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Best books about e-learning.

One of e-learning's great successes is in print. The topic has spawned a large number of books that range from how-to manuals to theoretical tomes. E-learning books specifically devoted to training haven't always covered themselves in glory. Many are light on useful content and heavy on obscure prose.

That's not to say that there aren't genuine experts publishing valuable books. Here are 10 that qualify as must-reads for anyone serious about online learning.

This report has links to the full-length review of each book, which includes additional commentary, star ratings, and a link to Amazon for online ordering.

If you would like a print version of the 10 full-length book reviews, click here.


As a contributor to one of the books in this section writes, it takes some work not to reduce e-learning to the technology that facilitates it. Technology vendors spend a lot of money to create buzz around their products with a parade of announcements of new products, new versions of existing products, enhancements, add-ons, and so on. They have every right to market as they chose, but customers need to remember that their need isn't another piece of software. Software and hardware are just means to an end.

Fortunately, there are thoughtful individuals who help learning professionals stay focused on the "learning" in "e-learning." Elliot Masie and Roger Schank belong in this group. Their concerns vary considerably, but they also overlap; they don't agree on everything, but they do form a consensus on some important issues.

Clark Aldrich and his book Learning by Doing could easily be included with those by Masie and Schank. He thinks and writes expansively about learning, yet his primary concern, simulations, shares most in common with the books on virtual games reviewed in the last section of this report.

Elliott Masie, editor, Learning Rants, Raves and Reflections, San Francisco: Pfeiffer and Company, 2005. $32.00

Elliott Masie has been on top of the corporate learning and technology game for years. In Learning Rants, Raves, and Reflections, he has put together the right people on the right topics at the right time. If you want a glimpse of learning department initiatives in companies like McDonald's, are considering the next technological challenge like mobile learning, or simply want help reflecting on the past and future of learning technologies, purchase this book. Read the complete review.

Roger Schank, Lessons in Learning, E-learning, and Training, San Francisco: Pfeiffer and Company, 2005. $35.00

The audience for Roger Schank's book is "anyone who is ever called upon to design or deliver training." He assumes you know something about training theory, though. For instructional designers, Schank has great tips; for training managers debating classroom versus online instruction, he offers insight and advice. His take on corporate universities is entertaining, although he may not have intended for it to read that way. His mantra throughout the book is make training more fun as well as practical to the learner. Read the complete review.


Every endeavor needs forward thinkers, even a technology-related endeavor that seems obsessed with the next thing. However, if you're actually going to use e-learning, you need a set of practical skills. The next group of books takes that need up and runs with it.

Tom Kelly and Nader Nanjiani, The Business Case for E-Learning, Indianapolis, IN: Cisco Press, 2005. $24.99

Anyone responsible for an e-learning proposal can benefit from The Business Case for E-Learning. It reflects the internal experience of one of the biggest and most successful technology companies on earth and the experience of many other organizations. Of course, don't expect academic objectivity from the authors. They are advocates of e-learning and so is their book. Read the complete review.

Jennifer Hofmann, The Synchronous Trainer's Survival Guide, San Francisco: Pfeiffer and Company, 2004. $40.00

You absolutely need The Synchronous Trainer's Survival Guide if you are new to conducting a live online event, but buyer beware: at $40, it is pricey for the length (less than 130 pages). This is a quick read that you can revisit and mark up with your ideas and lessons learned. Why not bring it with you to your next synchronous event? You'll feel confident that advice is just a page turn away. Read the complete review.

Patti Shank and Amy Sitze, Making Sense of Online Learning, San Francisco: Pfeiffer and Company, 2004. $35.00

Are your looking for a reasonable, informed, and crystal clear introduction to online learning? This is a good choice. The two authors bring their considerable expertise and writing ability to bear on the things you absolutely need to know about the topic--except for synchronous learning. Read the complete review.

William Horton, Designing Web-based Training, New York: Wiley, 2000. $49.99 If you are looking for one book to give you a really good idea of what web-based training is all about, Designing Web-based Training is for you. You probably won't read it cover-to-cover, and you'll need to make allowances for some outdated material. Nevertheless, the bulk of the content is as relevant today as it was the day the book was published. Read the complete review.


"Game-based learning" is reaching star status among educators and corporate training departments. Corporate educators are intrigued by virtual machine simulations, branching stories and case studies, and arcade games built with Flash. Elliot Masie has held a "game-based-learning" seminar and recently commissioned a white paper on the subject from Professor Kurt Squire of the University of Wisconsin.

Because Professor Squire is an expert in the field, his recommended reading list of four books on the topic is probably a good place for the rest of us to start. All four merit four stars (Training Media Review's highest rating) and help locate games in the context of learning.

Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun for Game Design, Scottsdale, AZ: Paraglyph Press, 2005. $22.99

This book has been well received in the commercial game industry, but it is versatile because it can help give educators gain a better sense of how to make learning more fun through the use of games. Read the complete review.

Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 2003. $49.95

Rules of Play covers game design much like an encyclopedia--in fact, at nearly 700 pages, it is almost as long as an encyclopedia! Only the most determined game designer, developer, or academic will read this book from front to back. Most readers will use it like a reference book, dipping into it as the need arises. Read the complete review.

James Paul Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. $15.95

This book might justify playing video games at work. At the very least, having fellow trainers discuss the 36 principles may help some gamers come out of the closet. The discussion of ways to utilize common game elements in your Flash designs makes this book a must have. Read the complete review.

Clark Aldrich, Learning by Doing: The Essential Guide to Simulations, Computer Games, and Pedagogy in E-learning and Other Educational Experiences, San Francisco: Pfeiffer and Co., 2005. $50.00

Clark Aldrich is building both a theoretical and practical base for the use of simulations in corporate training. This book and his previous one, Simulations and the Future of E-learning, should be required reading for learning professionals interested in games and simulations. Read the complete review.
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Author:Ellet, Bill
Publication:Training Media Review
Date:May 1, 2006
Previous Article:Customer Service at Work.
Next Article:Learning Rants, Raves, and Reflections.

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