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E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0

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E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0 - Two sides of the coin and how they can blend together

My Paper for the International E-Learning Conference at the Rajabhat Suan Dusit University is also available in PDF-Format.


Through the usage of web 2.0 technologies, e-learning also is in a process of change. E-Learning 2.0 focuses more on collaborative, student-centered, and open learning techniques, while for E-Learning 1.0 sophisticated but closed multimedia applications was more important. This paper will discuss the different educational ideas behind these two modes of E-Learning, and argue that despite some fundamental differences in concept they might be blended together.


Web 2.0

E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0 – Two Sides of the Coin, and

“Web 2.0” is the internet industry's buzz word of the hour. The term was coined by the IT book publisher Tim O’Reilly (see O'Reilly 2005), and it describes a new set of web services that focus on user contribution, collaboration, and folksonomy1. Popular examples are the video portal YouTube, the shared bookmark site de.lirio.us, social networking applications like Tagged, there web applications like wikis, blogs, and so on. Although not originally designed for learning purposes, these web services can be used for learning, too, as Jaako Kurhila points out: “Good learning in the era on [sic] social software requires novel skills so that the learners can exploit the potential of social software for their own benefit.” (Kurhila 2006, 16.3)

E-Learning 2.0

The term “E-Learning 2.0” has been brought forth by Stephen Downes (see Downes). Downes describes here the effects that early usage of blogging tools had for students, as their blog posts were answered from persons world-wide. Eventually, this lead to the building of learning communities, where the students created their own learning materials that they sought from different sources online. Downes argues here, that the old model of the learning content provided by professional designers and publishers is turned to its head in the E-Learning 2.0 model, where the students create and share the learning content themselves.

The implications of Downes’ model seem to be grave ones for publishers of electronic learning materials, as their importance seems to be more and more decreased, as they are presented here as an out-of-date model. However, I argue that this view on what you could call E-Learning 1.0 is too simple, because through smart blending, they can actually be used together to the advantage of the student’s learning success.

But to get to this point, it is vital to question one central entanglement which entails both the terms E-Learning 2.0 and Web 2.0. This version numbering is known from software which marks different versions of a software application with new features – but generally, all versions of a software keep their original purpose, a basic resemblance in the user interface, and principles the software is based upon.

But if you read along definitions of and discussions on E-Learning 2.0 (see Wagner 2006, Karrer 2006, Vinall-Cox 2007) you remark that the authors usually stress the fundamental differences between E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0. So, if you look behind the technical aspects of E-Learning, you will see that there are two pedagogical principles at work which were in use before E-Learning. There is a hierarchical way of learning, as well as a collaborative way of learning. They both differ in terms of methodology and aims. In the following, I will put both of them into a wider context, and discuss their relationship to E-Learning.

The Hierarchical Way of Learning

The Hierarchical way of learning is defined by two clearly distinguishable roles – the role of the teacher, and the role of the student. The role of the teacher is defined here as someone who is having a superior amount of knowledge, that he is supposed to pass on to a learner, who on the other hand is defined as someone with an inferior knowledge compared to the teacher.

Consequently, the knowledge goes in this model only in a mono-directional way, as it is defined by the roles of teacher and student – the teacher is giving the knowledge, and the student is receiving it.

Eventually, this way of learning also shows a clearly defined distribution of power, too. Looking at a classroom situation, it’s in the teacher’s power to define (or you could argue, dictate) the learning goals that students have to achieve, and it’s also in his power to measure these learning goals through such tools as class tests, or exams.

However, in reality the teacher himself might be in a powerless position at the same time, as he is also part of a school system, which sets the framework for his teaching agenda. This means, that within this specific school system all students are required to achieve the same, or at least compatible, goals to be successful.

Methodologically, this way of learning is based upon declarative methods, like lectures.

In German educational theories, the hierarchical way of teaching as outlined above is known as “Nürnberger Trichter”, or in English “Funnel of Nuremberg”. This name stems from a self-study book about poetic language published in 1647 by the baroque poet Georg Philipp Harsdörffer with the title “Poetischer Trichter. Die Teutsche Dicht- und Reimkunst, ohne Behuf der lateinischen Sprache, in VI Stunden einzugießen2, a self-study book to learn the rules of poetic German. In every-day language, there is a number of idioms about learning facts which come from the etymological root “Trichter” (funnel).


