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UK E-learning Reflections: UK leads the way or does it?
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Hi All:

I am just back from a long trip to the UK. Visited the University of Leicester for an annual conference January 9-10--presented on podcasts, wikis, and blogs as well as my research on Wikibooks. Then I presented the University of Oxford on January 11th on my research on blended learning in corporate training in 5 countries--UK, USA, China, Taiwan, and Korea as well as my wikibook research. It is always a delight to present at Oxford. The students have a contagious energy related to research on e-learning. We had students in the audience from Nepal, Taiwan, China, Korea, the UK, and other places. Very enthusiastic people and a lovely setting to speak in! On Friday the 12th, I presented at Coventry University on Podcasts, Wikis, and Blogs as well as on my SurveyShare tool.

My son, Alex, joined me for the weekend in London for sightseeing and the Chelsea vs. Wigan soccer game. See picture below of us celebrating the Chelsea 4-0 win with my good friend, Jim Hensman, from Coventry University.

Later that evening, we also got to the Comedy Store--I love Brittish humor! Of course, my 19 year old son loved the chance to drink beer. Sunday was spent with Alex touring around London. He loved the Tower Bridge and the parliment area at night. Many pictures taken.

Monday the 15th was spent in Wales with a presentation to teachers on the future of ICT and schools at the University of Glamorgan. The 16th and 17th were spend in Derby speaking to more teachers on this topic. The 17th was devoted to speaking to teachers at Saint Benedict Catholic School and Performing Arts College in Derby. My talks there had many instructional techniques. Being Catholic (by birth), this was fun to do. It was my first time to speak at a Catholic school.

Had a bit of bad luck traveling in the UK this time. For instance, I got stuck in the Gatwick airport for an extra day on the way home. Our plane was grounded due to bad weather and high winds and problems with the flaps or something. So they put us up in the airport Hilton which was not a bad place. Anyway it is good to be home. I do not feel like a long trip for a long long time. This TravelEdMan is tired.

Ten Observations Related to E-Learning in the UK:

1. Standards and Benchmarks: People in the UK seem to be highly concerned with standards and benchmarks for e-learning. This has both positive and negative ramifications. On the negative side, are idea squelching statements and limitations related to creativity. On the positive side, it builds legidimacy for e-learning in that country and around the planet. For my money, this is the boring stuff of e-learning, but someone has to do it, so I will let them have their fun. I left the accounting world as a overly bored bean counter so this area does not thrill me much.

2. Blended Learning Research in the UK and 4 Other Countries: Our research on blended learning in corporate training in the UK, Korea, China, Taiwan, and the USA indicates that the UK is the leading country right now. Korea is a close second and the USA lags far back in 3rd. Then perhaps Taiwan and China, in that order. The UK has the highest percentage of companies incorporating blended learning and plans for increasing its use. However, unlike Korea and other Asian countries, they seem to lack frameworks for blended learning in their strategic plans. From a list of 15-20 different skills that can be taught through blended, corporations in the UK also rated ethic skill training last while Koreans rated it around #6. The Asian countries tended to emphasize basic skill (e.g., English) training through blended and the western countries were more focused on IT training. There is so much more data here and I am happy to share it. Just write me an email at or check out some of our publications at PublicationShare; see For instance, see this early publication of the UK data:

Bonk, C. J., & Kim, K.-J. (2006, May). A survey of the present and future state of blended learning in corporate and other training settings - UK respondents. London, UK: The British Learning Association. Retrieved June 5, 2006, from

This is the third major survey in a series of studies we have done on the present and future state of e-learning and blended learning. Earlier reports can be found at

3. IT Resistance is Futile or is It? Teachers in the UK still seem very hesitant, reluctant, and resistant to ICT and e-learning. This may relate to point #1 above. Teachers in schools, in particular, did not seem to be incorporating new technologies such as podcasts, wikis, and blogs; though if they did, it was typically podcasts. However, it was interesting that I had car more teachers raising their hands in Wales that they were using these technologies during my talk at the University of Glamorgan, than I did when I asked the same thing of teachers in Derby. Admittedly, there were some higher education faculty in my talks in Wales which could be biasing these polling results. But, overall, there is still much hesitancy related to technology in education in the UK. My good friend, Dr. Michelle Selinger, from Cisco Systems, indicated that some reports related to the intergration of technology within schools in the UK are fairly depressing. I think she indicated that up to 80 percent of schools there were not effectively integrating technology.

4. Personalized Learning Environments: Of all the places I have visited, the UK seems the most focused on creating personalized learning environments or PLEs. At the ALT-C (Advanced Learning Technologies) conference on Edinburgh, Scotland in September, it was a key focus. PLEs were also rated the highest on my corporate training survey by UK participants. For my money, this is the direction that we can and should head.

5. Are Words Just Words? At the Beyond Distance Research Alliance Conference in Leicester on January 9-10 I heard the words globalization, creativity, and customization many times. It struck me as somewhat surprising to hear the word creativity given that it was not a conference theme or at least one that I was aware of. But were these just words coming from people's mouths that we could nod to in agreement? This was a great conference but I wanted to see some of this globalization and creativity displayed. Where was it?

