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pedagogy and e-learning

/ what is pedagogy?

what is pedagogy?
The language of learning can be confusing. It is a hotchpotch of classical, industrial and behaviourist terms, many of which hark back to the past rather than providing useful ways to think about the future. There is no worse example of this latter tendency than ‘pedagogy’.
The word had almost faded into a deserved obscurity, but has been resuscitated and is now on the lips of everyone in education and training. From government ministers downwards, no paper, conference or discussion of the future of learning can take place without the word being uttered in reverential tones. It is being used as if it were a newly discovered continent, full of future promise, whereas in fact it is an old word, full of problems. The word ‘pedagogy’ has Greek roots, originally meaning ‘a slave who took a boy to and from school’. It is a combination of the Greek words for boy (paidos) and leader (agogos). It also has uncomfortable resonance with a closely related term ‘pedagogue’ (plural pedagogues), meaning a ‘dull and pedantic teacher’. Before being accused of being pedantic we can point toward pedagogy (plural pedagogies) as meaning ‘the science of teaching’. This is the sense in which it is currently used.

Pedagogy: The ‘science’ of teaching
An important word here is ‘science’. The science of teaching is an odd subject, as it’s hardly a science in the accepted sense. One would be unfair in expecting teaching to be equated with a science such as physics or chemistry. It is fair, however, to expect the rigour of evidence to come from 

Culture & Society. Whatever one may think about educational research. between empirical research and non empirical research and.” and a former permanent secretary once ruefully described the old department of education and science as a “knowledge free zone”. However. it is certainly suspect as a science in the sense of being comparable to other academic disciplines. said in relation to this requirement for empirical evidence. comparative studies with statistically significant numbers and statically verifiable conclusions. supposedly devoted to the analysis of teaching and learning is devoid of any sensible empirically based studies. conflicting theories and little ‘evidence based’ empirical science. he found the majority of the papers to be of unacceptable quality. It is a similar situation with Pedagogy. He also stressed the use of sampling to ensure researcher objectivity and lack of bias.pedagogy and e-learning / what is pedagogy? repeated trials with control groups. The peer reviewed journal Radical Pedagogy. who has written extensively on the subject for over 20 years. “Too often in the past. setting out two supposedly fundamental distinctions. An empirical approach in line with psychology or medicine would be a fair expectation. In short. subjectivity and the ‘lifting’ of quotations from secondary sources without going back to primary sources. Tooley studied 41 articles appearing in the four leading academic education journals. Major problems included partisan authorship. within empirical research. described reading educational research as a ‘pretty grim business’.  . the science of education is a field mired in controversy. policy has not been informed by good research. David Blunkett. between quantitative and qualitative approaches. irrelevant to classroom practice and caught up in arcane disputes” (p4). a former Education Secretary. He found “much educational research (is) really of the ‘second rate’ kind. Leading educationalist James Tooley.

if that resource can be reduced and replaced. Neither is teaching a necessary condition for learning. better use of that resource is necessary. it is clear that most learning takes place without teacher intervention. Pedagogy: A new definition One could conclude that pedagogy is a rather unsuitable term. if one were to look for a scientific approach to education. Successful learning can take place without teaching. learning that doesn’t require teaching is good news if it is effective. As long as the focus is wholly on teaching we will miss much that is valuable in the use of technology in learning. and if we are really to improve the system of education and training. it is fundamentally about learning. at the centre of the educational universe. far better methods and research are available in the area of the psychology of learning than there are in teaching. In fact. Teaching that doesn’t result in learning is bad news. and its focus on teaching as opposed to learning. many uses of new technology put the power of learning in the hands of the learner. only that its role is not what it was and certainly not as a necessary presence in all learning. Learning is not a necessary consequence of teaching. Indeed. In terms of scalability. with its exaggerated sense of importance as a science. Indeed. Teachers are an expensive resource. This is not to say that teaching is of no importance. If we are to make progress we must put learning.pedagogy and e-learning / what is pedagogy? Pedagogy: The science of ‘teaching’ Using a word that literally means the ‘science of teaching’ means that the word contains the seeds of its own destruction. and not teaching. The science of learning is certainly not solely about teaching. not the teacher. Much as it  . significant changes in the delivery of knowledge and education are possible.

