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E-learning is at best clinical, at worst sterile

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 8 Jun 2014, 05:51

'Sterile' is apt; I'd be more forgiving ... 'clinical'.

I'm reaching these conclusions courtesy of a comment and discussion below. Thanks Cathy. 

I am very aware of wonderful of examples of e-learning used in the education of Junior Doctors (search Spaced-ed and QStream below) where understandably we expect them to know, to perfection, the bits and bobs of the human body.

Learn, repeat, test, and achieve higher grades as a result of using the QStream platform. 

'Sterile' is apt in any of the humanities where interpretation negates any kind of 'tick box' approach that might suit the costings of the assessment process but utterly fails the need for considerable discussion and interpretation.

To challenge my beliefs and expectations of learning I am already half way through a more traditional Masters Degree. I am 'reading' for this degree in every sense of the word. As I inch ever closer to a distinction ... three, then two marks off ... I put this down to my curiosity and personal pursuit through references and footnotes that are of interest to me.

I'm being disingenuous here of course. E-learning is fast becoming a mirror to 'learning', its scope suitably vast and varied to accommodate the good, bad and ugly of the genre. In particular, how learning objective are met will indicate the appropriateness of certain approaches; a learning by rote platform such as QStream is of great value ensuring that Junior Doctors know their stuff, but would be the wrong approach to teach philosophy. Often, history is a prime example, course context and prescribed texts are easily complimented with your own further reading. TED-like lectures work as an inspirational starting point. I swear by the game-like affordances of Rosetta Stone. 

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I think you may right about clinical as a description. From my perspective the e-learning has to be one of the tools, not the whole tool bag as the exchange of ideas and discussion of experiences adds interest and presents material in a more digestible manner. So the young doctor may learn a lot about the mechanism, symptoms and signs and the writers experiences/perspective but his/her tutors and colleagues will have knowledge to enhance or refute that.

 There is a tendency to think all knowledge is online, but just recently I heard a radio programme where a scientist had found some relevent information in a medical library that wasn't available online. Perhaps the evil of e learning is encouragement of intellectual laziness (kids using wiki instead of proper websites and perpetuating misinformation so that it becomes 'knowledge') incase anyone thinks I am a wiki snob I do use it myself,  but as a critical user.

In my current course we are told that people are so different from each other their immune systems will respond slightly differently to infection, e.g eldest son had the worst chicken pox ever, even spots in his eyes, whereas the youngest had a dozen spots at most but the medical student will get one or two photos of typical spots and text on typical cases. I personally need the backup of videos and tutorials to reinforce my reading and I worry that my note taking has deteriorated into transcription of online text to paper without my absorbing or understanding the material.

Sorry Jonathan - gettin a bit verbose here!