The eLearning Fundi

Random reflections about eLearning in Africa

Do Online Learners Need Special Reading Skills?

We have been advocating for an paperless society where everything is digitized. This, for the environmentalist is a good approach given that there will be fewer trees being harvested to manufacture paper. I am not sure if the same environmentalists have considered to study what is the environmental impact on the production and disposal of the electronic devices that we use. This would make a good blog for another day. In the digitized world, every thing would be stored in electronic form. This has advantages in terms of speed of access, physical storage space – and some may argue on security.

Our learning materials are now digitized and we expect our students to use them to learn. I believe there is a significant difference in reading styles and skills between paper-based and electronic materials. I remember a few years ago when I was an undergraduate student, one of the introductory courses at the university was code-named “Communication Skills”. It was a compulsory course for every first year student. During this course we are were taught among other things, reading and comprehension, writing and library searches always geared towards the paper-based media. Do we need such a course for online learning especially where there is use of the web browsers? Are we assuming that our users who have just started using eLearning have the skills to “learn online“? I think institutions now are required more than ever before to offer the “Communication Skills” course and include some specific lessons on how to read online. I have experienced students who print all the course content presented online. Though some of them would argue they do not have internet access at home, I strongly believe that a good number do not have the skills required to read on a computer screen.

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