ICT and e-learning: two redundant terms

Steve Wheeler of the Faculty of Education at the University of Plymouth got caught in some cross-fire recently when following the NAACE Annual Strategic Conference on Twitter. Should we continue to use the term ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) in teaching? Should we even teach it as a separate subject?

The argument went back and forth and is well summarized on Steve’s blog: Stop Calling it ICT!

My take? I have thought for a long time that we put too much stress on the technology we use in learning and not enough on the learning. That was one of the drivers behind the re-branding of the Learning Technologies Conference earlier this year – after 10 years we reduced the word ‘Technologies’ to the same size as ‘Learning’. Give us another decade, who knows what might happen?

If in the educational sector ‘ICT’ may be becoming redundant as a term, what about ‘e-learning’? Time to ditch it for general use, I reckon.

Within the learning technology space it make sense and we have some idea what it means. Outside that space the connotations of the term ‘e-learning’ are largely negative and outdated. See my article from 2007: It’s time to drop e-learning.

8 responses to “ICT and e-learning: two redundant terms

  1. Hello Don – great questions about ICT. I wonder if it should just be rebranded. A previous emplyer of mine once said “It’s Good to Talk”. I don’t for one second advocate bringing back that slogan but hey, ICT is after all merely a conduit for communicating. It’s the communicating we should be teaching, sharing, encouraging I think.

    I agree e-learning as a term is negative and outdated. It’s a good wince word, watch how people react when you say it to them. It’s almost like it has come to mean learning, without the learning. Cards on the table I regularly used to do compulsory (aaarrgrhhh) e-learning and I did what countless others did – cut to the quiz, repeat until pass, print certificate, move on. Does no one any good at all but hey – get’s the job done!

    I want learning and development to have a greater sense of purpose, be as much about me and what I can do for the organisation, myself, the community at large. e-learning just can’t cut it in this emerging world of purposeful.

    Good work!

  2. So Don, what new words can better describe the activities we undertake when using technology to support our learning and development? I would say it can’t stay as one catch all “e-learning” as this is so generalised it is meaningless and open to constant misinterpretation.

    Any suggestions?

  3. “What would you suggest?” is always a good question, Lars, worth throwing at anyone who (as I have here) puts forward a complaint without a solution.

    In the article, though, I do make a suggestion. We don’t need any new words. We can use existing ones to describe what we do. For example, a lot of what people call ‘e-learning’ is the delivery of either ‘online courses’ or ‘online support materials’. So let’s say that instead: it’s unambiguous and doesn’t carry the connotations which have attached themselves to ‘e-learning’ over the years.

    Having said that, there may be exceptions. For example, ‘webinar’. This word isn’t pretty, but it does describe pretty well what it is: a seminar delivered over the web.

  4. ‘Ditching e-learning’ is a wrong headed idea as it suggests that someone, or some group, has control over the development of language. E-learning is an embedded term, its meaning is its use and it will not be going away. It’s the name of a market (useful), dominant name for computer mediated learning, short, snappy and relevant. Now ‘Talent Management’……..!

  5. In the HEI that I work for, we are using the acronym TEL (technology enhanced learning) as that is what the Higher Ed Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) decided was a better term to replace ‘eLearning’ which had connotations of only ‘distance learning’ for some and did not describe what we are trying to promote and develop which is ‘enhancing learning and teaching through technology’
    However, my job title still has eLearning in it – although we are hoping to replace it with ‘learning technologies’ soon!

  6. I am not well informed with your sector Donald but have worked very hard in our school to clearly define ICT as a curriculum areas and separate it from IT Services. One is clearly an activity, the other is, in our eyes, a service.

    As for e-learning, electronic learning? Le(bold ‘e’)arning. E-Learning within our staff and the recent professional development courses I have attended has been met with many a ‘winch.’

  7. PS – this issue was highlighted in a link from your site Donald…. from 11/07/2007. It would appear our musing have little impact and that Donald Clark is right? Or that we are stuck in an echo-chamber?

  8. Hi Kristian
    Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Yes, I have to concede defeat. Whatever I think, the world will continue to use the term e-learning. I still think that e-learning has different meanings for those inside the industry and those outside it (where connotations are mostly negative). I wouldn’t want to comment on the use of the term ICT in education, as that’s not really my field.

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