Delivering E-Learning: A complete strategy for design, application and assessment

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Written by Martyn Sloman on 1 April 2010 in Review

Reviewed by Martyn Sloman

Kenneth Fee

Kogan Page

ISBN 978-0-7494-5397-8

Hardback £27.50

Writing a book on e-learning is far from easy. The subject is moving rapidly as new forms of technology emerge and L&D tries to make sense of their implications. Moreover, there is a paucity of hard data and it is tempting to overcome this deficit by producing uncritical (and sometimes fawning) case studies.

Kenneth Fee, therefore, deserves congratulations for making the attempt and for the courage of his ambitions, which are reflected in a title that embraces both strategy and implementation. Has he succeeded? The answer is, to a large measure, yes. He has produced a book that is informed, practical and up-to-date. It is full of figures, diagrams and checklists that offer invaluable guidance for anyone trying to manage e-learning in an organisation.

In his book, Fee has avoided the case study approach. Instead he has drawn on his own industry knowledge: he was an early pioneer and established and led the eLearning Alliance in the early 2000s. In addition, he created a Virtual Round Table of "leading representatives of the e-learning community from around the world" and their ideas punctuate the book at various intervals. Here I must declare an interest as one of the Round Table members.

Fee is critical of the way we have managed the implementation of e-learning to date. Interestingly, given his background, he is particularly dismissive of the activities of many vendors of e-learning products. Chapter three contains a section headed Vendor distractions and diversions and the next chapter contains a list of "20 things to be wary of with vendors". My favourite is "vendors rarely know much about learning, yet often profess to be experts in e-learning; they're not".

Fee is firmly on the side of those who are responsible for implementing and managing e-learning and, in his book, seeks to restore the balance in their favour. Amen to this. However, he ignores another villain of the piece: central government, which has repeatedly oversold and over promoted e-learning as offering productivity growth at zero expense. The specialist advisors at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should be made to stay in after work and write out 100 times 'e-learning is about learning, not technology'.

Fee draws on a wide range of business constructs and models - most of which will be familiar to TJ readers. He places a little too much credence on the traditional systematic training model (training needs analysis, planning and preparation, delivery of training, evaluation) for my taste, but he is not alone in this.

If I have a criticism, it is that there is an over-emphasis on e-learning as top-down delivery at a time where there is growing interest in learning through electronic communities. Fee is perhaps too dismissive of what he calls “e-learning 2.0”. There is all sorts of unrecorded and under-researched activity taking place in organisations and we don’t really know what the consequences will be. One obvious example is what might be described as the ‘Googlisation’ of learning: professionals searching the Internet to find their own solutions to problems. The book contains a chapter on sources of information and an epilogue with some of the author's own thoughts and predictions, but these are very much based in the here-and-now. However, the useful key points contained at the end of each chapter, their justification in the text, and the diagrams and figures make this an invaluable guide for anyone wondering how to implement e-learning.


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