Wednesday, November 26, 2014

E-Learners of the Future: New Skill Sets and the New Breed of E-Learning 2 Instructors

I have a question for you as instructors:

What if when you applied for a position with a E-Learning organization you were told the following:

  • You will not be expected to teach content
  • You will not have to perform students assessments on your own but instead assessments on students would be done as part of a team
  • You will not have to do administrative tasks that involve filling out forms for various administration officials
"What would your response be to this?"
I would suggest to you that the most obvious question you would probably have is:

"If I am not doing the above, then as an E-Learning instructor, what exactly would I be doing with the students under my care?"

It is my contention, and you can quote me on this, that instructors and corporate trainers as a group are the most badly utilized people in the professions. People who are educators are normally highly intelligent and highly creative people with a strong desire to bring out the best in their students. It is not that the magnitude of what they are asked to do is great but that the nature of what they are asked to do very often does not capitalize on their greatest gifts found in their intellect and their high level of creativity. More and more they have been asked to commit to tasks not within their experience and training and yet are held accountable for getting results. Couple this with the attacks on their professional reputations from the public that they serve, it leads to an increasing level of burn out.

The point is that whether we are talking about e-learning educators or corporate trainers, we need to make smarter use of their talents than to task them with duties that could either be automated or handled more effectively by people who have administrative talents and interests.

So, this brings us back to the question: "What exactly will an e-learning instructor or corporate trainer do with those under their care?"

Given the new role of the e-learning instructor as a change agent in societies that desire to see the growth of a culture of innovation that will enrich the lives of people, the following would become some of the duties of a new breed of e-learning instructor:

  • Create irresistibly engaging learning experiences within the organization that utilize effective pedagogy within an online environment. They would research the use of both social media tools, mobile learning tools and tools that promote an interactive experience for the learners. Educators become design thinkers.

  • Create a sense of community in the online environment similar to what the brick and mortar classroom teacher attempts to do at the start of every school year.

  • Promote a cross disciplinary approach to learning. This effectively means that less emphasis is placed on the past compartmentalized format of disciplines in favour of the understanding that learning to solve real world issues requires the skill sets and concepts from more than one discipline. The entrenchment of the separation of disciplines can be seen when a student in a history class is given a problem that also involves mathematical calculations. Their protest takes the form of a question:"Why do I have to do math? This is a history class!"

  • Make contact with the learners and establish a profile that describes their aptitudes, interests and goals. Introduce learners to each other so that they may get to know each other in regards to interests, talents and aptitudes. This is important since one of the goals would be to harness these talents in targeted online collaboration activities.

  • Make contact with leading people in the disciplines which learners will have to draw from for the level of education that they are at. There are two purposes for doing this. First, the educator will be creating a professional network which students will use as a resource as they work through their education. The mentor would volunteer their time for a variety of connections with students. Students would be able to call upon them for guidance when confronted by real world issue in order to be able to analyze the problem from more than one perspective. They would be able to receive feedback on their proposed solutions. The mentor would also provide an audience for student to air their ideas through the use of professional sites where they could post and receive feedback. The benefit for the mentors would be that they would get a glimpse of potentially good candidates for their fields of endeavour.

  • Mentors would also become part of the assessment team along with the instructor to help evaluate student thinking and progress.

  • Instructors would mentor students in effective habits of the mind based upon the critical thinking skills outlined in Bloom's Revised Taxonomy but this would be fully adapted for an online environment. This would also be incorporated into the design of e-learning courses and their activities.


  • Instructors could conduct their course anywhere in the world where there is a high speed connection to the web and at a time that they determine in concert with the learners and the mentor network.
 We need to stop wasting the intellectual and creative capital found with our instructors. With the coming of a new breed of e-learning instructor, we need to educate the following groups in the new model of online learning which is evolving as a result of the development of transformative pedagogy and rapid change in knowledge and technology:
  • Politicians need to be educated so that they understand that if they truly desire innovative change in the quality of life for their citizens that will match other countries, it needs to start with a sincere commitment to an educational path that will bring this about. This will not be easy because what is being suggested is change that is disruptive but that is the very nature of effective innovation. Politicians in turn need to educate the public they represent on the merits of these changes.
  • Educator training faculties need to be educated so that they understand that the present pattern of training that has been based upon the industrial model of education for so long is not in synch with the 21st century world that students will teach in. If they persist in adhering to this pattern the disconnect by students from their education that is happening right now will continue to increase and will in fact call into question their own usefulness.
  • Educators need to be educated so that they understand that there is a great opportunity arising in which finally their talents can be effectively used, that they will be highly valued as important agents of change in our societies and they will see a new generation of learner moulded  who will make a very positive difference in the quality of life of people that will be enjoyed by all due to their efforts.
  • Corporate entrepreneurs need to be educated so that they understand and can see how high the ROI will be with the right investments in education.

At this point, many might suggest that its a nice dream but it will never happen. One of the greatest obstacles that we face in such a vision coming to fruition is the systemic cynicism that pervades much of the thinking in our societies. In dwelling upon the negatives in our lives we make the negatives into self-fulfilling prophecies in which we promise the new generations nothing but a future of despair. We owe them a better future and need to involve them as architects of that future early in their educational lives.

More later.......

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