but rather. its practice. What people actually mean when they use the word ‘pedagogy’ is often not the science or even theory of teaching. cursory courses.pedagogy and e-learning / what is pedagogy? would be desirable to avoid the term altogether. many thousands of teachers in further and higher education have received no formal background training in learning or teaching. There are few professions which require so little training or experience in one’s craft as those found within the ambit of tertiary education. Others have received short. let’s talk about pedagogy in a looser sense. Teaching is a practical profession and.  . is not steeped in accepted theory. But as we are stuck with the term. unlike many other professions. as the general theory around the theory and practice of teaching and/or learning. Indeed. we must accept that it is being commonly used. A better definition might be: Pedagogy: ‘The theory and practice of teaching and/or learning’ This will allow us to focus more clearly on the potential impact of technology on teaching and/ or learning.

One way to imagine the successive waves of technological impact on learning is to imagine a clock face.000 years ago. If this 5.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy technology and pedagogy Technology has had an impact on learning since the invention of writing in the Middle East around 5. Technical innovation in education has happened as shown in the table on the right.000 year period equals 60 minutes on the clock face. then each minute represents over 80 years and each second just under a year and a half. Pedagogy and writing The inventors of early Sumerian cuneiform script (the earliest instance of writing we know about) discovered some key Medium Time Writing Printing press Radio Television Audio and video cassettes PC Games consoles Internet Mobile devices 1 hour 6 minutes 55 seconds 41 seconds 18 seconds 16 seconds 15 seconds 8 seconds 7 seconds  .

Bologna. Tablets have been found with the teacher’s script on one side and the pupil’s attempts on the other. it could also make that information portable.The reformation was built on this shift away from religious authority towards a solitary reader alone with the book (bible). was the invention of moveable metal type in 15th century Germany. Prior to the printing press. Poor students. Schools also flourished.These exemplaria were widely used in Oxford. students in Europe had a limited curriculum and very limited access to books.The teacher was the focal point.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy advantages of writing things down. Pedagogy and the printing press On our scale it was only more or less ten minutes ago that there was the first significant change in technology and learning in the west – the printing press. As well as being a way of storing vital information that made it retrievable at a later date. It  . with the oral recitation by the teacher from rare texts. the pupil’s side is often unfinished! The true pedagogic advantage was the learner’s ability to learn to write then take that skill and use it to record and retrieve knowledge independently. with Gutenberg’s bible completed in 1456 that led to an explosion of books and pamphlets spreading knowledge and learning at a much faster pace to many more people than ever before. True to form. hired from local stationers (university libraries came much later in the Middle Ages). Paris. So successful were these qualities that thousands of the baked clay tablets produced during that era are still readable to this day. enabling a system of banking and lending with interest. or exemplaria. on the other hand. They are largely administrative. Rich students commissioned their own personal copies of these texts to be bound as books.The pedagogic shift that accompanied printing was direct learning from the printed page. and allowing commerce to flourish based on a money system. would copy by hand from unbound texts. Naples and Padua.

For the first time. the pedagogic pendulum had swung towards the learner. We are just at the start of a process of exploration of  . away from the teacher. “not spoilt by any collision with visual reality”. In other words. Television has continued to play a role in learning both formal and informal. Again. Digital and interactive television has brought more in the way of specialist educational channels. This a key feature that has carried on through to Podcasting. An additional pedagogic feature of radio was what Auden described as. Learning had become democratised. it continues to this day. with the continued success of the Open University. Indeed. was run by ‘radio’ men and the Reithian educational and cultural agenda was carried forward into this new medium. radio can allow listeners to use their own imaginations and reflect as they listen. This took learning beyond the book.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy Pedagogy and radio Early post WW1 radio was broadcast for four hours a day and reflected the educational character of the Reithian vision. Teachers TV. documentary programmes and now entire digital channels devoted to history. one could broadcast to millions of learners simultaneously without the mediation of a live teacher. science. the arts. invented in the UK. talks and concerts on a cheap mass market device. poetry and narrative (often spoken by the authors) music and other fare freely available to the entire population. The BBC World Service is still highly regarded by millions around the world as an educational and cultural phenomenon. millions could tune into news. Pedagogically. with interactive engagement. with interviews. Pedagogy and television Early television. free from the interference of strong visual imagery. the natural world and. Radio became a real force in cultural advancement with its ethos of self improvement and education.

