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Frontline eLearningForum

Frontline eLearningForum

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Published by Jay Cross

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Published by: Jay Cross on Mar 10, 2008
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06/16/2009

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Frontline: eLearningForumhttp://www.learningcircuits.org/2001/feb2001/cross.html1 of 33/9/08 1:51 PM
 
Frontline: eLearningForum
By Jay Cross
Can't we all just get along?
Founded in 1999 as the Silicon Valley eLearning Network, the eLearningForumis fast becoming recognized as a thought leader on e-learning trends and bestpractices. The members, who include corporate chief learning officers,e-learning executives, investment analysts, researchers, and developers, meeteach month to discuss the latest e-learning trends.The January 2001 meeting focused on the human side of e-learning. Seedingthe meeting with provocative (and opposing) views were Clifford Stoll,astronomer and author of 
High Tech Heretic: Why Computers Don't Belong inthe Classroom and Other Reflections by a Computer Contrarian,
and founder and CEO of Metacourse and co-author of 
Computers, Teachers, Peer 
SherryHsi.The meeting started well: the stage was set and the seats were full. Sherry Hsirecounted six years of Metacourse research which offers guidance on onlinepedagogy, design, and facilitation.The research demonstrates thatlearning is a social process, and the Internet is a social placediscussion groups and online moderators are a necessary ingredient of improving e-learninge-learning must be facilitated.Announcing that he was far from ready to break intosmall discussion groups, Cliff Stoll caught everyone'sattention by loudly proclaiming, "E-learning is a fraud!"Unquestionably, Stoll took control of the floor. He askedthe group, "If you were hiring a plumber, which wouldyou choose: one with an online degree in plumbing or one who learned firsthand?" He continued his argumentby recounting how he learned from a caring professor,saying that nothing can replace individualized,face-to-face encounters between teacher and learner.Jan Bourret, senior e-learning analyst with Hurzwitz Group, entered the fray.Reminding Stoll that the topic was corporate learning, she noted that withinsome companies it's not always feasible for employees to attend classes andthat one-on-one teaching doesn't scale. Bourret emphasized to the group andStoll that the real question is how to motivate and facilitate to achieve the bestoutcomes."Facilitation has no meaning to me," said Stoll, noting that living in Berkeleyhabituated him to the term long ago. Stoll then promised to be quiet and listen.But he quickly recanted as another idea occurred to him: "For 100 years,educators have been in love with technology. In 1922, Edison said motionpictures would revolutionize schools. In 1952, David Sarnoff said thateducational television would replace mediocre teachers. There are other examples. They're all flops." Then, while jumping about the room, he asked, "Isthe problem that learners aren't getting enough television?"Susan Duggan, CEO of the Silicon Valley World Internet Center, tried toredirect the discussion by asking, "What's the value of e-learning? Whatshould we be offering our clients? How can we capture passion for learning?
Jay Cross
 
 s director of theeLearningForum and CEO of  Internet Time Group, aCalifornia-based think tank and learning consultancy. Contact himat 
 jaycross@internettime.com
.
Sherry Hsi
is CEO of Metacourse;
www.metacourse.com
.
Cliff Stoll
 
 prefers telephone toemail; he's in the Berkeley phonebook.
Editor's note:
 
Visit
eLearningForum
for morediscussions.
Jay Cross
 
 s director of theeLearningForum and CEO of  Internet Time Group, aCalifornia-based think tank and learning consultancy. Contact himat 
 jaycross@internettime.com
.
Sherry Hsi
is CEO of Metacourse;
www.metacourse.com
.
Cliff Stoll
 
 prefers telephone toemail; he's in the Berkeley phonebook.
Editor's note:
 
Visit
eLearningForum
for morediscussions.
 
Frontline: eLearningForumhttp://www.learningcircuits.org/2001/feb2001/cross.html2 of 33/9/08 1:51 PM
Learners can access one person or two or 20 or 1000, but what can we do withthat power?"Stoll's reply, "E-learning is a terrific way to get a third-rate education."Prompted by that remark, Mark Cavender, managing director of The Chasm Group, asked Stoll what he thought about usingflight simulators to train pilots?Muttering that simulations were a great way to avoid theperson sitting next to you, Stoll said that the designers of flight simulators spent more time making the clouds look rightthan getting to what the pilots really need. Plumbers werementioned once more.Finally, another participant suggested to Stoll that he was setting up a strawman that no one cared to defend. E-learning is more than replacing teacherswith computers. It can include classroom learning; informal learning; OJT;learning in complex organizations, corporate settings, and across physicalboundaries.Whew. Everyone agreed it was time for a break.
The group reconvenes
In a noble effort, Sherry Hsi tried to get the meeting backon track by asking the group where they thoughttechnology could make the best contribution. Hsi pointedout that the industry already knows a lot about whatmakes learning work, such as prompting reflection,multiple-linked representations, self explanation, andbuilding trust through community.Eilif Trondsen, director of SRI's Learning on Demand consultancy, chimed inthat this paralleled the work of an early forum member, Doug Engelbart.Consultant Lance Dublin said his interest was in doing things we couldn't dobefore. For instance, Napster for learning.Stoll resumed his devil's advocate persona, scribbling in red ink over thepoints that Hsi had just made. Rather than reflection, we need gut feelings.Community stifles creativity.While Stoll held his contrarian stance, participants kept trying to defende-learning. Many were starting to squirm in their seats and roll their eyes.Some looked for the proverbial silver lining, stating that sometimes onlinelearning is superior to classroom learning.One participant noted that in an experiment at Stanford, an online groupproved more innovative than its face-to-face peers. Eliminating biases of gender, age, and race apparently allowed the online learners to work together more effectively. Another anecdote illustrated that online learning is sometimesbetter for individual learners, especially in global businesses that mustovercome language barriers, cultural prejudice, and learning styles. And oneparticipant made the point that the Internet economy's need for speedchallenges many companies to keep their sales and service teams ahead of the game; classroom learning can't keep pace and one-on-one learning doesn'tscale.At some point, Stoll began to list the seven deadly sins, "Sloth, avarice, lust,pride…." Pause. "E-learning," whispered a voice from the back, bringing downthe house.Finally, the discussion refocused on eLearningForum's domain: the corporatesphere. Participants agreed on the need to design balanced learning structuresthat include access to mentors, face-to-face instructors, and group interaction.In a phrase: real people. In business, learning is an investment in humancapital. It's not financially sound to deny the potential of face-to-face learning

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