Figure 1 shows a contemporary illustration of the “Nürnberger Trichter”, and this rather strange emblem shows – from a 21st century point of view – the distribution of power that lies within this model in a critical way. However, way until into the 20th century, the “Nürnberger Trichter” was the didactic model in use, as Figure 2 with its positive view on the “Nürnberger Trichter” shows.3


In correspondence with E-Learning, this hierarchical way of learning has been realized in various first-generation E-Learning products, which were mostly CD-ROM based. They share some fundamental goals and methods.

The learning goal is predefined by the author of the learning objects, as well is the method to measure how well the learner has achieved these goals, mostly realized through closed-answer quizzes, meaning quizzes in which learner has to enter certain predefined answers that the learning software can easily decide whether the learner’s answer is correct or not.

The learning software is in the same position as the teacher in the hierarchical way of learning. The software is the source of the knowledge that the learner should learn.

However, learning CD-ROMs can give the learner a certain amount of freedom within given boundaries. With more modern learning software, the learner can choose his/her own path through the learning objects, and choose between different fields of interest in the learning software’s content. In this aspect, there is also a strong relationship to the concept of Programmed Learning4, conceived by the Radical Behaviorist B.F. Skinner.

The Collaborative Way of Learning

In modern times, you could trace back the roots of the collaborative way of learning to the reform pedagogy at the beginning of the 20th century, and quite interestingly, the collaborative way of learning is actually a reaction by progressive educators against the hierarchical way of learning which was normally used in schools at these times. One prominent figure in this respect is Alexander S. Neill, the founding father of Summerhill school.

The collaborative way of learning does not totally abandon the concept of teacher and learner, but it defines the relationship anew. The most important change is, that it levels the distribution of power. It’s now not only the teachers who have the power to define learning goals, but also the learners have their say, and are encourage to make use of it.

But the collaborative way of learning does not stop there. It goes further than breaking up the distribution of power, it also encourages the learners to work together, and to share their learning experience and what they learned. In that way, the collaborative way of learning even makes itself possibly independent from any kind of formal organization, like schools or universities.

This leads us to another distinctive attribute of the collaborative way of learning – its informal nature, thus making it more accessible than formalized learning for potential learners, but at the same time making it less persistent than formalized learning. Learning groups can form themselves freely, but when the learning goals are achieved, the group may dissolve thereafter.

Social web services provide the technical backbone to let the collaborative way of learning find its way into E-Learning. Blogs, wikis, shared data space, MUDs, etc. Web browsers like Flock, which can integrate social networking sites into the browser GUI, could become one of the learning tools of the future for E-Learning 2.05.

E-Learning in that respect is catching up with the technical aspects of networking, where there was also a considerable development from hierarchical client-server relationships to peer-to-peer networking.

For educators, the concept of a collaborative way of learning must make them suspicious of one thing. If learners gather now in informal circles, and share their knowledge and learning experience, wouldn’t this make the professional educator obsolete in the long run? In certain aspects, yes. For example in the field of training for the job. Especially for technical professions, new knowledge comes up so quickly, that it’s not practical any more to train an educator first to train employees. Instead, it would save a company time and money to set up a learning framework that consists of social networking software for its employees and establish a culture of sharing within the company. Educators would have to redefine their roles in such a context to become facilitators of the learning process.

However, as this example indicates, the collaborative way of learning doesn’t apply well to every learning situation. Collaborative learning works well for smaller learning units which are about rather specialized learning goals or even purposes.

Nevertheless, within an institutional framework there is usually a specified schedule with defined learning goals. This means that an implementation of the collaborative way of learning as outlined above would and actually does clash with the expectations from the framework – also reform schools have to prepare their students for the graduation and the state exam that comes with it.

E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0 – Two Sides of the Coin, and  

Table 1 Comparative of Hierarchical way of learning and Collaborative way of learning


Hierarchical Way of Learning

Collaborative Way of Learning


Clearly defined roles of educator (sender) and learner (recipient)

No clear distinction between educator and learner




Distribution of Power

Power lies with the teacher

Distribution of power between all parties

Definition of Learning Goals

By the teacher, or by an institutional framework

By the learners; there might be non-mandatory help from educator

Measuring of Learning Success

By the teacher based on his principles

By the learners; there might be non-mandatory help from educator

It’s the mix, stupid!


