Tagged: W3A8

Week 3 – Activity 8: A theory for elearning

Timing: 1.5 hours

  • Read Nichols (2003), A theory for elearning, and review his 10 elearning hypotheses.
  • With which hypotheses do you agree? State your reasons.
  • Consider hypothesis 4 that ‘elearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation’. Then post your thoughts to the appropriate thread in your tutor group forum.
  • Read and discuss each other’s postings.



1: Agree

eLearning is a means of implementing education that can be applied within varying education models (for example, face to face or distance education) and educational philosophies (for example behaviourism and constructivism).

Through both personal experience and the various examples I have studied/read about, it indeed appears true that the application of elearning is across the spectrum of pedagogies. For me, I view elearning as a tool to assist with different pedagogical structures, not as a structure it itself through/on which a pedagogy should be based.

2: Agree

eLearning enables unique forms of education that fits within the existing paradigms of face to face and distance education.

There appear to be overlaps between this theory and the above. Just as elearning can assist with different pedagogical structure, it can also exist within them. I think some common logic here persists; if the aim of the instructor or course can be done more efficiently (reaching a larger audience in a shorter time) or more effectively (having a deeper discussion about said learning task), then it is natural to consider an online tool and thus a blended learning approach. For example, if you teach a highly discussion based course, which has different levels of attendance, moving to a discussion board online to act alongside class discussions is a fairly logical consideration.

3. Partially agree.

The choice of eLearning tools should reflect rather than determine the pedagogy of a course; how technology is used is more important than which technology is used.

In general, ‘how technology is used is more important than which technology used’ makes me think of a bad workman always blames his tools. However, if you are using better technology, the scope of what can be done with your class is broader, giving you more potential for success. A simple forum board might be enough for some tasks, and exceed in doing a good job in accordance to what you wish to do with it, however you are limited by this choice, preventing you from possibly further improvement. The users might also not like the tool, no matter what you wish to do with it. A blogging platform is a good example. You might want your students to create a blog to practice their language skills. This is probably a good idea, however if you insist of everyone using blogger, when some might find more comfort using WordPress or others, will hinder your good idea, or at least act as a force against some students to excel in the task.

4.I tend to lean towards this being true, though with some additions.

eLearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation.

It is possibly an oversimplification of a somewhat ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, however it is difficult for me to deny (or think of any example) where an educational tool (intended or not), was not improved once it was used under some form of pedagogical guidance. This is however not to say that there has been no education benefit before a more pedagogical lens was applied. 

Therefore, I disagree that breakthroughs in only teaching practices will make eLearning more useful, however I agree with the sentiment that once the teaching practices have caught up, the present technologies ‘breakthrough effect’ will truly be realised. 

For example, and linking in to what Andi said above about push and pull factors. If we consider YouTube, it is a great tool for learning, and it certainly wasn’t led by pedagogy in it’s development. However (and this is how I understood the the point of #4), once instructors used the tool within lessons with a particular aim, the real benefits of YouTube as a learning tool were likely improved – e.g. regarding how to use it within a lesson context (when, for what, how, etc.). Similarly, education videos posted onto YouTube would have gradually been refined to better suit the technology (i.e. the additions of annotations, subtitles/transcripts for accessibility, additional links in the description for more context, and general good presentation etiquette).

5. Agree

eLearning can be used in two major ways; the presentation of education content, and the facilitation of education processes.

However, I would add that the presentation of education content, and the facilitation of education process are increasingly cyclical, especially with more and more tools built on Web. 2.0 processes. I.e. What I create, you can learn and build on. There is a nice link here to the benefits of OER, where knowledge creation and sharing is the cornerstone of such content.

6. Partially agree.

eLearning tools are best made to operate within a carefully selected and optimally integrated course design model.

The article states that “build it and they will come” approach does not work. However, as we get more and more accustomed to online tools and ‘what works’ and how it works, I tend to think that we will automatically ‘go’ to online learning spaces. For example, anyone having done a previous OU module would need little instruction to make use of the forums. It does help to have guidance in the instructions (i.e. post your response to the forum including X, Y, and Z), however it would be very surprising to me if no discussion too place due to no direct request to post. Ultimately, for new tools and first time learners this is true, but for ‘natives’ in learning using technology, some tools will need little if any introduction any more.

7. Disagree – the future has had it’s say.

eLearning tools and techniques should be used only after consideration has been given to online vs offline trade-offs.

We have arrived at the time he the author describes as being in the ‘possible’ future, and thus file sizes and portable devices are here in abundance – at least in the developing world. I disagree as the consideration of is no longer about online vs. offline, but rather which file formats are most supported, which OS can run which programme, and which browser is best to design for optimum performance.

8. Agree.

Effective eLearning practice considers the ways in which end-users will engage with the learning opportunities provided to them.

Although the author is discussion desktops, dial-up, and CD-ROMs, the same is true today. We need to consider whether our class all has the particular technology available (i.e. if an app is only available on iOS and Android, do some students use other mobile platforms?).

9. Partially agree.

The overall aim of education, that is, the development of the learner in the context of a predetermined curriculum or set of learning objectives, does not change when eLearning is applied.

However, by using technology, the aims of a lesson or curriculum can be broader and possibly have more options. For example, if previously we wanted learners to write about their dream job, we could not have them each research an aspect of that job before hand, or join a forum discussion or community to learn more (i.e. using iSpot if you are interested in diversity) and report increased findings to the class.

10. Agree.

Only pedagogical advantages will provide a lasting rationale for implementing eLearning approaches.

We often hear about governments plans to provide every child with an iPad or a similar such goal. However, this is sometimes done more for politics than for any sound educational reasoning. Countries, such as Japan and China, still reject the use of digital technologies in normal classes – not because they are not available, but because they haven’t agreed on there being a need.