Few educators will argue that informal learning is assuming an expanding new centrality in contemporary life. Such learning alternatives can take the form of any of numerous models including day camps, elearning, home schooling, group activities and enrichment programs. According to Dr. Barry Chazan in his recent article "The Philosophy of Informal Jewish Education, "Throughout the ages, the Jewish community has devoted much energy to the establishment and maintenance of a rich educational network. There is little doubt of the link between a strong commitment to education and perpetuation of Jewish literacy, lifestyle, and peoplehood."
Finding informal education opportunities for young learners in the Jewish world is not always simple. Via day schools and congregational afternoon/Sunday Schools Jewish education has, for many, become highly regimented and regulated. Increasing numbers of Jewish schools are, however, beginning to include experiential education in their curriculum as a vehicle for integrating informal education into their formal school framework.
David Bryfman, founder and facilitator of the iCenter and recognized expert on Israel education, experiential Jewish education and technology, summarizes experiential education as combining three elements -- recreation, socialization and challenge. When these elements operate together students can learn, develop and grow through their experiences.
Increasingly, Jewish online educators are examining the challenge of how to integrate elearning tools with Jewish content to provide students with a high quality Jewish experiential learning experience. Regardless of whether a student is learning at home or in her classroom, experiential Jewish learning can expand existing opportunities to provide her with numerous interactive opportunities to explore material in ways which are new and exciting.
Internet classes can take the form of a webinar, in which the students listen to an instructor and follow the instructor's directions as they collaborate on projects and activities.
Even more exciting, however, are today's online learning management systems which provide learning frameworks that match Bryfman's parameters precisely for experiential learning. Educators can (and do) discuss their preferences for such systems which may include WIKIspaces, Moodles, Haikus and other LMS options.
Regardless of the LMS system used, these systems offer the facilitator the opportunity to present material, solicit opinions, create discussion sheets, take polls, request feedback and engage the students with a variety of online tools that meet the definition and concept of experiential education for online learners. In addition the online format enables students from different locations to join together for interactive blended, synchronous or asynchronous learning.
Some other advantages of online experiential learning via a LMS include:
· The learning is centralized. All content is available to students 24/7 in any location. Multiple students can access the material, which is consistent in delivery and evaluation, at any given point in time.
· Delivery and evaluation are consistent. The facilitator can easily design and deploy customized modules and can track the students' progress. Varied learning strategies can be managed according to each student's unique learning needs via the LMS's power to manipulate the learning pace.
· Content is easily upgraded, changed, and edited as needed. Students can interact with one another as they explore the material and complete assignments.
· It's easy to use a LMS which centralizes the course's documentation and administration and records all new uploads instantly.
· eLearning is a cost-effective alternative for many schools which wish to expand the experiential learning components of their frameworks in an affordable manner.