Bringing e-learning to book

A new book arrived on my desk on Friday. I get a lot of them these days, mainly because I'm the book review editor for a journal called Interactive Learning Environments. A lot of freebies land on my desk and I then send them out to reviewers, who write their comments and then get to keep the book as 'payment'. But this one caught my eye, and I thought - I'm going to review this one myself! I'm glad I did.

It's by Chris Hill (he manages the JISC Regional Support Centre in the East Midlands), and is entitled 'Teaching with e-learning in the Lifelong Learning Sector'. It caught my eye, because it covers quite a number of issues and concerns that currently impact upon e-learning in further education. OK, It has JISC stamped all over it. But Hill does offer some useful little models and frameworks to help people understand what has, frankly, started to resemble the battle of the Somme. He expertly picks his way through the morass of ILT, ICT, IT and e-learning, and neatly skirts around the machine gun posts of Moodle and other VLEs. He even avoids the minefield that is social networking (I was disappointed with this, even Web 2.0 barely merits more than half a page) but then carelessly allows himself to be snagged on the barbed wire of learning styles and individual differences. Nearly a home run, but no cigar.

Hill lobs in a molotov cocktail of theories, models and frameworks towards the reader, and then waits for it to explode. There are many, many problems with 'learning styles', and I would not be as courageous as Chris Hill to venture into attempting to unpick them, especially not in the field of e-learning, I can tell you. Honey and Mumford's Learning Styles Inventory for example, has been *heavily* criticised by just about every self respecting psychologist (and his dog) for not only being overly prescriptive, and ignoring personal and group contexts, but also for demonstrating exactly .... zero internal reliability.... when tested. Bandler and Grinder's Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) theory is even more reviled, not least due to Richard Bandler, a cocaine addict who associated with gangsters, who was tried for the brutal murder of one of his girlfriends. NLP has been slated for lacking any scientific validation - and yet it is still sold as a personal development concept, (earning its inventors a never ending stream of money) and just like Honey and Mumford's theory, is swallowed whole by many FE and HE education lecturers.

Despite this dodgy little section in the book, which Hill tries gamefully to hold together, the remaining sections of the book, although in places simplistic, are useful and at times even insightful. There is also a dusting of humour which never goes amiss. The standard QTS/QTLS style Learning Matters format pervades throughout, with the obligatory Practical and Reflective Tasks and Teaching Tips. and there is a visual overview at the end of each chapter which, I suspect, most readers will ignore.

My verdict: Generally this book will be useful to all those who are embarking on a career of teaching in the 'Learning Skills Sector' (read Further Education), and I will be recommending it to all my students in this field. My advice: Drop the first two words of the title Chris: "e-Learning in the Lifelong Learning Sector" says it better.


Erol said…
Do you actually have any direct experience with NLP or are you just using your imagination or repeating some words you read somewhere else? As an academic, I would hope you only report on that which you have measured yourself.

As with any powerful tool, how it is used, or the user, has nothing to do with the tool. For example, BLOGs have no characteristics of their own. it's the user of a BLOG (writer) which has the characteristics. Sure Richard may have succumbed to what I call the Genius Syndrome (the brilliant mind eventually overpowers the host). That has nothing to do with the technology he codified.

Einstein was reportedly a bad husband and father. Consider too that iPods have no "scientific proof" but are successfully used globally to provide a result of fun & education. Not everything useful must have the blessing of a lab coat.

Might you consider having a more granular approach to your thinking?

with respect...
Karyn Romeis said…
What a pity this post only came to my attention today! I have a paper due in tomorrow that could have benefitted from my having had a read through its pages, I suspect!

In response to Erol, I would respectfully suggest that far less research is primary in nature than he is implying. My experience is that an enormous amount of research consists of secondary research: reading other people's findings and starting from there. Hence the vital need for new postgrad students to master the skill of critical reading. Otherwise, we would constantly be re-covering old ground and never move forward at all.

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