Unlearning learning sounds like a paradox but it is
a legitimate requirement, especially in this 21st
century. Learning means to acquire knowledge or
skills by instruction or study. Unlearning means to undo the
learning. This is more complex than it seems as knowledge
when acquired will become a part of you. How do you undo
something that is already a part of you? A short answer to
this would be to unlearn and relearn learning.
How can learning, unlearning and relearning take place
in an e-learning environment and why must it happen?
E-learning involves the use of technology to deliver learning
programmes. Media such as CD-ROM, Internet, Intranet,
wireless and mobile learning are used.
For an e-learning institution, the main concerns would
be managing content development and the learning
environment. For the learning part, we usually look at
existing models and best practices. We also learn from our
own experiences and environment. We talk to students to
understand and meet their needs. With rapid development
in e-learning technology, we have to unlearn what we have
learned because what is relevant now will be obsolete soon.
When we unlearn, we must be ready to relearn, replacing the
old way of doing things with new ways such as embracing
new technologies and providing a challenging and relevant
learning environment to our students.
As mentioned earlier, managing content would be one
area to look at seriously. To get ahead, we must ensure that
our e-learning resources are relevant and ready for future
application. Sometimes, this means creating content that
will be relevant in five to ten years’ time. For example,
many books on academic writing still talk about how to
write memos and formal letters at great length but allocate
little space to topics such as e-mails, blogs and emerging
discourse. The question is, would memos and formal
letters still be relevant in five years’ time with e-mails now
being accepted as mainstream communication? Would the
knowledge we provide our learners now still be relevant
when they graduate?
On another note, we need to allow learners to customise
their learning: what, how and when they want to learn. The
range of customisation can be broad or narrow depending
on what the institution wants to achieve. It can be cosmetic or content customisation or both. Cosmetic customisation
involves font size (bigger fonts for visually challenged
individuals), position of menu (depending on whether the
individual is right- or left-handed), highlighting of text and
how pages are presented (portrait or landscape). Cosmetic
customisation creates a conducive interface for students.
Examples of content-based customisation include
enabling learners to annotate, rearrange content, collaborate,
hyperlink, discuss in forums or on bulletin boards, tag and
cross reference the content intra and inter modules. While
these cannot be fully achieved with existing methods,
they can be done using a new breed of portable devices
and customised applications that allow seamless mobility
and connectivity. Learning science, for example, can be
made more interesting by incorporating augmented reality
Imagine a learner using the camera function on his
handphone to point at a hibiscus. The handphone software
searches the database to match the image and a nanosecond
later, summarised information on the hibiscus appears next
to the picture. The learner does further research on the
flower by tapping on the link button, which connects him to
Internet resources, the module or the institution’s database.
Wouldn’t this be a great e-learning environment?
Alvin Toffler summed it up well: “ The illiterate of the
21st century will not be those who cannot read and write,
but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”