IL2009: E-Learning Trends & Tools

This session began with Frank Cervone talking about the trends in e-learning and I followed with a brief bit about tools for e-learning. The take away for my piece was that it really doesn’t matter what tools you use for learning–it’s how you use them. I really wanted to challenge people to think about e-learning and how they can help to make it more interactive for learners.

There were some really good questions from the audience. I’m posting two of them here for discussion. Please add a comment if you have ideas about either of these questions.

  1. A librarian working with high school students who are taking dual enrollment online courses via Blackboard asked how she can communicate more effectively with the students. She said she gets hundreds of questions via email each week from the students and does not have time to answer them individually. The high school students do not seem to like Blackboard but that is what she has to use. Ideas to help her?
  2. Another question came from an academic librarian about how to verify that a person taking or “attending” an online class is really that person and how can we be sure that the person is not paying someone or having a friend take the class for him or her. Frank gave a really good answer to this but I want to see what your thoughts are on this.

If you want to learn more about designing better self-paced e-learning check out this book: Michael Allen’s Guide to E-Learning

Link to my e-learning bookmarks:

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


  1. Lori I’ll address question number 2. In a face to face environment how does the instructor know the student isn’t paying someone to do his homework? How do they know the person sitting in front of them is the person they say they are? How do they know the person isn’t plagiarizing or cheating in some other way?

    When courses are offered online there seems to be more concern about someone gaming the system than in face to face classes. People who are cheating or gaming the system are doing to attempt it no matter the format of the class.

    In an academic institution the students are adults, they should behave and be treated as such. Take some basic precautions against cheating as you would in a face to face class then take a deep breath and let it go.

    • Thanks for your comment Bobbi! I think in the long run professors and instructors would do better to create engaging online learning communities and opportunities than worry about the small minority who might go to great lengths (no matter what precautions are in place) to cheat.

  2. “Facilitating Online Learning: Effective Strategies for Moderators,” by George Collison, Bonnie Elbaum, Sarah Haavind, and Robert Tinker, offers a cohesive and straightforward overview of how to keep online learners engaged. Part of what produces success for everyone is the effective use of postings and discussions where learners can respond to each other’s questions rather than having the instructor respond to dozens or hundreds of individual e-mail messages. Some of the best courses I’ve taken have benefitted from instructors’ first-rate organizational skills; setting up separate discussion boards by topic (general course questions, tech questions, and even a general student lounge area where learners have a chance to explore the social side of learning) so that the instructor is not the focal point of the learning process is a wonderful way to create a first-rate learner-centric experience. It’s all about engagement, and the learning includes the experiences of effectively managing and using online resources to everyone’s benefit.

    • Paul that is a great point! In many of my online classes the students reply to the discussion board days before the professor does. Pat Wagner mentioned she is using LinkedIn as a discussion board for some of her classes. I think a high school teacher should find out where the students are i.e. Facebook, MySpace, or somewhere else and maybe create discussion boards there. I for one am of the mindset that it helps to reach out to where our learners are.

  3. Mary Pelton says:

    I agree with Paul. A dissussion board is the best way to talk to students.

    I am in grad school and have frequently found that my classmates can answer questions better than the instructor can. I think it is because they are just learning the ins and outs as I am and trying to put problems into simpler perspective.

    Also, putting issues up on a discussion board allows students to help one another… and if one person is having an issue, it is highly likely someone else is having the same problem… so the message can be given out to everyone, instead of emailed to a select few.

    If no one can answer the question, than the instructor can step in and give a “official” response — which then all the students can see. It is a win-win.

    • Mary these are great points. Letting the students help each other is a win-win for everyone. Thanks for commenting!

      • I know I’m really late in this discussion, but I just want to throw in my two cents because this is important to me in my school and work. In one of my online courses last semester through Blackboard, the professor did not have a discussion board for us to use. I have never been so frustrated in my entire life! The entire purpose of online courses and Blackboard is communicating online. How in the world did she expect us to communicate with each other? Sure we could email, but that is so much harder to do, and to keep track of, when you’re dealing with an entire semesters worth of material. A few of my classmates actually ended up having to join Facebook so we could have a way to communicate with each other. As a trainer myself, I started using a discussion board through D2L for my students this past semester and it has been wonderful. I think the students really like using it (there are 1 or 2 exceptions, but aren’t there always?) and I love being able to communicate events or issues with all of them at one time.

        There, my two cents 🙂

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