An Alternative Approach in the Use of e-Learning for Digital Inclusion

An article by David Casacuberta which talks about digital inclusion on an alternative approach different to the usual hardware issues approach – something I’ve subscribed to on different times.

He argues that two main aspects should lead our digital inclusion projects design:

  • Overcoming mental barriers (as opposed to simply technological ones)
  • Focusing on capacity empowerment (as opposed to immediate use)

He then recommends five strategies in the use of e-learning for digital inclusion:

  • Strategy of combining teaching ICT with other non-digital knowledge equally important to social inclusion. I totally agree. Learning ICT use just per se usually does not make sense, just as jogging around if you were not told it will improve your health.
  • Communication strategy. Get yourself being known, on and off-line. Trivial ;)
  • Peer to peer teaching strategy. There surely are lots of benefits in doing this. Sustainability might be the first one, as once you’ve trained someone in something, there’s a positive multiplicator effect on converting the trained in a trainer. Nevertheless, I guess the role of the promoter is much more important, as a peer of yours might be the only one to be trusted in “selling” you ICTs’ benefits. On the other hand, it will surely improve the design of the project: even if you did it quite perfect, only the end user can improve it by his or her own experience. Making him take part of the project should be a must, not only an if.
  • Creation of an informal environments strategy. To reduce intimidation effect of too much formal learning.
  • Teaching strategy based on cultural or gender empathy. Say: be empathetic. The role of the promoter and the peer and so I was talking about before ;)

The article is the summary of David Casacuberta’s article Digital Inclusion: Best practices from e-Learning ( 102 Kb) presented at the e-Learning for e-Inclusion Conference (where there’s also a presentation of mine ;)

The e-Learning Opportunity

Within the framework of the constitution of the Advisory Board for the UOC’s International Master in e-learning there has been a conference with three world experts’ lectures.

Here come my notes:

Tony Bates (Tony Bates Associates Ltd.)
Why e-Learning has failed and Why it will survive

When talking about the advantages of e-learning, he said:
“with e-learning what you get is not economies of scale, but economies of scope”
He really emphasized this aspect several times during his speech.
In my oppinion, economies of scale are not that easy not to take into account as they really are important, specially if you use a free-content/free-software/online-volunteering model.

Then he shifted to things you should keep in mind and, when choosing technology and the different models being (face-to-face vs. mixed vs. fully e-learning) and so presented his “ACTIONS model” of critical aspects in the choosing:

  • Access: to technology & education
  • Cost
  • Teaching requirements
  • Interaction
  • Organization: can you handle the model?
  • Novelty: east to raise funds for something new
  • Speed: how fast can you do it

(he admited he needed an N and an S to complete the word ACTIONS – I agree)

As an answer to a question of mine regarding a classical distance learning approach plus online mentoring he said that
“lecturing is the same thing as printed materials based distance learning” at least in the pedagogycal model.

There is “no use adding online mentoring, which is an increase of costs, if you don’t shift to a “discussion” – vs. unidirectional – pedagogycal model, that will potentially increase the student’s benefit through interaction.

I had never looked at it that way but I’ll surely will from now on.


Jesús Salinas (Universitat de les Illes Balears)
Teaching on Online Networks

He made quite a conservative speech but with interesting shades:

Implications of ICT in education (from Mason & Haye, 1991)

  • blurring of distance education and presential education
  • change of roles (teachers, students, staff, etc.)
  • space for collective thinking

Opportunities that (can) bring ICTs:

  • access
  • cost
  • quality
  • flexibility
  • innovation

He pointed there usually is a deep trade off amongst access, cost and quality, and even draw a 3D chart comparing them.

A part I really liked was when he talked about the three main approaches to e-learning or to the implementation of e-learning programmes:

  • technological: “technology is magic”
  • quality: “content is the king”
  • pedagogycal: “methodological changes”

It wasn’t difficult for me to figure some people or organizations I know – including my self -, belonging to these different groups, defending their approach ;DD

He pointed three flexible education components:

  • pedagogycal function
  • management and organization
  • appropriate technology

which is quite different from the components I identify for NGOs planning to go online in their traning programmes:

  • human resources (who)
  • content (what)
  • e-learning platform (where)

In fact, I point the resources, which is what NGOs easily understand, and he pointed the pedagogycal approach, which is what we have to teach NGOs in order to get them do quality training (all in all, they usually do off line :)


Michael G. Moore (Penn State University)
Some facts and some thoughts about the state of the research in ODL and e-Learning

He showed us the main research lines in distance education for the past 18 years (i.e. the life of theAmerican Journal of Distance Education where he’s the Editor)

I noted what he described as the three main points (musts) in research (any kind of research):

  • grounded in previous knowledge
  • quality method
  • generalisation or general interest of the research

And I guess I should read:
“Handbook of distance learning”, Michael G. Moore & William Anderson, editors, (1993)
a compilation of the most representative articles in the field.


Further steps beyond classical online volunteering

Yes, even if it might sound as something quite new, there’s a classical approach to online volunteering.

I can read here, here and, in part, also here, examples on how to e-volunteer or ways e-volunteers can help organizations. Right. The examples given are good and they do work.

Nevertheless I call it the classical approach because it usually deals with the virtualisation of onsite/offline/”real” volunteers. What I mean is that it is not an endogenous way of thinking about the internet possibilities, but designing volunteering posts as always and, then, after that, try and see if volunteers can stay home and do the things we planned.

I’m not saying this is not the way, but that this should have been the correct way until the whole thing became mature. Now that we’ve got some experience in the field, I think we should turn into – as I said before – some endogenous way of online volunteering design.

And this keeping in mind what the Internet is all about:

  • Knowledge Management: I guess there’s no doubt that ICTs’ main added value is dealing with knowledge (we could talk whether it is knowledge, information or just data), so when talking about e-volunteers (or teleworkers) a good approach should be the identification of our most knowledge intensive tasks and the identification of our major knowledge holders. Matching should then be just fun.
  • Networking: Talking to Janet Salmons past Friday I told her that we usually did not had individual online volunteers but teams. It seems to me that in a network architecture such as Internet’s, networking becomes almost a must. If we add the Knowledge Management approach, connecting people that know with knowledge intensive tasks/projects, then the networks is the way.

So far, end of my morning sermon ;)


My colleague Marc Recasens (thank you!!) points me to Connexions.

Connexions looks like a very interesting project. When getting to it the first thing that comes in mind is that you’re accessing a learning objects repository. Good.

But then you realize that it is not a repository you can look but better don’t touch, but a place where all contents are under a Creative Commons “attribution” license. So far, good enough.

What I think is really thrilling is the possibility of using these learning objects or modules and set up your own course. I mean, you dont’ need to download an entire course ten years long but you can build it from zero just taking the modules of you interest and leaving aside the ones you are not really fond of (because of time, because of scope, because of quality, etc.)

Of course, you can contribute to create new materials, which is also a very good thing ;)

More info:

PS: I know, I know, this is not what we’d call fresh news, but the Internet, you know, is sooo wide and deep… ;)