film and technical subjects especially. P2P technology multiply and proliferate at such a rate and on such a scale that. IT training clearly needed to be delivered using this medium. Pedagogy and the audio and videocassette The invention of recordable media gave a new dimension to radio and television. if applied in learning. they could change the landscape forever. and whole genres. Pedagogically. The learner was no longer under the tyranny of a timetable driven by the working hours of the teacher. in the home and on the move. sport. With the introduction of the television. with copyright policing becoming impossible to control. They are used. Recordable CDs. TV brought the moving image into education. by learners who want to learn at their own pace. DVDs. such as exercise and self improvement. in their own homes. portable digital media. to this day. in their own time. One could listen and view content at the time of one’s own choosing. allowing documentaries to show the real and imagined world in ways that are impossible in books. not producers. the power of content will be in the hands of consumers. have found useful tools in these media.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy broadcast TV as an educational medium. So powerful has this recordable phenomenon become that it is threatening the very existence of entertainment companies. Language learning Pedagogy and the PC The PC had an immediate impact on the way we worked. Pedagogically. we see the pedagogic pendulum again swinging towards the learner and away from the teacher. and with a drive to cut the heavy human  . the allocation of classroom space or the time of a particular radio or TV broadcast. eventually moving into the world of learning. Teachers on their own find it difficult to adequately describe phenomena that demand movement – in physics.

They could also be asked questions with answer matching and analysis. to communicate through email. It was very much about one head and one computer and what the subject matter expert wanted that learner to know. high level strategy skills and knowledge without any support. Gamers learn how to play from their peers and. the learner could now interact with a computer that presented not just still text and graphics. but also audio. expanding learning into the collaborative Web 2. Pedagogy and gaming Gaming is remarkable in educational terms in that millions have managed to acquire high level skills with no teacher intervention at all. It is also a highly collaborative learning experience. Pedagogically. This is as close to pure self learning and peer learning as it is possible to imagine. other than that of their direct peers and of websites with cheats and walkthroughs. their details and results could be tracked and stored. they are fairly self sufficient apart from the help they receive online. there are now very few areas left where e-learning content has not been made available. far from the misconceived ‘solitary gamer’ view.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy resource costs of all kinds of training.0 sphere. having learnt how to learn. Pedagogic theorists have a lot to learn from game designers and the entire games industry. But e-learning tended to simply replicate the traditional pedagogical models of learning where knowledge was imparted and highly centralized. blogs and groupware. The internet offered a new dimension with features that provided opportunities for two and more heads to connect together. 10 . wikis. discussion forums. They learn IT skills. animation and video. and dramatically changes common assumptions about the necessity of teaching in learning. On top of this.

it increased its accessibility and flexibility even more. nomadic or m-learning now opens up the possibility of learning when on the move. or in those places where many spend a considerable amount of time .0 Web 2. when freed from its fixed anchor (the wall socket).0 has created a new pedagogical landscape for learning with the PC. planes. with Amazon and other online bookstores. Pedagogy and Web 2. The learner is in charge. Most titles are available 24 hours a day. this is the medium that has shifted power towards the learner. delivered to your door at prices comparable to. with access to unimaginable amounts of information and learning resources. compare and access knowledge without the need to go to a library. hotel rooms and other transitory spaces. airports.such as trains. and it’s getting bigger.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy Pedagogy and the internet The internet is the biggest knowledge and learning resource ever seen. Through WiFi. or cheaper than a bookshop. Even in the area of learning from books. 11 . It has become an indispensable resource for many in both learning and research. an autonomous being who can choose where and when to learn. giving learners the ability to search. Tools that enable users to be active creators and contributors. Pedagogically. Today even the PC is dispensable as content is readily delivered in a multitude of formats to mobile phones and PDAs. faster and cheaper. Again it is a disruptive technology that has changed the rules in a very short period. Pedagogy and mobile devices If the networked PC radically shifted pedagogic power away from the teacher toward the learner then. better. the internet has changed the landscape forever.

