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"There's no learning in e-learning": Such was the "State of E-Learning" back in April, 2002
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Note: The snippet below "And the State of E-Learning is..." comes from the introductory section of a journal article that just went to press. Part of it had to be cut due to length (I tend to write too much!). Oh well. The article that I wrote is based on a keynote talk (Education 3.0: The Learning World of Middle Earth is Fast Changing!--see slides) that I gave in April 2016 at the DEANZ conference (now called FLANZ or the Flexible Learning Association of New Zealand). By the way, can join FLANZ.

Bonk, C. J. (2016). What is the state of e-learning?: Reflections on 30 ways learning is changing. Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning, 20(2), 6-20. Available: and

There is a second piece of that article that was also cut entitled "From Men on Stilts to Bill Clinton." I blogged on it this morning (in part since Bill Clinton just spoke at the Democratic Convention). I recommend that you click the link above and read through that blog post after you read the information below. I should point out that my most excellent colleagues, Dr. Noeline Wright and Dr. Elaine Khoo, ran the conference and are now editing the special journal issue. You will find their pictures below.

Thanks so much Elaine and Noeline. By the way, you may recognize Elaine's name as co-author with me of the "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY" book with me (free copy of e-book). And you might recognize Noeline's name as a chapter contributor to my 2006 book, The Handbook of Blended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs.

See below for the main part of my second blog post of the day...

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And the State of E-Learning is…

As I write this article, it is Monday June 20, 2016. Looking at my calendar, it is the summer solstice and the end of spring. During this time of extended daylight, I am staring out into the forest behind my house here in Bloomington, Indiana.

I am reflecting on the speech that I gave at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand during the annual DEANZ conference two months earlier. In it, I discussed how the learning world in which I had grown up was in rapid motion. Some thirty different learning related trends had somehow, though not totally unexpectedly, started to coalesce. Learning had increasingly become more informal, video-based, ubiquitous, collaborative, self-directed, global, mobile, open, massive, and so much more.

Each trend on its own would have sparked a learning revolution. The fact that they were occurring simultaneously should force every human being walking this planet to pause and stare into the distance just as I was engaged in. In fact, you might try it right now. Turn off your computer. Close this journal article. Then reflect on the differences between your learning journeys today and those you took one, two, or three decades ago.

What I was pondering was the fact that exactly fourteen years earlier I had trekked through those same campus grounds at the University of Waikato. Back then, I attended a pivotal and exciting e-learning summit wherein I gave a series of talks about the pervasive myths, pedagogical possibilities, and problems of e-learning. At the time, e-learning quality, incentives, completion rates, instructor training and support, and challenges and obstacles were among the many topics of interest. Interestingly, they remain so today. The other invited keynote presenters at the summit, Gilly Salmon of the Open University in the UK and John Hedberg (see his research) of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, offered much insight into these issues and other instructional options and opportunities in this growing field.

The one item that struck me repeatedly back in April 2002 was how often I was asked to explain the present state of e-learning. This question was first posed of me during a live national TV program in New Zealand (Channel One morning news); to which I had no answer. To my utter embarrassment, all I could offer was a series of mumbling sounds. Later that same day, I was asked that exact same question on Radio New Zealand. By that time, I had an answer, “It depends.” Amazingly, at the end of the E-learning Summit, the conference organizer, Dr. Mark Topping, had all the keynote speakers line up and tell the audience their perspectives on “the current state of e-learning.” Apparently, after the epic success with the Lord of Rings movie trilogy, people in New Zealand were hoping for another success in conquering the field of e-learning. Unfortunately for New Zealanders, so was every educator and politician in every other country that I visited at that time.

In retrospect, my talk at the 2016 DEANZ conference was perhaps unintentionally designed to attempt to answer that question about the state of e-learning (or perhaps just learning); I was just 14 years too late. However, as someone who has given more than 1,000 talks in dozens of countries since that unique summit in 2002, I can attest to the fact that it is extremely difficult to keep up on the fast changing forms of learning technology and distance education. Interesting and ground breaking new technology reports seem to arise every hour of the day.

Back in 2002, a segment within one of my talks in Hamilton was titled “There’s no learning in e-learning.” In it, I showcased pictures from various conferences that I had attended the previous couple of years. The rationale for that talk should have been part of my answer on television, radio, and the E-Learning Summit about the “state of e-learning” back in 2002. As you will see in the section below, there really was no learning within e-learning. No. No. No. No. No!

(Remember to read Part 2 of this article which I wrote early this morning, "From Men on Stilts to Bill Clinton."  Reading them together is important in order to make sense of some of my key points.)
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Some pictures from the conference are below. They are in chronological order from the start of the DEANZ 2016 conference to the reflective drink at the end. I have already posted many more pictures from my trip to New Zealand in my blog. If you like hobbits, elves, and wizards, you might check them out: Been there (New Zealand), Done That (Korea...but going again)...


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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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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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