I have a couple of offerings that interest me. Neither of them would normally count as elearning - but then I imagine that will be true of most of the responses to this question.
My first example is the podcast of the BBC radio 4 programme In Our Time.
This splendid series, which has been running for years, is full of solid and knowledgeable discussion about a very wide range of intellectual issues - science, arts and humanities. It demonstrates a few points about e-learning:
- As a straightforward radio broadcast I don't think you could call it elearning. As a podcast replayed in my car - then I think you could. Which just shows that the elearning label is pretty meaningless.
- I find it is hopeless listening to it at home. There are too many distractions and a feeling I ought to be getting on with something useful. Listening to it in the car is brilliant. Nothing much else to do! Context is all.
- It is even better listening to it in the car when travelling with my wife. We share our enthusiasm for the programme and its content. We know we are likely to talk about it when the programme is finished. Social context is even more important.
My second example is www.realclimate.org. For those that don't know it - this is a blog run by a group of climate scientists on the issue of climate change. Last year it was recognised by Nature as one of the top 5 science blogs. I doubt that any of its contributors would regard it as e-learning but it is packed full of content, comment and debate. If you are interested in learning about climate change it is a brilliant resource. You get explanations from leading experts, you see others expanding or disagreeing with what they have written, and get the opportunity to put forward your own opinion. Like most public blogs there is an awful lot of dross to be ignored - but that is quite easy to do.
- Effective elearning does not require great expertise in instructional design and presentation. The contributors are mostly good writers and know their stuff - but they are not professional educators. Subscribers will live with that because they are so interested. Motivation is more important than presentation.
- For some a blog such as realclimate can become an obsession, with multiple, often irate, postings at all hours of the night. This demonstrates the very high motivation of engaging in debate. It is a powerful learning force - causing people to do their own research and justify their positions with references - but the disagreements also rapidly become sterile and repetitive. Debate is powerful learning tool but needs controlling.