Skip to content

H807 – Reviewing elearning (A15b)

June 2, 2011

I read ‘Review of e-learning theories, frameworks and models’ by Mayes and de Freitas (2004) and found that part of my teaching fits in the theoretical approaches described. However, I found that my teaching is also a blend of different approaches, but as Mehanna (2004) already pointed out that within elearning this is not only possible but beneficial.

I agree with my peers that this article is really interesting and good to read. Again I see a link with H809 where we had a whole block focused on learning theories and how to map them. In particular Conole’s (2004) paper was quite interesting and provides a good overview about existing perspectives and theories, as well as they could be applied in elearning and provides also a model to map elearning pedagogy. We also read Oliver et al. (2007) and he describes two dominant paradigms, the knowledge and the social perspective. Similar to Mayes and Freitas, are social sciences mainly divided into associative, cognitive and social constructivist and situated learning. However, reading Crook and Dymott (2005) I learned that learning is mediated, distributed and situated according the socio-cultural theory. Well, I have to admit that my knowledge about learning theories steadily accumulates, no wonder being almost on the end of my study journey with my MAODE (Master of Online and Distance Education).

Mayes and Freitas focus on the following perspectives and how they inform learning outcomes and finally how theory and practice can be mapped together.

associationist/empiricist perspective – learning as activity

  • knowledge is an organised accumulation of associations and skill components
  • learning task are arranged in sequences base on their relative complexity
  • assumption that smaller units need to be mastered as a prerequisite for more complex units. Learning in small and logically ordered steps
  • knowledge and skills needs to be taught from the bottom-up
  • individual learning – disconnected from the social
  • learning as strengthening of associations
  • learning as behaviour

Design implications

  • routines of organised activity
  • clear goals and feedback
  • individualised pathways and routines match to the individual’s prior performance

Assessment and what should be measured (ISD – instructional system design approach)

  • assessment of knowledge or skill components

Cognitive perspective – learning as achieving understanding

  • underlying theme of learning is to model the process of interpreting and constructing meaning
  • cognitive approaches to learning have emphasised the assumptions of constructivism that understanding is gained through an active process of creating hypotheses and building new forms of understanding through activity.
  • learners search for meaning through activity is central
  • conceptual development occurs through intellectual activity rather than the absorption of information
  • individual learning – disconnected from the social
  • learning as the construction of knowledge and meaning

Design implications:

  • interactive environments for construction of understanding
  • TLAs (Teaching and Learning activities) that encourage experimentation and the discovery of broad principles
  • support for reflection

Assessment and what should be measured (constructivist view)

  • assessment of broad conceptual understanding, extended performance
  • crediting varieties of excellence

situative perspective – learning as social practice

  • the learner will always be subjected to influences from the social and cultural setting in which the learning occurs – defines at least partly the learning outcomes
  • knowledge is distributed socially, it is situated in the practices of communities and outcomes of learning involve the abilities of individuals to participate in those practices successfully.
  • underlying both situated learning and constructivist perspectives is the assumption that learning must be personally meaningful
  • activity, motivation and learning are all related to a need for a positive sense of identity shaped by social forces
  • learning as social practice

Design implications

  • environment of participation in social practices of enquiry and learning
  • support for development of identities as capable and confident learners
  • dialogue that facilitates the development of learning relationships

Assessment and what should be measured (communities of practice) 

  • participation
  • authenticity of practice
  • peer assessment

Well, coming finally back to how these three perspectives fit into my teaching. I think we focus still too much on the assessment of knowledge or skills components and individual learning, thus the associationist perspective. However, the assumption that smaller units need to be mastered as a prerequisite for more complex units also applies to a certain degree. For some tasks, some basic knowledge is simply required to understand subsequent units. However, the simple absorption of information proofs itself as more and more worthless and the type of students I teach are bored with that approach and learning success is not high. On the other side do some of them still prefer to be spoon-fed. Not all of them like to explore new things on their own and creating new meaning and understanding, and do not want to reflect. Many of my students resist when asked to reflect on a task, but mainly because they were never asked to do so. Once they get used to it, some of them develop a pretty good competence in doing so. I think individual learning still has its justification, because individual assessment still dominates, although I give group marks as well, but it is as well a long process to teach them to work successful in a group, but again, once the experience the advantages they normally prefer this way of learning above the individual approach, although you need to be cautious that not only some group members work and the others trying to profit from it. Authenticity of practice is always important, especially in a vocational school (similar to a college) where we prepare the students for their future work life. It is always a good sign when students come back after their internships and report that what they could apply e.g. in the hospital what they learned in school. 

Hence, it looks my teaching approach is a mix of different learning perspectives.

Conole, G., Dyke, M., Oliver, M. and Seale, J. (2004) ‘Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design’, Computers & Education, vol. 43, nos. 1–2, pp. 17–33; also available online at (Accessed 2 December 2010).

Crosslink to blog post from 30 March 2011 about ‘H809 – Mapping pedagogy Conole et al. 2004 (A7.4)

Crosslink to blog post from 26 February 2011 about Oliver et al. 2007 – Knowledge and social perspective

Crosslink to blog post from 6 April 2011 about Crook and Dymott (2005) – Socio-cultural perspectives

Oliver, M., Roberts, G., Beetham, H., Ingraham, B. and Dyke, M. (2007) ‘Knowledge, society and perspectives on learning technology’ in Conole, G. and Oliver, M. (eds) Contemporary Perspectives on E-learning Research, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

From → H807

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: