Written by: Dr. Greg Williams, UMBC ISD Graduate Program Director

When I tell people that I am a college professor, they usually ask me what I teach. When I tell them that I teach instructional design and e-learning development, I often get a puzzled look from them. After explaining what instructional design is, the conversation usually turns to eLearning and quality.

Many times people tell me that they think the quality of e-learning is not good. I ask them what their experience is with e-learning. I asked if they have ever taken an e-learning class or have even taught a class, or have been part of an online class. The answer is usually no.

What they usually tell me is that they think that e-learning is simply ”not very effective”. As an educator I am interested in how people form their opinions. When I asked them how they formed their opinion about e-learning, I discover that they have very little first-hand experience with it.

Often times they will say “I heard that it is not very good” or “my friend took a course and didn’t like it”. As a student and working professional, I have literally taken hundreds of in-person courses. Guess what? Some of them weren’t very good either. I don’t think that e-learning has a corner on the market on low-quality courses.

Sound critical thinking tells us to try to get objective information about a topic. It tells us to ask questions to get to the heart of the matter. I find it interesting that in higher education some highly educated professionals who embrace the use of critical thinking, throw it out when it comes to eLearning. For some unknown reason anecdotal information seems to be good enough for some people when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of e-learning.

Let’s face it. eLearning is not for every instructor, nor is it for every student. What I do feel confident about is that e-learning will not be going away anytime soon. At some point the “e” will be dropped from the term “e-learning” and we will simply focus on what is important….the “learning” itself.

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