A Guiding Framework:

A Guiding Framework (Author's Note: The Posting 'Where are We' should be read first.)

One framework that holds promise for thinking about how to morph the most effective F2F practices into the online learning environment and thereby facilitate effective online learning is advanced by Oliver (2001). The framework consists of three interconnecting elements:
1. Learning activities,
2. Learning support, and
3. Learning resources.
While Oliver (2001) suggests that these elements are critical for the online learning environment, most readers will recognise that they already exist in effective F2F environments and should therefore provide an easy scaffold for those seeking to learn how to set their sails.

1. Learning Activities

Central to the success of any learning activity is the degree to which students process and construct knowledge. Here, there are three useful dimensions to consider. The first is to design relevant and challenging assignments (Levin et al., 2001) which in turn facilitate learner control of the process of the learning experience (Oliver, 2001). Concomitantly, it must also be recognised that such exercise of control is directly proportionate to the learner’s perception of whether the assignment is worth doing.

The second dimension requires flexibility in both teaching and learning (Levin et al., 2001). There are many roads to Rome and effective online learning experiences ought to at least provide more than one method of presentation and allow for more than one way of learning.

The third and equally compelling dimension is the role of emotion in learning. Emotionally engaged learners learn more and retain information longer (Squire & Kandel, 1999). Obviously, consideration must be given to the ways that learning activities create and sustain emotional engagement.

2. Learning Support

Learning support refers to the process by which the teacher becomes active and supportive as the coach and facilitator, making use of scaffolding activities which involve peer cooperation and collaboration (Oliver, 2001). Support also requires teacher interaction in the form of adequate and timely feedback (Levin, et al., 2001) which:
· Moves online learning towards Laurillard’s (1998) conversational model,
· Provides an opportunity for the teacher to facilitate critical thinking strategies, and
· Gives the teacher an online voice and presence which can be more directed towards a guiding and mentoring role.

The use of the Group Learning Environments (GLE) (Gagnon, 2002) is also a crucial part of providing an effective online learning experience. The GLE allows the teacher to construct and coordinate the learning environments and learning activities, as well as provide rich environments for student-to student interaction (Levin et al., 2001). In turn, this enhances the development of the online community.

3. Learning Resources

Online materials and digital resources form an equally important part of the framework. Much online content currently reflects the traditional ‘sage on stage’ orientation and choosing and developing such content is seen by many teachers as the most important task to successfully create their online learning environment (Oliver, 2001). Expository content nonetheless, has a place in the online environment and should not be ignored nor denigrated. However, for those who are predisposed to a ‘guide on the side’ role, content in the online environment may eventually be regarded as but one of many resources available to the learner.

In the final analysis, the most effective online learning experiences will be those that build upon an easily understood framework, utilise research supported dimensions of effective online learning and reflect the skilled morphing of existing and successful F2F practices to the online learning environment.


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Gagnon, P. (2003). ‘Collaborative Learning Online: Setting the Stage’. CDTLink. Newsletter of the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning. National University of Singapore. Vol. 7, No. 3. pp. 17 & 19. http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/link/nov2003/learn4.htm. (Last accessed: 25 February 2004).

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Levin, S.; Waddoups, G.; Levin, J. & Buell, J. (2001). ‘Highly Interactive and Effective Online Learning Environments for Teacher Professional Development’. International Journal of Educational Technology. Vol. 2, No. 2. http://www.ao.uiuc.edu/ijet/v2n2/slevin/index.html. (Last accessed: 25 February 2004).

Martinez, M. & Bunderson, C.V. (2000). ‘Building Interactive World Wide Web (Web) Learning Environments to Match and Support Individual Learning Differences’. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, Vol. 11, No. 2. pp.163–195.

Oliver, R. (2001). Developing e-learning environments that support knowledge construction in higher education. In Stoney, S. & Burn, J. (Eds). Working for Excellence in the e-conomy. Churchlands: Australia, We-B Centre. pp. 407–416.

Reeves, T.C. (1993). Pseudoscience in computer-based instruction: The case of learner control research. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, 20(2), 39-46.

Squire, L.R. & Kandel E.R. (1999). Memory: From Mind to Molecules. New York: Scientific American Library.

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