Enjoyable e-learning – is it an oxymoron?

we all know that elearning is growing in popularity primarily because it's efficient it helps employers by cutting travel costs it helps employees because it provides access to learning as and when they want but none of this means that learners like e-learning for many it's just another mundane chore so is it possible for e-learning to be enjoyable is enjoyable elearning an oxymoron let's begin by agreeing our terms starting with e-learning as this diagram shows e-learning has three main aspects each with a wide variety of forms unfortunately that's not how many employers see it elearning is all too often seen by organisations as no more than simple self-paced instruction just like the computer-based training we've had for the past 30 years only now delivered online through a learning management system rather than offline on a video disk or a cd-rom the second term we need to define is enjoyment essentially something that gives us pleasure this chap whose name I won't attempt to pronounce to find these eight components of enjoyment imagine if our e-learning was like this pleasure can come through physical exertion exercise releases endorphins in the brain which in turn cause a sort of natural high you wouldn't normally associate exercise with computers of course but that's until the we came along this guy is happy because he hasn't missed a single volley there's pleasure to be had as well from meeting up with friends with social animals we don't like to be isolated for too long as anyone wading through their sixth hour of self-study e-learning will tell you however these two seem to be more interested in posing than chatting perhaps this is more your thing yes of course we can experience enjoyment using computers so much so that the problem is in getting yourself to stop we love a challenge and computer games play on this fact increasingly they also allow you to socialize online at the same time answer to our third term oxymoron which comes from the Greek oxus pointedly and Morris which means foolish pointedly foolish like this chat an oxymoron is of course an inherent contradiction in terms like e-learning and enjoyment it's pointedly foolish to think otherwise or is it let's see I've identified five factors that make it difficult for us to produce enjoyable e-learning the first of these is the policy constraints which many organizations impose on e-learning designers you know no jokes no anecdotes knowin formalities no choice no shortcuts no fun basically then there are the shortcomings in the designs themselves I let you dwell on some of these horrors for a few moments you problems also arise in the way in which self-study e-learning is blended with other approaches again I'll leave you to reflect on some of the issues that this can cause you and of course online delivery isn't for everyone we have to be aware of the digital divide there's a hardcore that's still lacking in basic computer skills and not everyone has access to the network connectivity you need if you're going to get the full benefit from learning online lastly we shouldn't forget that some learning is inherently uncomfortable particularly when it causes us to challenge deep-seated models that govern our behavior or when we need to learn complex new skills the enjoyable bit comes later through mastery so re learning and enjoyment compatible well as we've seen there are plenty of obstacles getting in the way certainly we have to do an awful lot better before our e-learning happy sheets will match those of the classroom I've come up with five ideas that I believe could help we're not going to make much progress until we challenge some of the corporate conventions about eLearning that means acting like professionals more like architects and builders we're the experts on adult learning and if we're allowed to do our job properly we can really make things happen we all love stories they form the basis for most of our conversations we remember stories much better than we do abstractions particularly when we can relate them to our own experiences storytelling should permeate the examples we provide and the challenges we said and talking of challenges there's a lot we can learn from video games in terms of the way we draw learners in and hold their attention try to limit the information you provide and substitute meaningful activities in their place ones that are stretching but achievable with effort learners like self-study because they're in control but they don't like it to the exclusion of the other necessary ingredients in successful learning they want to be able to interact with tutors and subject experts and share experiences with their peers sat too much to ask lastly you might need to let go of some of your own inhibitions don't be another corporate drone design your e-learning as if you were chatting with a friend tell your jokes and your stories be a little provocative in short don't design anything that you wouldn't want to use yourself so is enjoyable e-learning an oxymoron of course not but it is unusual and will continue to be so unless we make the effort to buck the trend elearning doesn't have to be enjoyable to be effective but the world would certainly be a happier place if it was

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