Technology has dramatically increased the selection of media available to learning professionals. Of course all learning was originally accomplished face-to-face, providing an immediacy to the interaction, a rich sensory experience (you see, you hear, you touch, you smell) and, if you’re lucky enough to be one-on-one, the ultimate in personalisation.
Books, when they arrived, provided the counterbalance, by allowing learners more independence and the ability to control the pace with which they learned. The invention of the telephone provided additional connectivity for learners and tutors working at a distance. Videos, CDs and all their variants made high-quality audio and video available to distance learners.
But perhaps the most significant new technological medium is the networked computer, in all its many forms from desktop PCs to mobile devices. Networks connect learners to three billion other Internet users and countless trillions of web pages. ‘E-learning’ is the rather inadequate name we give to the use of networked computers as a medium to facilitate learning. In practice, it is more a media category than a single medium, because it is capable of supporting a wide variety of different tools and techniques, many of which have almost certainly not yet been invented.
Next up: Why some learning simply must be face-to-face