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Title: Preparing for Blended e-Learning
Author(s): Allison Littlejohn and Chris Pegler
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Routledge
Pages:xviii + 250 ISBN: 978 0 415 40361 0
Price: Format:Paperback
Overview:
Target Readership Educator
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Content: Introduction; 1 – What is blended e-learning?; 2 - Different approaches to blended e-learning; 3 - Devising blended e-learning activities; 4 - Documenting e-learning blends; 5 - Choosing tools for blended learning; 6 - Environments to integrate activity blends; 7 - Sustainable blended e-learning designs; 8- Support structures for blended e-learning; 9 - Ethical issues in blended e-learning.

Review: Regular readers will appreciate the need to deviate from the strictly ecological and environmental when a particularly interesting area presents itself. Since this site was set up to promote ecological education it follows that both words in the phrase should be supported. Whilst this is not always the case - there being very few educational texts of direct use in ecological settings there is the acknowledgment that this topic, above all others, is of value in our work and therefore worthy of further consideration. That this is a website and not a conventional journal lends credence to the idea that we should be examining online ways of producing education!

The basic idea behind the book is simple - there is a need to think carefully about the production of materials before starting to produce them. Although this might sound an obvious point I think we can all point to times (probably too many of them!) when we've led by doing rather than thinking and then spent ages clearing up the resulting mess. The aim should be to start looking at some of the issues involved especially when on-line learning is very likely to involve two or more educators. The focus here is blended education, the term referring to a use of a range of materials for one setting allowing a number of student outcomes. Of course, blended learning has been around for ages (more usually called 'getting a range of stuff for lessons') but the issue here is that there is a far greater range of materials and that far more people are involved. Having set the scene with the introduction, the first chapter looks at the genesis of blended learning and outlines the sorts of factors that need to be taken into account. Chapter two examines the range of source types that can be use in blended learning and provides some idea of their advantages and disadvantages. By now the reader should have some idea of what they want to achieve; chapter three suggests ways of putting it together. It's not just a question of adding a range but getting the right material for the right instance and its here that many people make their first mistake. Remembering that we are working in a collaborative environment the next stage, documentation, should be obvious but there are many issues to be resolved as chapter four discusses. Chapter five is really the crux of the book. Its focus is on producing the right blend of resources using the right blend of tools for the intended outcome and audience. Considering that e-learning is a recent development, the authors have amassed a wide range of cases that show how learning can be handled. Examples of this are given and there's a very sound critique of each method. A number of examples of best practice illustrate the points made. Once the correct tools have been gathered the next stage is to construct the learning experience and provide sufficient documentation to make sure that everyone can use it effectively. Following this, chapter seven tackles another issue - getting material and building up a resource bank. The range of possibilities is considerable but decisions must be made and. more importantly, any scheme must be kept going so this idea of gathering and re-using resources is critical. Chapter 8 continues the progress through the system to review the support systems needed to make e-learning effective. This is not just getting tutors together but supporting distance education students, getting time and finance and making sure that advances are not lost. Finally, there are the ethical issues to be addressed from privacy to copyright - available and useable or not the same term.

This is an excellent introduction to this new field. It surveys an amazing breadth of experience and possibilities. The structure of the book - from scoping to support and review - follows the logical path that people would take if doing this from the point of best practice. Numerous references allow the reader to follow specific ideas in more detail and this is important because of the range of ideas put in a relatively small space. Those experienced in education but new to this field would take comfort from the fact that many ideas that used to be seen as standard good teaching are now part of the blended system but with altered frameworks and nomenclature. New educators would find a wealth of detail that could be used in either on-line or off-line situations. Although aimed at the Higher Education market, any school teacher could gain much from this text. Put simply, this is one of the best reviews of its type - it should be required reading in any education training course for any education level.

 

 

 

 

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