation and model policies have been proposed in a number of states to address these concerns and to provide guidance to educators regarding appropriate social networking behavior (Paulson, 2011). More prevalent may be those voices that encourage responsible use of the media. The American Library Association, for example, would not support a ban on social media in schools as it does not teach safe behavior and leaves youth without the necessary knowledge and skills to protect their privacy or engage in responsible speech (Toppo, 2011). Another detractor is the issue of equitable access to social mediaand to computers, in generalfor educational purposes. The scope of the concerns is wide and raises many questions. y Do education institutions have equal access to and support for the incorporation of technology in their plans? y Do some educators assign work outside of the school day and classroom while others provide direct access to the materials and equipment within the school day? y Do ethnicity, socioeconomic background and even gender play a role in equal access? On the other end of the spectrum are those that argue the incorporation of technology in schools actually closes the equity gap, particularly where the internet is concerned, as it provides all students with access to the same information. While advocates for equity are sure to continue developing solutions to narrow the gap in learning institutions, among educators and learners, it is undeniable that social media and social networking will also establish its utility for instruction and learning.

Concluding Thoughts
If history is any indication, new technologies and associated learning opportunities will continue to proliferate. Learners will persist in exploring and adopting technological advances in their daily lives and will likely press educators and teaching professionals to be more fluid in adapting to the evolving technological landscape. The question is no longer whether a particular technological innovation is disruptive to the traditional model of education. Instead, the discussion surrounds the fact that technological innovations, in general, have disrupted the traditional model of education. As students become unleashed from the physical learning space by way of cloud computing, mobile technology, social media and other emerging technological trends, the challenge for teaching professionals is to identify the key designs that will most effectively impart the intended knowledge, skills and competencies. Upon the exploration of these trends, our previous assertion that E-learning is opening up an entire new world of opportunities and challenges seems grossly understated. Education and training solutions are, indeed, experiencing a paradigm shift. Like the agricultural and industrial revolutions before it, this time might very well come to be marked as the educational revolution.


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