Ten Hypotheses for eLearning

I have to thank my friend and fellow educational adventurer, Jon Harman, for pointing me in the direction of a very interesting discussion document from the International Forum of Educational Technology & Society (IFETS). The document entitled ‘A Theory for eLearning’ lamented the lack of established eLearning theory and called for a deeper understanding of the term and its place in the educational landscape. Although the discussion document was written in 2003, when I read it earlier this month I still found that a lot of the discussion points are still relevant in 2016. ‘eLearning’ is still a term that is poorly defined and used by many to label any learning methodology that involves a computer, whether connected to the internet or not.

The discussion paper begins with a question: What is a ‘theory’? It describes a theory as “a set of hypotheses that apply to all instances of a particular phenomenon, assisting in decision-making, philosophy of practice and effective implementation through practice.” The paper then makes an attempt at defining some common terminology and follows that with a list of 10 hypotheses for eLearning that make interesting reading. I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree with every one of them, so much so that they now have a place reserved on the wall of my office alongside my manifesto of educational beliefs.

 One particular hypothesis that strikes a particular chord is:

“Hypothesis 3:

The choice of eLearning tools should reflect rather than determine the pedagogy of a course; how technology is used is more important than which technology is used.”

This is a point that I’ve made frequently throughout my career as a curriculum and instructional designer. You write the pedagogical principles first and then, only then, look for the most appropriate tools to create the ecosystem for learners to learn. Too many institutions buy a shiny new toy first and then look at ways to use it, many of them inappropriate to the programmes and courses they wish to deliver.

Please take a look at the discussion paper and let me know your thoughts. Do the hypotheses still hold true 13 years after they were written? Could they be added to? Is the use of eLearning so commonplace that it has no significantl meaning anymore?



Keeping up with the amount of information constantly being pushed to you and pulled by you is the curse of being a worker in the modern 21st Century office. The feeling that everyone else knows more than you affects confidence and belief in one’s own ability. The need to keep up with the Jones’s around the workplace adds more pressure to what is already a high pressure environment that we work in.

David DeLong, consultant and coauthor of The Executive Guide to High-Impact Talent Management, writes: “The problem of learning overload in high-skilled jobs is going to get worse, given advances in technology, the increased availability of knowledge, and the relentless drive for performance improvements. The failure to address this phenomenon will have costly impacts: increased risk of burnout, reduced productivity, and time wasted on the wrong tasks. Awareness of the presence and costs of learning overload are the first step to meeting this new challenge.”
DeLong’s article, When Learning at Work Becomes Overwhelming, which appeared recently in the Harvard Business Review makes interesting reading. He makes suggestions regarding management of information overload and puts forward strategies to ensure that one keeps on top of those developments that are essential to the work one does. Recommended.

My 5 legal profession/education predictions for 2016

Tomorrow sees the return to work for most of us and I thought it would be fun to set out a few predictions for 2016 and then review them next New Year’s Eve. So, here goes:

1. Further dissolution of the traditional legal professions

I think this is a fairly safe one to start off with. There’s no doubt in my mind that the repercussions of the Legal Services Act 2007 are still unfolding even 9 years later. Advances in technology and the innovative use of said technology has opened up new frontiers to explore. ABSs and inter-professional firms have not been fully exploited and yet we are stuck with the same definition of a ‘Solicitor’ and a ‘Barrister’. Even CILEx, who have purposely set out to capture as much of the legal services regulation market as possible have not redefined the role of a ‘Legal Executive’ although they have made a determined attempt to expand it to include ‘Paralegals’.

It’s only that term ‘Paralegal’ that defies definition. It is all encompassing and I think that is a good thing. I can see 2016 revealing a further dissolution of the traditional legal professions with the term ‘Lawyer’ or better still ‘Legal Service Provider’ being a holistic term covering a wide spectrum of new and innovative services and occupations. Who regulates those….well, that will be interesting!

2. Increase in CILEx membership

Tied into (1) above but a separate prediction in its own right. This year, 2016 will see the continued increase in CILEx membership as growing ranks of Paralegals flock to join the representative body partly for recognition, partly for representation and partly for regulation. Paralegals will choose to do this and get on with their professional careers rather than chase the pipe dream of someday qualifying as a Solicitor or Barrister. Until the SRA and BSB wake up to realising that their professions need to be redefined, both bodies will see a declining increase in membership.

3. Further development and integration of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in legal practice

This year will see the inevitable development and greater use of AI to provide quicker, more detailed, and more accurate analysis and risk assessment of data held by legal service providers. The human mind simply cannot compete at the speed of computers and neither should it. That is what the computer is there to do. Instead, AI should be embraced as a means of liberating the more mundane, elevating the human part of the equation to a strategic, communicative, and leadership role better suited to the niceties of dealing with other human beings (aka clients/consumers).

