10 learning hypothesis – Activity 8 H817

Hand holding AT symbol These are my rough notes on the paper by Nichols (2003) on “A theory for elearning” which looks at ten hypothesis for eLearning.

Rough notes

Very little academic literature on the theory of eLearning. It tends to be pragmatic and based on experience. Surprising considering the volume of literature on the subject.

What is a theory? “A theory can be described as a set of hypotheses that apply to all instances of a particular phenomenon, assisting in decision-making, philosophy of practice and effective implementation through practice” interestingly……. “Theory can only be effectively communicated if a common set of terms is used and if their meaning is popularly adhered to”

Terms defined: Online learning, eLearning, learning Object, LMS, Interactive, pedagogy and Mixed-mode/blended/resource-based learning

Ten hypothesis for learning: (Direct from the article)

  1. 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).
  2. eLearning enables unique forms of education that fits within the existing paradigms of face to face and distance education.
  3. 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.
  4. eLearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation.
  5. eLearning can be used in two major ways; the presentation of education content, and the facilitation of education processes.
  6. eLearning tools are best made to operate within a carefully selected and optimally integrated course design model.
  7. eLearning tools and techniques should be used only after consideration has been given to online vs offline trade-offs.
  8. Effective eLearning practice considers the ways in which end-users will engage with the learning opportunities provided to them.
  9. 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.
  10. Only pedagogical advantages will provide a lasting rationale for implementing eLearning approaches.

In order to eLearning to develop the theoretical underpinnings must be made explicit and available for critique. Ravenscroft (2001:150)  “given that the pace of change of educational technology is unlikely to slow down, the need for relatively more stable and theoretically founded interaction models is becoming increasingly important.”

Activity questions

Q1 – With which hypotheses do you agree?

  1. 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).

As there is no one confined way of using eLearning, it fits into a broad array of forms and can be adapted into various educational philosophies. An example is  Second Life, its use a platform for learning fits many different ways of creating learning and engaging with students: From one on one conversations, presentations, simulations, group discussions and activities. It hosts regular “inworld” conferences to innovate in eLearning. The next one being March 9th to 12th 2016 if you fancy popping along.

Second life education conference

Image from page promoting Second Life Education Conference

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

Similar to the previous point, learning is not binary “traditional” or “learning” but rather a continuum of learning processes that are more or less supported by technology. As an example of this I really like this diagram that Phillippa Cleaves has put together,  as it shows a myriad of ways technology can intertwine with “traditional” education:

Phillippa Cleaves Technology Continuum

Phillippa Cleaves Technology Continuum

 

3 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.

This is the same for eLearning tools as with any other tool. Appropriate use of ANY tool is essential, even books, pen & paper, flip charts, whiteboards etc. from a learning design perspective I see the flow go something like: Overall learning goals > Specific learning goals > Appropriate interactions / learning processes > Appropriate tools to be used > Design of materials / activities

The selection tools used is, for the most part, the penultimate part of the learning design process.

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

This hypothesis is common sense for using any tool or resource. Having said that, practitioners should also consider and be open to unplanned ways resources may be used.

9 – 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

No, but the process of education may be expanded as learners use and master the toolset provided to support the curriculum.

Unsure about:

4 – eLearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation.

“Advances” is a very wooly term. I am sure eLearning has advanced without “successful implementation” as the pace of the industry is quicker than the capacity to research and draw results together of pedagogical success. Innovation in eLearning like all innovation is often “push” driven off the back of companies developing new technologies / services rather than “pull” from practitioners.

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

eLearning provides a whole range of ways its support learning, from tools to design, through to delivery. A lot of the advances in the eLearning areas are in the creation and sharing of curriculum success as OER. An example of that is Cloudworks, a collaboration between the Open University and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee):

 

Cloud works banner

Cloudworks – a resource for learning practitioners to share ideas and resources

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

I am unsure of this, simply due to the creative nature of designing and developing learning. Without experimentation and play, new ways of using technologies or even the development of doing technologies would not happen. An example of this is Twitter as a tool for learning. Originally not conceived as a carefully selected and optimally integrated tool as part of a course design model, it works well for learners and practitioners in a myriad of ways. One example being #edchat, an award winning, weekly chat about education, developed on the twitter platform. Another perspective if that of learning theories and constructivism and connectivism rely on social interaction and this in itself can create innovation around what technologies work best for the learners in their learning process. H817 itself is designed around a forum focused VLE, yet students are self organising to use Twitter as a collaboration platform.

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

The perspective of this point is very much from a hypothesis driven from a classroom delivery perspective. Online learning, supported by self study,  is sometimes the only option to learners in rural or hard to reach areas. The UNESCO and many others have a done a great deal of work in this area to consider how to support learning in areas where even classroom learning is a challenge.

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

Unsure about this as many tools, techniques and technologies get taken up without a deep consideration of the advantages. A challenge here is that it is assumed that tools will work well in all settings. The way the eLearning is introduced and supported has such a critical impact. A great example are the ideas in THIS paper: “Success and Failure of e-Learning Projects: Alignment of Vision and Reality, Change and Culture”. There are clearly advantages to eLearning but there are as many, if not more barriers.

Q2  – Consider hypothesis 4 that ‘elearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation’.

As I posted above: “Advances” is a very wooly term. I am sure eLearning has advanced without “successful implementation” as the pace of the industry is quicker than the capacity to research and draw results together of pedagogical success. Innovation in eLearning like all innovation is often “push” driven off the back of companies developing new technologies / services rather than “pull” from practitioners.

References:

I tend to link, rather than churn out here lots of references:

Nichols, M. (2003) ‘A theory for elearning’, Educational Technology & Society, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 1–10; also available online at http://ifets.ieee.org/ discussions/ discuss_march2003.html (last accessed 29 January 2016)).

Ravenscroft, A. (2001). “Designing E-learning Interactions in the 21st Century: revisiting and rethinking the role of theory.” European Journal of Education 36(2), pp.133-156

Image Credit: FreeImage.com Author: Anna Maria lopez Lopez

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