concepts and knowledge become connected too. However. perhaps even more pertinent is the theory of connectivism – the idea that learning is a process of creating connections and building a network of personal understandings. and those communities can be connected to each other.pedagogy and e-learning / technology and pedagogy rather than simply passive receivers have led to the notion of a ‘read-write web’ (Richardson. 2006). individuals can be connected to other individuals and to communities. 12 . Ideas. Pedagogically. This. Supported by Web 2. the knowledge sharing and peer to peer networking opportunities created by Web 2. in turn. But these are not fixed connective nodes.0 have led to unparalleled opportunities for participatory and collaborative learning.0 approach to learning can be interpreted as socioconstructivist – a theory of learning that very much places an emphasis on interactions rather than actions. Moreover. has resulted in a much greater self-directed and personalized experience. they change and so learning becomes a dynamic and continual activity. the Web 2.0.

especially in the last 50 years. ‘new media’. and even more aggressively in the last decade. If we go back to our clock.000 years have led to more learning with less teacher intervention. retrieve. we can see that most of the technologically inspired change we have described has occurred in the last minute. It is really a 20th century phenomenon. and that more pedagogic shift towards the learner has taken place in the last few seconds than during most of the preceding period since the clock began. Writing and printed books were each. Each successive wave of technology driven change has built on the ability we discovered with the advent of writing to record. The first Education Act came in 1870 with widespread education a late Victorian phenomenon. Learning has become more of a mass market phenomenon. fuelled by mass market electronic media. only to recognise that many of these technological advances over the last 5. In other words. It coincided with the rise. store.pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift pedagogy shift The history of technology in learning has largely involved a pedagogic shift from teacher to learner. This is not to decry the craft and skills in teaching. all this talk of pedagogy is very recent. Raising the school leaving age to 14 was only achieved in 1918 and it was not until 1944 that it was raised to 15. of technologies that have already become mainstream and irreversible in learning. in their time. with free secondary schooling for all. transmit and interact with information. and each significant 13 .

audio cassettes. The printing 14 . and the people who teach in those institutions.pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift change has brought about shifts in the character of that interaction. audio CDs. with its long summer break. in turn. video cassettes. have impacted on the theory and practice of teaching/learning. the internet and mobile devices. Even worse is the anachronistically rural nature of the typical educational calendar. Timeshift puts the power of learning into the hands of the learner. the printed word. making it necessarily more Replication The replication of content is another important dimension of pedagogic shift. originally shaped around the demands of harvest time. by allowing learning to take place in their time. family or other responsibilities) and motivation. These. This is important in terms of convenience (they may have a job. Learning that is fixed to the tyranny of a timetable happens at the convenience of institutions. This does not always coincide with the timetable. This timeshift is a significant move towards the learner’s ability to learn at a time that suits them. Timeshift is a feature of writing. PCs. DVDs. Each of the following represents an important dimension of this change process: • • • • • • • Timeshift Replication Amplification Interaction Collaboration Media Portability inflexible toward the needs of the learner. One needs to be in the right mood and state of mind to learn. Timeshift The ability to learn at any time is a major pedagogic advantage. game consoles. The nature of this change and the pedagogic shift it has inspired becomes clearer when one looks at its effects in more detail.

