Scrap the Digital learning debate?

How can we make digital learning as effective as, or better than face to face?

That was the question on last week’s #LDInsight discussion. My initial response ‘By focussing on humans and not the tech’ was a reply that won the votes of many.

Later on, I tweeted, ‘Can’t we ditch the prefixes face to face and digital and just call it learning’. A reply from Blake Henegan got me challenging my thinking as to whether I really thought that.

‘I understand this point, but think that we need labels to a certain level. Genres and categories exist in all other areas – e.g. music’ 

On reflection, I think you’re right Blake. Labels are useful to some degree. We’re hearing labels such as gamification, social learning, massive online open courses and the questionable term micro learning. At least when we use those labels we know what we’re referring to.

Thinking this through, I don’t think the labels are what I really have a problem with. The real unsettling bit is the differentiation between digital and face to face.


The problem lies in how the word ‘digital’ is used

In the context of this discussion, digital is a separate entity. It’s a battle of digital versus face to face that’s gone on for years now and it’s time we drew a line under this. It’s a view that is more than likely a hangover from the days where e-learning was born where ‘computer-based-learning’ truly was a replacement to face to face. We’ve grown up since then.


Digital has earned its place in face to face learning.

Nowadays digital is not just an online, remote, isolated and alternative experience. It’s an integral part of learning whether we’re located together face to face or not. This worked well on my Level 5 CIPD L&D qualification with DPG. In group exercises, we often used tablets, phones and computers to carry out research within our groups.

Is this digital learning or is this face to face learning?

How many times have you gathered around a mobile phone or a screen with others physically located in the same place and consumed something digital? What about when we watch video together in the same room? I’ve seen groups conduct pieces of e-learning together, as a group, with discussion. What about other modes of digital that exist in the face to face environment? A regular sift through #EdTech discussions tells me that a raft of digital is happening in classrooms around the world. Smart boards, interactive tables, voting systems and connected classrooms are all in play. Is this digital learning, is this face to face, or is it just learning?


Face to face has earned its place in digital

In a similar way, face to face features largely in digital. A Google Hangout, Zoom meeting or webinar involves faces being seen. What about when digital is used as a preamble to a face to face event? Or maybe to keep a face to face group connected in between sessions? Is this digital learning, face to face learning or both? Or is it just learning?


The eclectic taste of learning is the answer

A face to face solution can include digital.  A digital solution can include face to face.  Sometimes it's one or the other. Mostly, it's both. Just like we can enjoy an eclectic musical taste of genres without having to choose just one, we can enjoy the blend of learning methods available to us.

So let’s not send these labels to Room 101 just yet. They’re useful references to keep hold of. Let’s at least though, consider how they work together.

  • How do you make use of digital to support face to face learning?
  • How do you make use of face to face learning to support remote learning?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.....

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