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E-learning Debate becomes less formal, more social

This blog first appeared on the Epic website on August 23rd 2011

Epic’s third E-learning Debate ended in a defeat for the motion ‘This house believes that technology-based informal learning is more style than substance’. An article covering the results of the debate has made it into eLearn Magazine.

Despite some strong arguments that informal learning lacks rigour, only 33% of participants at voted for style over substance. Just as in the live event hosted last October at the Oxford Union, there was clearly a strong belief that informal learning has an important role to play in training and education. And technology is heightening its impact.

So what does the future hold for traditional training departments in the face of rapidly developing technologies for social learning? Will it be victory for training departments, defeat for social learning, vice-versa, or a truce? Epic’s new E-learning Debate will help decide, using the motion: “This house believes that as social learning grows, so the requirement for traditional training departments shrinks.”

The debate is already under way at, with Donna Hamilton, Head of Group Learning at Royal Bank of Scotland and Jane Hart, founder of C4LPT, opening the arguments for the motion. They are up against Melissa Highton, Head of the Learning Technologies Group at the University of Oxford, and Clive Shepherd, Chair of the UK’s eLearning Network.

Epic has created a tradition of E-learning Debates, starting at the Oxford Union in September 2009, chaired by Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC’s technology correspondent. This is the fourth e-learning debate and this one is being hosted only online. Dr Naomi Norman, Director of Learning, says,

“The debate format has proved incredibly successful at getting people discussing and arguing and encouraging thinking. Even the wording of the motions creates quite a stir. I look forward to reading what people have to say on this latest social learning debate.”