media replication could be produced on an industrial scale. where one can buy (and in some cases download free) books. They allow distribution of learning direct to the learner for use in their own time. The teacher had a mediated form of expression and whole class knowledge could be written in a format that could be amplified and seen by everyone. as opposed to single learners. for instance. there were pedagogic drawbacks that can still be witnessed in some classrooms and lecture halls today. Content could be seen and copied at the student’s pace and diagrams could be used to illustrate points. this had pedagogic benefits. This form of replication is amplified even further with the internet. When manufacturing hit printing. The transfer of knowledge to millions. The great canon of literature. These media are designed for timeshift. When used wisely. The blackboard is rarely thought of as a piece of technology but its introduction to schools in 1870 changed the whole dynamic of the classroom and teaching. This particular piece of technology also did its bit 15 .pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift press is a replicator. the teacher who spends too much time with his or her back to the audience. Amplification Amplification is the ability to access many learners in real time or non real time. vodcasts and other electronic media assets. science and other forms of knowledge is available at commoditised prices. Pressing plants that produce CD ROMs and DVDs and internet shareware/P2P facilities for digital media have the same effect. The learner no longer had to rely on knowledge held and transmitted by the subject matter expert or teacher. mass market products. Books and other replicated electronic media quickly become cheap. has obvious advantages in learning. in that it can produce millions of copies of texts. However.

It can also mean useful learning support functions such as note taking. with their enormous potential through broadcasting. Input can also be in the form of requests for meaningful information such as glossaries. The reach of these media is global and growing exponentially. Interaction Interactivity is the ability of the learner to input and receive meaningful output. This pedagogic reach through amplification is enormous. deeper knowledge and other web resources. branching and other navigational features. interactive television and mobile devices are others. This number is limitless through broadcast media such as radio. and the use of Web 2. TV and the internet. the gaming console. Webex.pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift to accelerate the late Victorian view of the teacher as someone of absolute authority. from a computer. replays. They all put control into the hands of learners. Amplification. 16 . TV is a hugely successful global medium… And the internet now has billions of users. Assessment is also possible with scores and feedback. who drills knowledge into the empty minds of learners. TV and the internet. now broadcasts in over 30 languages. whether it be in the classroom through a blackboard. digital whiteboard or PowerPoint can be increased to several thousands in a conference hall. projector. or feedback. frequently asked questions (FAQ). It means more learning for more people with less resource on teaching.0 technologies such as wikis and blogs. Other amplifiers are radio. The BBC World Service. accessing e-tutors. The PC was the first radically interactive mass market device. Highly interactive simulations and games can also add motivational and powerful learning experiences. In input terms it can mean control over the presentation of learning content through menus.

learning from others and networking are important pedagogic approaches. Anonymity for introverted learners is an advantage of online collaboration. which may benefit the individual. when electronic. virtual classrooms and Web 2. but. polling. gender. tutorials. This is a major pedagogic shift towards the learner and improved learning. Learners may feel that they want to be part of a learning group.pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift Interactivity provides accelerated pedagogic power in that it puts the learner at the centre of the learning experience. free from the constraints of time and place. when and how to learn. In this sense. interactive lessons. sometimes an important feature of learning. one to many and many to many. Meaningful interactivity. Another advantage is the networking with other learners. bulletin boards. business or organisation in other ways. effort. chat. There are several pedagogic shifts that take place with collaborative learning. often learner driven and. again. Collaboration is learner centred. at its best. In addition to social contact. is cognitively engaging. The pedagogic tools that interactive choices provide allow complex and sophisticated learning to take place. the boundaries between learner and teacher can blur. race and Collaboration Collaboration allows learners to communicate one to one. They may also learn from other learners.0 can all add pedagogic power through collaborative 17 . not a necessary condition for success. At a simple level they may need the social experience of simply interacting with other learners. improving the speed and effectiveness of learning. especially online. Breakout groups. email. deciding what. especially retention. It can mean a leveling process where all can contribute. where. conferencing. in many cases learning experiences that would not be practical in a classroom or any other setting.

pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift accent can also disappear in this context. This throws up some real problems for traditional assessment and learning which is largely one to one. Media addition affords pedagogic sophistication in that it matches the appropriate media to the learning task. that is possible. Media addition comes into its own with PCs. Similarly for TV. graphics. interactive television. CD ROM. Again. The learner as an individual can be seen as part of a group and group learning goals can be considered. the internet and mobile devices. animation and video can be shown either separately or in an integrated form. image is its primary medium. then that is possible. although digital radio is delivering supplementary text. Pedagogically. collaboration adds several social and learner centred facets to traditional teacher centred pedagogy. the moving 18 . it brings content alive through text. sound. which is largely audio and images. If the learner needs to see an animated flow or moving image to understand the learning point. images and moving images. If the learner needs to hear a piece of music or narration. This convergence of media allows the learner to use the appropriate medium for the learning task. social and strategy skills are not catered for in the traditional system. Every aspect of text. Radio is an audio only medium. Media Writing is a simple medium where text and simple line illustrations are possible. Printing adds images from simple engravings to full colour pictures. on the whole. games consoles. audio. It puts media power into the hands of learners. as the form of assessment often drives the pedagogy. Team building. Collaboration might be helpful in acquiring skills that have a strong social component.