In the following, the term E-Learning 1.0 refers to closed E-Learning materials that evolved pedagogically from Programmed Learning, and presents its learning material in a media-rich way that addresses learners through various communication channels.

E-Learning 2.0 describes in the following open web-based E-Learning materials, which are partly or fully generated by the learners themselves. Therefore, E-Learning 2.0 is quite often less media-rich than E-Learning 1.0.

While E-Learning 1.0 seems to have inherent qualities of a now outdated teaching model, E-Learning 2.0 seems to overcome the institutional frameworks in which formalized learning is happening. In that way, a blend of the two is recommended to make modern forms of E-Learning usable in the world of institutionalized learning, and also giving the term “blended learning” a new layer of meaning.

First, I will present some concrete examples on blending E-Learning 1.0 with E-Learning 2.0, and after this, I will propose a model on how to achieve such a mix.

The course in question is a blended learning course for beginners who learn German. This course consists of three components:

  1. The multimeda CD-ROM “redaktion-D”
  2. Web-based  training with an LMS
  3. Classroom learning

There is one CD-ROM for the level A1, and one for the level A2, both as they are defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Each CD has six lessons, and each lesson is based upon a movie of approximately 10 minutes length about two Internet journalists, Paul and Laura. New grammar structures and vocabulary are introduced inherently through these movies. Around these movies, the learners find about 100 exercises in each lesson, in which the grammar, vocabulary, idioms, etc. are being made aware of, repeated, and trained. Most of these exercises are corrected instantly, for about 10 percent of the exercises the learners have to send in their answers to a tutor who corrects these exercises and sends the corrections back. Some exercises require the learners also to do research on the Internet. In addition to this, there is also a reference grammar included on the CD-ROM, as well as a simple vocabulary trainer based on a flash card system.

Using the CD-ROM alone, learners can practice listening and reading skills, pronunciation, and acquire some knowledge on grammar. But the learning is still limited to the content on the CD-ROM, so a really interactive situation of communication, where the participants can both influence the direction and the outcome of the conversation, with the CD-ROM is alone not possible. Therefore, the two remaining components – web-based learning and classroom learning – of this course mainly deal with communication. Here are some examples:

  • On a fixed-term basis, there is a chat meeting in which learners practice to converse with the tutor in situations that are prepared by the exercises on the CD. For example, one of the lesson’s topics is ordering food in the restaurant. So the learners do an online role-playing ordering in a restaurant. One learner takes the part of the waiter, the others are guests, the menu is a link to the online menu of a real restaurant in Germany.
  • Also, between each classroom sessions, the learners get a discussion assignment in the LMS’s forum. One of the first topics in the course is to introduce oneself. First, the learners write some sentences about themselves into one exercise on the CD-ROM and send it to the tutor. The corrected text should be posted into the forum. Later on, learners should read the introductions by the others in the class, and then ask the others one thing that they did not tell about themselves in the posting. If there is a questions, students should also answer.
  • On some topics, the tutor can provide a short text about one topic from the lesson with some new information. Then, the learners should look for unknown words and enter them into the LMS’s glossary. As they can be linked automatically, the unknown words get revealed step by step. This way, the learners work together to find out new words, and together they make the text more understandable for everyone in the course.
  • Also, a “website of the week” could be used. Learners are encouraged to surf to German websites on whatever topic they are interested in, and then present to the others the one website they found the most interesting in the last week.

Proposal for a Model

Taking into account the specific strengths of the E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0 components, both can be combined into one course with the use of a Learning Management System as third component. Each of these components has a different purpose.

As the E-Learning 1.0 is usually used on an “as-is” basis, the course planning has to start from here, as you are not able to modify its content. So the E-Learning 1.0 component sets the general agenda of the course, and also defines its general structure by outlining in what order the learners should learn what. Some learning CD-ROMs give the learners a choice of what they would like to learn what, but still learners can only choose from the content offered on the CD-ROM. So it’s not a completely free choice.

