Edinburgh -- finale

An overlong interview with the press kept me from participating in the afternoon's concurrent sessions. It would have been a tough choice: I'd gotten to know Don Norris, Jon Mason, and Alan Smith throughout the conference and here they were, all speaking at the same time.

I spent a while visiting Space Unlimited, a series of hands-on exhibits constructed by a group of teenagers who had spent months exploring eLearning and the future of school.

Most of what they had created was admirable and refreshing. Their exhibits lauded discovery learning, experimentation, self-expression, freedom of choice, and fun while learning. Some of their concepts were naive, for instance the fear that eLearning would be bad for the economy because of all those out-of-work teachers.


Film of student sacking a superfluous teacher

The "digital natives" gave the penultimate presentation of the conference. Ten of them took the stage and acted out their messages, something no “grown-up” had even considered. Instead of showing a PowerPoint slide about learning styles, they asked everyone to complete a personal Learning Styles Inventory.


In a truly lovely moment, a female student gripped the podium and surveyed the audience with a schoolmarm’s critical gaze. Someone in the audience snickered. “You there, what’s so funny?” she growled. That drew laughter. She shushed us with a penetrating frown of disapproval. Learning through intimidation. Remember it?


For the finale, a panel of experts took the stage to answer audience questions.

Among the opinions expressed:

  • Regarding learning objects, we must be careful not to over-engineer once again.
  • Regarding global acceptance of eLearning, do we have what it takes to offer true choice? Yes, at least we have enough to begin the expedition.
  • We talked a lot about learners as consumers but we need scaffolding. Unlimited choice of diet leads to obesity.
  • Workflow Learning and business process modeling bring a compelling vision
  • Barriers to eLearning parallel those to traditional learning, e.g. “not enough time”
  • Demand-driven learning works; supply-driven learning fosters resistance.
  • Courses are dead, to be replaced by informal learning and communities of practice.


Four years ago, eLearning was sufficiently new that conferences convened an eLearning community of practice. We discovered what worked and shared it with each other. It was exciting to be among the enthusiasts and cognoscenti.

eLearning has become much too broad an endeavor to be a single practice. Some conferences are how-to events for neophytes. Others are guilds for experienced practitioners. And events like eLearnInternational push the boundaries of eLearning, learning culture, the future of learning, and the linkage of learning to other major forces in the world.


Mark Bell closes the event.

Back at the Sheraton Grand, several hundred people in formal dress were milling about. The Institute of Chartered Bankers.

A group of us headed out to Bar Roma for a final meal together.


Jonathan Star and Charlie Stuart


Don Norris


David Wilkinson


Posted by Jay Cross at February 22, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack
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