since the invention of writing but especially in the last twenty years. 19 . DVDs and CD ROMs are portable. The focal point has.pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift Portability Writing makes knowledge portable. audio CDs. iPhone. The printed book. videocassettes. Overall. freeing learning from the classroom and fixed place of work. moved radically away from the teacher towards the learner. replicable media such as audiocassettes. This is a significant pedagogic advantage. It stores knowledge that can then be retrieved in other places. the pedagogic shift has added learner centred pedagogic advantages at every stage. and PDAs. This is generally true of other technological advantages. The written object can literally be taken to other places and read. email devices such as Blackberry. as are mobile devices such as mobile phones.

pedagogy and e-learning / pedagogy shift Collaboration Amplification Replication Interaction Writing Printing press Radio Television Audio and video cassettes CD ROM Games Console Interactive TV PC Games consoles Internet Mobile devices 20 Portability Timeshift Media .

making it very difficult to introduce ideas that do not conform to these traditional categories. It is unadulterated and unmediated. They are more art than science. how far could a radical pedagogy go? An ideal pedagogy would be: • Flexible • Accessible • Cheap • Replicable • Scalable • Consistent • Sophisticated Teachers. and that this precious resource can be used more wisely and sparingly. suppose we were to break free from these assumptions. New roles for teachers could include the idea that their primary purpose is not to impart knowledge but to encourage learners to 21 . E-learning content differs from teacher delivered content in that the learning is visible. It would certainly need to rid the meaning of the word of the assumption that all learning requires teaching. by and large. Its flaws are there for all to see. This is why teacher centred pedagogies are so difficult to pin down. Teacher delivered content is hidden. by the teacher. It is not clearly visible and wholly mediated. fit only the last of these needs sophisticated. Educational discourse is full of these assumptions. They can respond to learner needs in a way that no other medium can. A radical pedagogy would perhaps call for an abandonment of the word altogether. in that it makes teaching an assumption in learning.pedagogy and e-learning / conclusion conclusion The very word ‘pedagogy’ is a problem. to a large degree. What is clear is that whole areas of learning need less teacher involvement than in the past. However.

accessible. cheap. 22 . gently coaching and moving the learner forward. They can also offer intelligent advice and present options suited to the dynamically calculated skill level of the player. replicable. intelligent natural language interpretation and complex algorithms that knew not only what the learner knew. scalable and consistent. But can we really imagine a sophisticated pedagogy? A pedagogy that understands the nuances of a learner. Many games already have the necessary ingredients. We can certainly imagine an efficient adult learning pedagogy that was flexible. A better option would be a sophisticated system that responded intelligently to input by the learner. Simulations and computer games clearly point the way towards such pedagogic sophistication. recognising the signs that something has not been understood. including a dynamic understanding of the skills and knowledge of the learner. It is only a matter of time before these new technologies take us to higher levels of learning in highly motivating environments with optimised pedagogies that greatly accelerate learning. Simulators have similar levels of sophistication.pedagogy and e-learning / conclusion learn on their own. This would involve speech recognition. but how much they had just acquired and what they needed next. checking for understanding and building knowledge slowly? Teachers sometimes achieve this. without the need for a formal teacher. but it is rarely possible in a classroom of between 10 and 35 people.

wikis. and other powerful tools for classrooms.pedagogy and e-learning / references references Tooley. 23 . James (1998) Educational Research: A Critique (Tooley Report). Thousand Oaks. W. CA: Sage. OFSTED Richardson. podcasts. (2006): Blogs.

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