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THE PIPELINE: Elearning and Libraries--Critical Questions Librarians Need to Ask

By Stephen Abram - Posted Jan 1, 2012
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There are huge opportunities to improve the learning experience with elearning. As these learning management systems improve and evolve, we’re discovering how to implement them at all levels of education (K–12 through vocational schools, colleges, and universities) and into the workplace.

At this time, it appears that a hybrid model succeeds best for an immersion education environment, but a 100% elearning model can succeed exceptionally well in corporate, distance, and geographically dispersed groups of learners. Lifelong learning skills and the learning environment are no longer the purview of schools, but, truth be told, schools and educators are laying down the foundations for a learning economy where everyone must continually learn and adapt to ever-faster changes that are driven by society, regulation, research, technology, and the economy. Indeed, the need to make learning scalable on a societywide basis and to achieve economies of scale for dissemination are some of the challenges facing nations as they seek to achieve competitive and national advantage and success. Clearly it’s a big deal, and librarians play a huge role in the emergence of these e-driven/e-supported learning ecologies.

That said, there are some critical questions that librarians need to ask about our role in the elearning space. Here are a few that I think are essential to be concerned about.

1. Are the elearning systems as device- and technology-neutral as possible?

I recall in the early online days that some vendors required you to use a specific terminal that you had to purchase from them. I believe that in those days this was the only way to assure that your technological environment met the necessary standards. It also tied you to a particular system as a customer and made it impossible or difficult to change vendors. Are we seeing the emergence of this model again? Are some ebooks—that can only be read or used on a certain vendor’s device in their proprietary format—a move to tie you and your institution to that company’s economic future? If so, you need to ask the following questions. Will your system and content work on the majority of devices that your learners are using? Mac and PC? iPad, Kindle, Kobo, etc.? Desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile device? Obviously you can’t predict the future, but it is useful to note that your learners literally will be bringing a plethora of devices to the table and the home. How seamless and frictionless will the experience be? Are you in danger of serving up your learners to a single vendor as a market?

2. Is access to content as agnostic as possible?


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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