eLearning everywhere? - How teachers around the world are responding

eLearning everywhere? - How teachers around the world are responding

Girl learning at home with iPad

What is eLearning?

What do we mean when we talk about eLearning? Initially, let us consider the many different, overlapping, and confluent terms that are being used. Are we looking at eLearning or online learning? Are they the same?

eLearning relates to any digitally enhanced learning. Online learning normally refers to any education that is supported using the Internet. Synchronous (at the same time) and asynchronous (not at same place or time) approaches are significant aspects to be aware of. It is important to distinguish as different skillsets are required. We’ll consider practical examples of both of these later.

There has indeed been a surge in the use of technology due to Covid-19, but mainly as a delivery mechanism, not as any automatic guarantee of learning. An effective and confident teacher is required. A blended approach incorporating technology with more familiar and trusted techniques is frequently evidenced as best practice. Such an approach involves teachers making use of their expertise and experience to differentiate and select the most appropriate learning opportunities.

A live, synchronous video lecture, delivered by a teacher, is not eLearning. Similarly, completion and submission of work using an online course is no evidence in itself of learning. Such examples are using digital and eLearning tools as a delivery mechanism to support learning.

The focus shouldn’t be on the tools, it must be on what learning is taking place. What impact is the technology having? Does it enable us to deliver added value learning experiences? Where is the effective teaching and learning? These precise challenges and opportunities for teachers existed before the Covid-19 pandemic.

How are Cambridge teachers adapting?

Cambridge International has been collecting examples during this crisis from Cambridge teachers across the globe. One teacher in Zimbabwe reports making effective use of Google Classroom with a blended approach. She has focused on short, accessible, synchronous overviews together with asynchronous offline learning tasks. This meets the practical need to support families with shared devices between siblings.

Further examples include classes in a school in Brazil, run on a similar timetable, but with shorter lesson times to use on-screen delivery and live assessment. This is to prevent excessive screen time yet focus students on the learning objectives. The format of Mathematics assessments have been adapted to be as inclusive as possible, with the school implementing and accepting video responses. The reaction from teachers and learners has been so positive that teachers are recommending it becomes part of standard practice.

In Oman, teachers have reported that the use of well-established routines has been important and the previous introduction of online learning has meant that switching to online during lockdown was delivered with confidence.

In the USA, we’ve gathered positive examples of schools focusing on retaining student engagement, and that even when told that participation wasn’t compulsory, they’ve seen a huge positivity and focus with online lessons making use of Cambridge International Science experiment videos.

From a school in India, teachers rapidly identified the use of Microsoft Teams. Whilst the initial setup was an administrative challenge, they’ve identified a powerful growth in positivity from teaching staff, allowing access to co-teachers and to support peer observation. There was delight to see a change in positive student behaviours, with increased engagement from supposedly quieter students, triggering even greater teacher motivation.

Technology enhanced teaching and learning

What works most effectively is where teachers feel confident and empowered to allow their learners to make the very best of the available technology.

What works most effectively is where teachers feel confident and empowered to allow their learners to make the very best of the available technology.

Regardless of suggested leaps in technology, this crisis has empowered teachers and learners to make a profound confidence leap. Around the world educators are discovering that effective teaching and learning can still take place. This isn’t a constrained or tightly defined ‘eLearning’ or ‘Remote teaching’. Instead this practice is sound, informed and well-developed teaching and learning, enhanced by technology.

Every time a teacher brings a technology idea or proposal to a class, there will be a learner who can and should be confident to suggest an even better way of delivering. A positive learning environment, regardless of physical or digital location, empowers learners to demonstrate and provide evidence for their progress.

eLearning everywhere? No. There is technology enhanced teaching and learning. The impact is still to be seen. What is doubtless is that learning is taking place everywhere. For learners, teachers, and all of us involved with education.

The positive stories and technology enhanced learning opportunities are boundless. Thus, let us talk about learning everywhere, making effective use of formative feedback, and improving opportunities for every learner around the world.

Go further

Online learning and teaching resources from Cambridge Assessment

Online learning: schools and higher education. What we have learned in 30 successful years

Covid-19: Top tips for online teaching and learning 

Why Are Some Kids Thriving During Remote Learning?

How Online Learning Research Can Improve Remote Instruction


Andrew Field, eLearning Manager, Cambridge Assessment International Education

Andrew Field

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