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.