As E-Learning 1.0 components are closed systems which do not incorporate contact with other learners. E-Learning 2.0 components can form a framework which can incorporate the E-Learning 1.0 component into a social learning environment. E-Learning 2.0 components can make use of the topics from the E-Learning 1.0 component and take them to a new level using the EQUALIZE model which consists of:

  • Enhance it (Learners should be able to add their own thoughts, addenda, etc.)
  • Question it (Learners should become aware that all learning materials could have shortcomings and develop a critical stance towards it)
  • Use it (Learners should make something new from the learning content, like develop their own exercises for other learners)
  • Analyze it (Learners should not just parrot their learning materials but try to get to a deeper understanding)
  • Leap into it (Learners should make the learning material to be a part of themselves)
  • Interpret it (Learners should come to their own assumptions on the learning materials and exchange their opinions with others)
  • Zoom in on it (Learners should find their own points of interest and search on their own for more information)
  • Experience it (Learning should become rather an experience instead of a mere of remembering facts and rules)

E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0 components have gotten now into a reciprocal relationship – E-Learning 1.0 sets up the learning agenda, but at the same time it also becomes integrated as only one piece within an E-Learning 2.0 model. An interdependency between the two has formed.

The Learning Management System as the third component has the purpose to integrate the other two components into one course learning experience where all the single parts work together. In that respect, it has characteristics of both components – on the one hand it serves as a link between them and defines the course’s structure, and on the other hand the web 2.0 tools could be incorporated into the LMS software, e.g. wikis, blogs, podcasts, etc.


Despite of their different theoretical background, E-Learning 1.0 and E-Learning 2.0 blend together quite well in a reciprocal relationship. The E-Learning 1.0 component defines the topics of the learning process while the E-Learning 2.0 components enrich and contextualize the E-Learning 1.0 component, and at the same time transform it by putting it in a social learning context.

Educational institutions should reflect this new situation by opening up their learning schedules. “Good learners are already using social software for their benefit by gathering, creating, iterating the resources online while implicitly helping others to utilize their personal potential” (Kurhila 2006).

1 Folksonomy is the shared collection of metadata and tagging through the users of a web service. A prominent example is http://del.icio.us. For more detailed information see Mathes 2004.

2 “Poetic Funnel. The German Art of Poetry and Rhymes, Without the Usage of the Latin Language, to poured in within VI Hours” (translation by the author).

3 The inscription on the left side praises the “Trichter” with the following words:

“Erst dumm und blöde
jetzt klug wie Göthe (sic!)
das hat vollbracht
des Trichters Macht.”

Which translates into English as follows:

“First dumb and stupid
now smart as Goethe
this has been achieved
by the funnel’s power.”

4 In Programmed Learning, the learning material is chunked down to small units that learners are required to read, and answer a question about it. Depending on the answer, learners continue with a different nodes, thus finding their own path through the learning material. See Niegemann, et al. 2004, p. 5-8.

5 For some ideas on using social web services for learning see Bonk 2006.



  1. Bonk, C. J. 2006, 'Keynote address at “e-Learning: Learning Theories vs. Technologies?” conference', Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok.
  2. Downes, 'E-Learning 2.0', e-LearnMagazine [Online] Available at http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=articles&article=29-1.
  3. Harsdörffer, G.F. 1971, Poetischer Trichter. Die Teutsche Dicht- und Reimkunst, ohne Behuf der lateinischen Sprache, in VI Stunden einzugießen. [Repography of the edition 1648 – 1653), Olms, Hildesheim.
  4. Karrer, T. 2006, 'What is eLearning 2.0', [Online] Available at http://elearningtech.blogspot.com/2006/02/what-is-elearning-20.html (retrieved on 28.2.2007).
  5. Kurhila, J. 2006, 'Good Learning in the Era of Social Software and Web 2.0', In Proceedings of International Conference “e-Learning: Learning Theories vs Technologies?”, Ramkhamhaeng University, Bangkok, pp.16.1 - 16.7.
  6. Mathes, A 2004, Folksonomies - Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata, [Online] Available at http://www.adammathes.com/academic/computer-mediated-communication/folksonomies.html (retrieved at 28.2.2007).
  7. Niegemann, H.M., et al. 2004, Kompendium E-Learning, Springer, Berlin.
  8. O'Reilly, T. 2005, 'What is Web 2.0. Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation Software', [Online] Available at http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html (retrieved on 28.02.2007).