kill the e.

Jaymie Koroluk asked the twitterverse about the proper spelling of “eLearning”.


I responded back, a bit snarkily:

@jaymiek learning. There is no e.

It’s too much to describe in 140 characters. But I can’t stand the “e” in eLearning. (I can’t stand the “m” in mLearning, either.)

It’s just learning. The “e” is counter-productive. It forces people to focus on the technology. To see it as separate. As an isolated thing that must somehow be fit into the regular flow of teaching and learning.


It’s all just learning. Technology can provide some pretty amazing affordances – the ability to handle larger scale open discussions, the ability to have every participant in a class to be content producers/consumers/collaborators, etc… Technology is important.

But it is not separate. Viewing it as a separate thing – eLearning/mLearning/whateverLearning – leaves it disjointed and fractured. A class has to shift gears to somehow begin dealing with the “technology section” of a lesson, before returning to the “real” learning. Focusing on “eLearning” pushes the incredible stuff that technology can do into some form of electronic/abstract ghetto.

My team at the Teaching & Learning Centre is often called in to various teaching programmes to provide a “technology session” – we do it grudgingly, knowing that the hour (or two) we’re given out of a week-long programme is likely the only real non-superficial integration of technology and discussion of pedagogy and implications. The “technology session” underscores the “e” in eLearning. The “e” as a separate thing that can be bolted on. A separate thing that is less important than the “real” learning that happens without the “e”.

I understand that “eLearning” is used as a shorthand, much like “Web 2.0” is a shorthand for a constellation of properties and attributes rather than anything concrete. But, we need to stop treating technology as a separate thing, as something in addition to conventional teaching and learning.

Effective learning requires seamless application of appropriate technologies – or the lack thereof – and when this is done, the distinctions and segregation disappear. It’s just learning.

9 thoughts on “kill the e.”

  1. +1 yeah it’s good we don’t call learning with a pencil pLearning or something 🙂 all human learning these days requires some sort of technology it seems.

  2. I agree it’s all just learning, and in a shameless plug for CeLC (I know the e is there as well), we will likely have a steam that is called “drop the e”.

  3. First off, thank you for this. A tweet-provoked blog post is just cool, and the fact that you’re starting a dialogue about this is really important.

    BUT (and there always is one) While I have to agree with you from the perspective of a practitioner, I’m thinking about this in terms of research… what if I want to study the effects of technology on learning? Should we not specify learning that is mediated through a particular technology? eLearning is used to specifically refer to learning that is facilitated through the use of computer technology. I’m still not convinced that’s wholly a bad thing.

    1. Maybe so. I’d still suggest that boiling it down to “eLearning” is an oversimplification. Describe the parameters of whatever you’re studying (student collaboration or discussion using online publishing tools, etc…) but just calling it “eLearning” loses the meaning of what you’re looking at anyway.

    2. The first question that comes to mind is what has changed? The simple answer is the medium has changed. Okay. Then what is the difference between the media of physical life and physical conversation and digital life and digital conversation in terms of learning. One can see that there is much overlap. As a set are they may be different in terms of a set, are they overlapping? I would draw a venn diagram and label the diagram learning. Then I would draw a circle for the digital medium and one for the physical medium and much of the learning would overlap as a significant intersection between the sets. I think that the digital medium may add or take away capabilities but as time progresses, what can’t be adequately represented in the digital medium is getting smaller. For instance hands on activities are significantly more possible (like for instance dissecting a frog, exploring anatomy, performing paramedic procedures, training soldiers), face-to-face conversations are possible, information exchange of any sort is possible: written, drawn, etc. Also, in general I think that just like we are progressing towards individual medicine, so too should we be progressing towards individual education, the only ones who stand to lose are institutions, and they actually provide very little value for what they charge and the prices are continuously going up.

      I think what D’Arcy gets at with it being an oversimplification is that the term is actually wrong. There is only one subject of discussion, learning, the difference is the medium and how it impacts the processes and objectives of the goal of learning.

      1. This is one of those things that is both an oversimplification – focus on figuring out the “e” and we’ll get this learning thing nailed down properly – and an overcomplexification – that there is a separate field within learning defined by the “e” and that we need to allocate special resources, teams, and time toward that.

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