Bridging the Gap Between the Traditional and the eLearning Environment (BiTE)
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The project seeks to improve e-learnig by taking teaching and training strategies from the traditional learning environment and emulating them in the new e-learning environment.
In the rush by many traditional learning and training providers to jump on board the "e-learning bandwagon" the full potential of this new way to design and facilitate learning experiences can often be left unrealised. The drive to join this latest "e-revolution" is lead in many cases by individuals who, possessing little in the way of ICT or multimedia skills or support, treat the web as a kind of virtual blackboard. Many self-styled web-based courses indeed transpire ultimately to consist of nothing more than a series of online lecture notes or uninspired virtual slide shows.
Equally, of course, a visit to any one of the web’s many "learning portals" reveals an equal but contrary kind of failing. These portals (the proliferation of which is yet another testimony to the growing popularity of e-learning) include on their catalogues a myriad of web-based courses which, while beautiful to behold and making use of an impressive range of multimedia, can so often turn out to be content-poor and not in any way effective in helping learners learn. In the murky world where e-learning and e-commerce converge, many’s the e-shopper who has found to his or her expense that when it comes to web-based courses much of what glitters is not gold. What this fact illustrates is that proficiency with the web as a technology is apparently not sufficient, of itself at least, for the creation of effective online learning experiences.
One important point which is overlooked by developers of web courses of both the "no frills at all" and "all the bells and whistles" varieties, is that the web, does not essentially change how learners learn. How could it? As web-based guru William Horton puts it: "People learn with WBT pretty much as they have for 50,000 years". Effective web-based courses, like any other kind of course, effectively help people learn in the way they have always learnt.
So on the one hand, we have a new technology which is still changing rapidly and for which we are still finding new uses (and, simultaneously, better ways for it to serve its old(er) uses). On the other hand in using this new technology for one particular use, that of training and education, we need, rather than starting for scratch, to use the web to facilitate human beings in learning in the way that they have always learnt. Put in this way it seems that the challenge for the future of e-learning is to strike a balance between technology and pedagogy; in other words to improve the way in which web facilitates learning we need, of course, to exploit the full and unique capacities of the web as a powerful and popular new technology but also to appeal to the age-old ways in which learners learn (pedagogy).
The BiTE project seeks to tackle this very issue by taking tried-and-tested teaching and training strategies from the traditional face-to-face learning environment and finding pedagogically effective ways of emulating them in the new e-learning environment.
Main project activities will include the design and development of a new range of web-based learning units for piloting and subsequently evaluation by a group of real students and trainees from across the partner regions. In choosing pedagogical strategies for application on and over the web particular attention will be paid to abstract concepts and principles that are traditionally thought of as being pedagogically difficult or, quite simply, "hard to teach".