Ruth Hill’s my name and e-learning’s my game.

I’ve been ‘in’ e-learning for something like 20 years (and frankly, it’s becoming a little bit boring).

After graduating with a degree in Psychology, Communications and Computing in 1994, I joined a Computer Based Training (CBT) company as an Instructional Designer. Here, my job was to design CBT for learners who sat in silence at individual terminals in huge computer labs. Booooriiiing!  I wanted to bring people together and find ways of connecting the terminals so that people could learn and work together, so I went back to university to study Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL).

At Brighton uni, I developed a methodology for the design of technologies to facilitate social interactions that positively affect individual learning outcomes during collaborative problem solving tasks. After completing my PhD, I spent some time working in the Centre for Interactive Media and the Institute for Educational Technology at the Open Univeristy, but in the end I found my way back to Computer Based Training, except that now it had moved on and adopted the moniker ‘e-learning’. I’ve been here ever since.

Computers are much more powerful now than when I first began. The richness of the media used in e-learning has grown accordingly and content is now king.  But to my mind, ‘interaction’ still seems limited to page turning and button pushing and pedagogical considerations have taken a back seat.  Today, the term ‘e-learning’ is largely synonymous with content delivery, rather than innovative instructional design.

As social media becomes mainstream, mobile technologies have ever more influence on the way that we interact both with the technology itself and with each other. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are raising new challenges and opportunities, so I am looking forward to participating in The University of Edinburgh’s E-Learning & Digital Cultures MOOC. Through the course, I’m hoping to experience, first hand, what it is like to be a student in this kind of digital culture and, perhaps, acquire some new found enthusiasm for my field.

It’s potentially a very exciting time for me, because this is what I was investigating in my PhD research more than 10 years ago. I believe that interaction design in technological innovations can move e-learning beyond imparting knowledge to facilitating the release of human potential, both individually and collectively. I just need to find the right opportunity to start putting my theories into practice.

So put that in your pipe and smoke it!


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