Elearning Market Update - August 2008

In July 2008 Becta (the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency) published a report on Next Generation Learning. The report’s findings contrast strongly with the perceptions of trainers surveyed earlier in the year by CIPD. We take a look and ask if we are seeing a generational change.

Harnessing Technology – Next Generation Learning

Becta published their latest report “Harnessing Technology – Next Generation Learning”, a strategy report for 2008-2014 in July 2008. This report updates the Government’s plans for utilising information and communications technologies across the education sector.

The report is very positive about the benefits of elearning and quotes a JISC paper, Exploring Tangible Benefits of elearning, which says:

The appropriate use of technology (in higher education) is leading to significant improvements in learning and teaching across the sector and this is translating into improved satisfaction, retention and achievement. Elearning is facilitating the expansion of the sector without necessitating corresponding increases in the footprint of the physical estate and it is allowing broadly the same numbers of staff to educate a larger and more diverse student body.”

Elearning’s impact - who’s right?

The report’s own findings appear to support the efficacy of elearning.

Those who have provided figures for student achievement appear to be recording improvements of around 10% in pass rates as a result of the elearning they have implemented.”

We have seen evidence that elearning is enabling Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Science to take additional student numbers without having to increase their physical or staffing footprint.”

“There is clear evidence of improved student retention as a result of the improved personalisation and mentoring opportunities afforded by elearning applications such as e-portfolio systems. We have seen these benefits demonstrated in areas such as Nursing with a high proportion of non-traditional learners where attrition rates are traditionally high.”

Elearning can be shown to have a range of benefits for learners with special needs. Learners with a known disability currently make up only around 6% of the HE student population (source HESA 2006) as opposed to 11% of the FE population in England (14% in Scotland) and 18% of the working age population of England.

It is interesting to contrast these findings with the perceptions of trainers in the UK. The table below is from the CIPD 2008 UK learning survey of trainers on the most effective learning and development practices.


Not surprisingly most trainers felt that their in-house development programmes were most effective. However, those surveyed considered elearning one of the least effective learning and development practices.

A generation issue?

The focus of the Becta report is younger people. The report quotes research from Ofcom (Media Literacy Audit, 2008) which shows that children’s use of key media including the TV, games consoles and the internet are well established by the age of five.

Becta surveyed surveyed 11-19 year olds about their preferred ways to learn. “Using computers” was fourth with “learning in groups” the highest by some margin.

becta learning survey

These findings broadly support a survey in 2005 by LOMA, an international association with more than 1,200 insurance and financial services company members, on preferred forms of learning. They asked participants to indicate whether they would rather take a LOMA course composed of a series of online lessons or the traditional textbook version. Both formats lead to the same examination. About twice as many respondents (58%) indicated a preference for the online course as for the textbook version (29%). The remainder was undecided. Among people younger than 30 years old, 70% preferred the online course vs. 26% who preferred the textbook version. Those over 50 were evenly split (41% vs. 41%) over online versus textbook.

Thus maybe we have a new generation coming through which will not only be more comfortable with elearning but more able to engage and learn through online mediums leading to greater effectiveness. Maybe CIPD needs some younger members to rebalance its surveys…

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