What's in a Letter? Thoughts on Dropping the E from E-Learning

Instructional designer Melissa Venable posed an interesting question this week on OnlineCollege.org that any training professional ought to consider: Should we drop the “e” from “e-learning”?

What's in a Letter? Thoughts on Dropping the E from E-LearningIt’s more than a question of semantics. The "e-" frenzy (e-mail, e-commerce, e-books, etc.) began as a way to differentiate products and services offered electronically from their analog predecessors. But many of these "e-" products have moved into the mainstream (and in the case of something like e-mail, nearly wiped out the stamp-and-envelope version altogether).

But does the “e” come a little too loaded? Certainly it suggests placing a priority on the electronic-ness of e-learning — and by extension, it de-emphasizes the “learning” part.

“Not all educators have bought in to the concept of e-learning,” Venable writes in her blog. “So the label itself may deter those who have assumptions about what might be involved when, for example, a new ‘e-learning initiative’ is implemented at their school.”

Now we’re hearing more and more about m-learning (mobile learning) or even t-learning (tablet learning — admittedly, a far-less-popular term). So what’s the "e-" mean anyway? Does it serve a purpose any more? Or does the weight of people’s expectations for what "e" should mean bog the term so far down that it stops meaning anything in specific any longer?

Click here to read the blog post in full. To quote:

"In 2007 Donald Taylor was one of many voices calling for the end of the "e" when he wrote, "There is no need to differentiate now between methods of content delivery. The battle is over, and e-learning has won. It's a regular part of the learning mix." That was almost five years ago. In the meantime, many developments in the tech world have taken place, and new terms describing learning and learning environments have emerged (i.e. mlearning).

"It appears that elearning will be around for years to come, both the term itself and the electronic delivery of learning materials. One of our chat participants observed that "E-anything is passé, but still new to many niches." It hasn't yet reached all aspects of education – content, learners, and learning institutions – and so the terminology continues to serve a purpose in these contexts. What do you think of dropping the "e"? Is elearning a "regular part of the learning mix" where you are learning and working?"

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user rachaelvoorhees.

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