Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Implementing E-Learning in School

Journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. In any endeavour, one has to take the first step to move forward, even in the face of insurmountable challenges and constraints. This was my message to the participants attending a workshop on educational technology recently. The participants were primary and secondary school teachers from Perlis (northern state of Malaysia Peninsular). Obviously, the implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) and educational technology in Malaysian school is gathering momentum but the pace is left much to be desired. A long list of problems (or rather challenges) in implementing ICT in school has been compiled from the participants, many of them are overlapping. These range from infrastructure, infostructure, time, technical know-how, etc., etc. My first impression when I looked at the long list was…overwhelming. The question is: how do we deal with these problems? I would like to hear how teachers from other schools (in Malaysia or other countries) implement ICT and various educational teachnologies in their school. What are the problems? What are the possible solutions? Is there a need for a major paradigm shift? Are the teachers ready, willing and well equipped to take on ICT agenda? Does the government or administrators really understand what it takes to make ICT agenda in school a successful venture? How long can we sustain the enthusiasm?

Generally we recognise that the development and production of computer-assisted learning (CAL) or online learning technologies is an expensive and labour-intensive proposition for both schools and teachers. According to one research, it may take as many as 2,000 hours to develop one hour of CAL instruction. Well, I guess it really depends on the type of course material and how elaborate and details you want to design the course. Still, for classroom teachers, the amount of time required to develop and implement high-quality CAL or online learning environments is tremendous and that often is overlooked by school administrators.

Time is always cited as one of the constraints and this, in my opinion, is a real problem. I think if the government is serious about implementing ICT in schools, a major review of the current status of ICT in schools should be conducted. An honest analysis of the state of ICT implementation, or the lack of it, will reveal various flaws in the system. A comprehensive strategic planning should be devised based on inputs from various parties. Too often, a new program is proposed based on the current trends without giving sufficient time to evaluate the actual needs and capacity to implement the program. It is important to take a hollistic approach in developing the strategic planning for ICT in school. A thorough study by respective authorities should be done to assess the weaknesses of the current set up and if possible, a good model from other countries can be adopted.

Ferdinand Krauss writes in his blog (
"I have seen many elearning projects that were not sustainable because the decision-makers did not set out realistic, long-term objectives that were achievable given the environment they were operating in."


Chris Davison said...

I agree that implementing ICT into schools is a minefield. From the top down, schools receive poor guidance and leadership which leads to much confusion about 'what is the best elearning service for my school?' I think that using time constraints as a major barrier is overstating the mark. I do agree that specialist ICT teachers should be given more time to fulfil this role effectively, but I have spoken to many ex-teachers who suggest that 'lack of time' is simply a soft excuse. There are elearning systems out there serving to save teachers time and with a little effort at the front end, teachers could save alot of time in preparation, delivery and marking by using these services. I personally think it is more of a negative attitude than a lack of time that is holding teachers back from effective use of ICT. This is something we are looking to put right at Taecanet with time and cost effective elearning solutions.

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