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.



If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2005) “The e-Learning Opportunity” In ICTlogy, #17, February 2005. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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