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Ian Luxford

H817 Week 3 Activity 10 - eLearning Theory

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Nichols (2003) A Theory for eLearning

The author argues that distance learning survived for several years without a theoretical basis but benefitted from acquiring one (thinkers in this area included Moore & Kearsley, Lockwood, Holmberg, Peters, Rumble, Rowntree & Mason).  By the same token, eLearning needs a theoretical basis – without it, eLearning practice cannot grow and thrive in a healthy and structured way.

He offers 10 hypotheses:

1.     eLearning is a means of education – not a mode – itc an be applied within various different modes (e.g. distance/face-to-face) different philosophies (cognitive, constructivist, behavioural).

2.     It offers forms of education that are unique and that complement existing modes.

3.     eLearning tools should be selected on the basis of the way something needs to be taught – technology does not come first.

4.     Pedagogical innovation is the main driver for advances in eLearning.

5.     There are two major uses for eLearning – presenting content and facilitating learning and teaching.

6.     eLearning works best when the tools are used as part of a properly designed and integrated model.

7.     It is important to consider the trade-offs of online vs offline before implementing eLearning.

8.     eLearning practice works effectively when thought has been given to how learners will engage with the tools and techniques.

9.     eLearning as an approach is consistent with the overall aim of education – to develop learners.

10.  eLearning must be driven and sustained by its role in improving pedagogy – the drivers cannot be economic, cultural, political, institutional etc.

Building a strong theoretical base will allow for the kind of debates that will strengthen eLearning practice and enable theories, principles and pedagogies to be applied across institutions.

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Design Museum

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And ten years on what does Nichols say?
Design Museum

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I've just finished the MAODE ... I started the MAODL in 2001! Have I had a decade to reflect on what e-learning is? For a start we called it web-based learning and then online learning. And before that it was interactive learning on DVD, CD-Rom and even Philips Laser disc. I came to the OU to get the ground in education and interactivity that I felt I lacked. In retrospect I would have gone down two roots similtaneously - education, possibly teaching and then the technology. Calling it e-learning will soon be an irrelevance as it is all pervasive. It is a likely, if not a major component of how we will all learn from now on so long as their are smartphones in our pockets. As an OU MBA student called it, 'a university in my pocket'.

I'm on H809 rather than H817 so I hope you don't mind if I follow through your eyes. I did h807 in 2010 and it was long overdue replacement then. I'm interested to see what H817 throws up.

Alan Clarke

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Hi Ian

A theoretical foundation is essential and there is a substantial effort going on around the world to develop a comprehensive one. It often leads to debate and discussion. At the moment in the ALT (Association of Learning Technologists) there are posts about whether e-learning is the right name anymore? In recent MOOCs have been discussed so there is a healthy discussion going on but sometimes difficult to see the wood for the trees