4. New roles (for humans) in legal services

Although the words in brackets are a bit tongue-in-cheek, they have a serious note. If we are to leave the more mundane to computers, if we are to embrace AI as I suggest, then how do we adapt? Well I think that the increased use of technology in the provision of legal services will lead to new roles for legal professionals, those roles being ‘Legal Technician’, ‘Legal Systems Developer/Manager’, Legal Database Manager’, ‘Legal Analyst’, ‘Risk Analysis’, etc. Legal professionals in 2016 will start to take an interest in the software development side of things since an understanding of what goes on “under the hood” is essential if you are to use the machine so to speak.

5.Announcement that Kaplan will be the sole assessor of the proposed Solicitors Qualifying Exam

I’ve saved the best, most outlandish prediction until last. Whilst everyone lamented the exit of Kaplan from the LPC provider market, it was a canny bit of business actually. They knew that that market was disrupted, was shrinking, that they could not compete with the larger providers. So, they made a strategic retreat, have taken the opportunity to regroup, and will I think place themselves in an ideal position to bid and possibly win the vacancy to be the SRA’s chosen independent assessor of the SQE. Given that the changes to the route(s) to qualification as a Solicitor are due to be concluded in 2017 (believe that when we see it), it would seem sensible to make an announcement in the year preceding. Maybe then people will acknowledge that Kaplan’s move was pretty smart.

So, there you have it. Five predictions, five stabs in the dark. Just set a reminder for Saturday 31st December 2016 to review these. I’ll either be acclaimed as the new Nostradamus or the new Russell Grant, let’s see shall we? 

Happy new year!

The Force Awakens! (aka Returning to NLS)

This week saw my return to NLS (Nottingham Law School) after 22 years. It’s been great to see so many familiar faces and also meet many new faces and to feel once again part of something that quite honestly feels like coming home.

The fact that after 22 years nearly 50% of the staff have remained at the Law School is a testament to the place. Yes, we all look just a little bit older but we’re all a lot more experienced and a lot wiser. Colleagues who I first met as practitioners like me taking their first steps into higher education, are now Associate Dean, Senior Management Team, Professors and Doctors. I’m incredibly proud to call them friends and colleagues and also incredibly proud of their achievements and the huge contribution they have made and continue to make to professional legal education both in this country and abroad. 

I hope that by returning to NLS I can also contribute to the continuing success of the Law School. Of course the landscape of professional legal education in the UK has altered significantly since I was last here in 2003. There are significant challenges to be met and new vistas to explore but the pioneering spirit of ’93 at the advent of the LPC is still there. With an open mind, and a passion for innovation and progression we set off like Lewis and Clark to chart the unknown. It’s been refreshing to return to NLS, for me the force awakens!

The University of Everywhere

The University of Everywhere: I love this idea! And I can see it happening too. The only question is, when and how quickly?



Without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, the advance of technology and the desperate need to solve the higher education funding crisis will drive this development. But more than that, this is a beautiful concept in that it accords perfectly with the themes of life long and social learning. Learning should not be compartmentalised into restricted hours and physical environments. It should be constant, permanent,online, offline, all time.

So, roll on the University of Everywhere. I for one intend to be a student.

My big tip for 2015: Cloud-based LMS

Those of you who have followed this blog will know that I am a big advocate of the EduPunk movement; seizing control not only of one’s education but also the means of producing education. Whilst Google tools and apps have started to provide the means to create educational material without any start-up cost, the UI and functionality has been very raw, almost the very equivalent of punk’s 3 chord songs.

All that is about to change though. I sense that the imminent explosion of cloud-based LMSs such as TalentLMS (whose growth prediction for 2015 is 200%) will lead to a proliferation of new course and instructional designers willing and able to branch out and produce innovative education accessible to all and at reasonable cost. In comparison to the licence fee of a mainstream commercial LMS like Blackboard or the development and maintenance cost of an open source LMS like Moodle, cloud-based LMSs provide a basic format on which the instructional designer can easily and cheaply design and deliver learning. The skill as ever lies in the creativity, innovation and support of the designer and the instructor (or as I prefer to call them, the Master Learner), truly reflecting the value of the individual artist rather than the cost of an over-priced platform with over-staffed administration.

I’ve been playing around with several cloud-based LMSs, particularly TalentLMS, as an alternative to the Google site LMS I established at the end of last year. I can tell you that all the functionality present in commercial LMSs such as Blackboard is all there, all the analytical tools, all the reporting functionality, security, certification/accreditation, everything. Maybe the UI needs some gloss (although TalentLMS is fully customisable) but that will come I have no doubt in future upgrades/releases. And let’s not forget that neither Blackboard or Moodle in its various guises are particularly good looking or easy to navigate!

So, my big tip for 2015: cloud-based LMS. For the independent course and instructional designers amongst us, and for corporate L&D departments looking for accessible low-cost platforms, this is going to be the beginning of something huge.