1. Moore-Cox, Annie MS, RN, Reviewer

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CONVERSATIONS IN E-LEARNING Pohl Publishing 312 East Nine Mile Road Suite 11-409 Pensacola, FL 32514 Telephone: 800-967-1479 Fax: 850-968-0339 E-mail: Web: ISBN: 0971749914 Price: $28.00


Conversations in E-Learning is a comprehensive guide to teaching online "specifically targeted to nurses... a must for nurse faculty, staff development educators and association professionals," according to the publisher's Web site. The editor of the book, Diane M. Billings, uses the term "e-learning" to replace the more commonly used terms "online learning" and "Web-based learning." The book brings together experts from varied aspects of the fields involved in developing Web-based education including marketing specialists, instructional designers, Web-based nurse educators, and information technology people.


The book reads like a "how to" manual for those in the throes of developing online courses. All imaginable obstacles and rewards, tips and pitfalls are included in the short chapters written by working practitioners in the various aspects of e-learning with up-to-date information. These experts answer questions on topics as minute as font size and as broad as the value of Web-based education. The book devotes much space to the process of getting started in online education. However, it may serve those already in the field by providing insight into the experiences of other online educators. There are sections on the internal marketing of e-learning, convincing those in charge why Web-based courses would be a worthwhile endeavor, choosing platforms, the changing roles from face-to-face teaching to online teaching and so forth. These chapters seem geared to those who have not taught online yet, but they certainly give a good overview of the challenges and the learning curve people face as they move to the online environment. Sections such as Tools and Platforms serve as a terrific resource for educators seeking to gain the knowledge and, importantly, the lingo necessary to begin or contribute to a conversation about e-learning at their institution. All this material all in one place is a valuable contribution to the field of online learning.


The book is formatted in a question and answer style, as are both of the other books in the catalogue of this publishing house. Each author poses questions on the left half of the page and answers them on the right half. I found the format difficult. As I read, I feel I am having a conversation of sorts with the author. Throughout the work, I find myself framing questions that are either answered as I move along the text or not answered. When I am finished, I can then choose to be annoyed that my questions remain unanswered or spurred and challenged to seek more information. It is an iterative, almost interactive process (thank goodness I have never heard an author's voice in response!). I do not think I am alone given the writing I find in the margins of used books. I think many readers engage in a conversation with the authors of the books they read. The format of Conversations in E-Learning makes this process very difficult. I found myself distracted by the authors' questions. They often were not the questions I would have asked, and did not always emerge from the preceding "answer" text.


The book is written without the use of in-text references, which I believe limits its usefulness, especially given the target audience of nurse educators. Although each author provides a list of resources at the end of each chapter, without references, some of the authors' statements sound like givens when they actually are sources of debate and much research in the field of Web-based education. The contributions to a student's learning about belonging to an online community, frequent posting, chat, posting of pictures and so forth all are issues about which "the jury is out" in terms of research in the field. Web-based education is such a new phenomenon that there is much we simply do not know and will not know for some time. I would have preferred to see the authors present their thoughts as just that: as their thoughts or as research questions with little data to date to support a conclusion, with a "here's what's worked for me" summation. Perhaps, by giving these experts the space to talk about their experiences, the editor meant this book to serve as a workbook of sorts rather than a scholarly work. However, given the target audience, nurse educators, a forward by the editor explaining this would have been helpful.


There was some repetition from chapter to chapter, especially in the area of teaching strategies, community building, and introductory activities. The various authors were obviously of one mind about the focus of Web teaching: the student. The "guide on the side" rather than the "sage on the stage" transition educators must make to be effective online is a prominent thread throughout the chapters.


I found Conversations in E-Learning to be a comprehensive overview of Web-based education with a real nursing focus. It would be a great starting point for those interested in moving from the classroom to the Web. And at a purchase price of $28.00, it is a bargain.