-12. How does e-learning relate to other interactive capabilities on the Internet?

- E-learning always has a specific instructional objective.

- You might learn things as a side-effect from other interactive experiences on the Internet, but that doesn't make those experiences e-learning.

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One way to tell e-learning from other interactive activities on the Internet is that e-learning has a specific instructional objective. With e-learning, an instructional objective might be "At the end of this course, you will be able to speak conversational French at a beginner's level."

It's true that you can learn as a side-effect from other interactive Web activities, but that doesn't mean you should think of them as e-learning.

Here are some other interactive activities that are not e-learning even though you might learn something as a side effect of using them.

- E-meetings. This is the Web analog of the regular face-to-face meeting. It can be one person with one other person or a group of people. You might gather a lot of information in a meeting. But few meetings have the goal of getting everyone to a specific knowledge/skill level.

- E-mail. You can get a lot of informational facts by interacting with someone, especially if he's an expert, via e-mail. But few e-mails have the goal of getting you to a specific knowledge/skill level.

- Instant messaging. You can gain a lot of knowledge by interacting with someone via instant messaging. But that doesn't make it an e-learning experience; few instant messages have the goal of getting everyone to a specific knowledge/skill level.

- Virtual reality experiences (like a walk through a building before it's built). You can gain a lot of insight into the building's look and feel this way, but few such experiences have the goal of getting everyone to a specific knowledge/skill level.

Of course, all these items can also be built into more formal e-learning experiences.

Again, remember that an e-learning experience is structured to meet a specific instructional objective with the aim of getting a student to a specific knowledge level or skill level.

-13. How does e-learning relate to knowledge management?

- Knowledge management is related to e-learning, but it's not the same thing.

- Knowledge management is aimed at keeping facts, data, and information at people's fingertips—for those people who are already skilled at doing the job.

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Knowledge management (KM) attempts to codify and make retrievable all of the knowledge that floats around a company— both explicit and implicit knowledge. KM is an integrated, systematic approach to identifying, managing, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets. Such assets include databases, documents, policies, and procedures as well as previously unarticulated expertise and experience held by individual workers. You can immediately see that this is different from what might happen in a "virtual classroom."

Knowledge management is a lot more like a virtual library— not just a library of formal documents, but a library that also includes informal documents and informal discussion, stored in a fashion that allows you to retrieve what you need. (What good is a library if you can't get to just the right piece of information?) Knowledge management technologies include threaded discussion groups, chat rooms, synchronous meeting tools, and other collaborative software. What's important from a knowledge management point of view is not just what's in the formal documents or company databases; it's also what's in the "current conversation among the employees" who are working on the state of the art. More sophisticated tools, such as knowledge databases that archive unstructured knowledge resources in ways that can quickly be found through keyword searches, form the next step in integrating e-learning and knowledge management. As e-learning developers work out ways to store and manage learning content in modular, object-based formats, learning content could be served to users together with other knowledge resources from the same knowledge repository.

Pretend you're standing at the edge of a forest. You want to hike into the forest and climb to the top of the mountain beyond. If you're an experienced woodsman, you can walk directly into the forest, and there's a good chance you'll get to the top of the mountain—because of your experience, you can read the forest's trail markers, decipher the weather signs, and understand your body's signals as you work to conserve your energy during the climb up the mountain. But if you're a novice in the ways of the forest and if you're new to mountain climbing, you're going to need a guide to lead you up the mountain the first few times.

Knowledge management is geared toward the experienced woodsman moving through an intellectual forest. E-learning is geared toward people who don't have enough experience to tackle the intellectual forest on their own—they need a guide (instructor) and step-by-step instructions.

You can see that knowledge management and e-learning overlap, but they are aimed at different people with different experience levels.

 
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