6. OpenCourseWare Reaches the UK: The Open University in the UK has joined the opencourseware movement which MIT initiated several years ago (it is called OpenLearn; see While most of the links I found there were not working, it will be interesting to see the influence that this has. Opencourseware can dramatically change and enhance the learning opportunities of the people of this planet. MIT, Johns Hopkins, Tufts, the National University of Vietnam, Utah State, Waseda Unviersity in Japan, etc., may have been the first players in this game, but it will be highly interesting to see who jumps in next and for what purpose. Will the OU in the UK be highly influential or a strong participant? Why did they jump in now? How will the role of the BBC be here?

7. Polytechnics Embrace ICT and E-Learning: Of the 11 or so talks I did in the UK, I think my talks at Coventry University went the best. In particular, the one I did on podcasts, wikis, and blogs. Interestingly, Coventry University is a former polytechnic like many other places I have presented at in the UK over the past 2 years. Why is the former polytechnics who keep inviting me to speak (e.g., Leeds Metropolitan Univ, the Univ of Brighton, the Univ of Glamorgan, Anglia Ruskin University, Napier University, etc.), and not traditional university? Is it due to the age of the population that they serve? Are they more progressive and let set in their ways? Are they experimenting more with e-learning and blended learning? Will they be the universities of the future for the UK? What gives?

8. Open Source Courseware and Free Stuff: Seems, like in other places that I visit, everyone wants to know which open source software package to go with for a virtual learning environment (VLE) or as we call it in the States, a course management system (CMS). I here some moving to Moodle, others to Sakai, and still others to names I have not heard. Many in the UK have homegrown systems. The quest for open source, or at least more reasonably priced software is interesting. There might be money to be had for those interested in open source consulting in the UK.

9. UK E-Learning Connections Easier than US: It is relatively easy to connect people across the UK to discuss e-learning issues. People can get to the University of Leicester, for instance, in just 1-2 hours for the most part. It is a good central location for a conference. As I may have mentioned a year ago in my blog, this provides e-learning connections and discussions that we do not typically have here in the USA. While I do know many of the people who will show up for such discussions and debates in the UK, I have no clue who might in the USA. We are extremely disconnected and fractionated. It is unfortunate. This gives the leg up in terms of leadership in the e-learning space to the UK. Am I jealous? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no since I can always fly over and participate. But why aren't more from the USA and other places joining me if, in fact, the UK is a hub for all this e-learning and blended learning initiatives? (By the way, my journeys indicate that Canada is also a hub lately.)

10. Online Cheaters (If I said "plagiarism," I would not have as many readers): A question that I consistently get in the UK and elsewhere relates to plagiarism online. I have some 35 solutions (e.g., use, alter your exams, check text in a Google search for a match, tell students the consequences, have a training program in plagiarism, alter the test item sequence, sign an oath not to cheat, etc.), I have to repeat these every time. I need to include some of these in my next book on the Web of Learning--Part 2.

Ok, that is enough for now. Is the UK a leader in e-learning and blended learning. The answer is a definite yes. Is it THE leader--here I am not so sure. It has been fun going there 10 times in a little over 2 years. I had never visited there b4 in my life. I think I am done there for some time. Of course, as soon as I say that, I get an email from my friend Hadyn Blackey in Wales saying, hey come on back. Ok, we will see.

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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 10:18 AM  
  • At 4:07 AM, Blogger Rossana Espinoza said…

    Hi Curt

    This is a reaction comment about your post. I have been in the UK about 6 years and now I am doing this PhD in Coventry. I realise not only from readings but attending conferences that people are concerned about "Standards and Benchmarks" due to the previous failures in the 1990s and maybe more recent, I was in my home country then, but basically some e-learning initiatives in the shape of universities and other institutions havent survived and people are still well aware of that. I personally wouldnt blame them, and as a language teacher myself I am concerned about what learners get out of my classes and how teachers facilitate.

    IT Resistance is Futile or is It?
    in two universities I am working, I see that there is no balance in the way teachers use technology, for instance some still use transparencies (OHT), or notes (nothing wrong with that but considering that the universities have plenty of resources), on the other hand, some of my colleagues are very creative in the way they use technology, a colleague assesses language speaking by making their learners record their own voices and then send this to her for marking through CU online

    Personalized Learning Environments: I agree with that, that seems to be the focus of youtube, blogger, google website, and so on, and maybe one of the reasons why it is so successful. I also can see this trend in television.

    Online Cheaters (If I said "plagiarism," I would not have as many readers)
    Maybe something related to this can be how to encourage the use of wikipedia, I agree with you in that this tool has potential to help people create knowledge but it is still understimated in the uk in the schools and universities. It would be useful to change that through publications.

  • At 6:39 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Hi Rossana. I am currently working on a publication related to the use of wikibooks and will cite the research on wikipedia, however slim it is. I am sure the coming decade will have much to offer in this regard. More intense use of Wiki tools and resources and hopefully more research on them as well. Yes, perhaps some of our research here will fund their way into the UK and vice versa. I hope so. PLEs, well, I agree that blogger and youtube and other resources have really exploded the interest in PLEs today. Will we be successful? I do not think so--not for at least a decade or 2. We have had people promoting more personalized learning for 50-60 years. Has it become so? Well, with more standards and benchmarks, it may be less so than before. Hard to say. But it will take decades to sort out assessment issues, standards, etc.

  • At 6:01 AM, Blogger Chris Davies said…

    Hi Curt

    Only just came across your posting about your visit to us in Oxford this January, which we all really enjoyed. Just wanted to thank you for your nice comments about our students - I posted a few comments about your talk on Technology Enhanced Oxford. Hope to see you again before too long..

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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