With online learning, pedagogy is still the key

No guarantees

With the advancement in authoring systems, the wide array of web content creation tools, and the variety of available Web 2.0 applications online lesson creation is within every teacher’s grasp. But just as the fact that a teacher is given the material and steps into the classroom does not guarantee learning will take place, the ability to create a lesson and post it online does not guarantee success. Several factors play a key role in e-learning and educators must understand how those factors relate to the lesson that is intended. In a meta-analysis that was conducted using over 650 empirical studies which compared distance learning that involved media with traditional learning, the findings concluded that achievement was more strongly correlated to pedagogy than it was to the media itself (Handley et al, 2008).

It’s the content AND presentation

The ability to post class notes, a presentation, or even an audio or video lecture online has existed for some time. But “there is a delicate balance between promoting technology tools and encouraging teaching and learning with technology” (Little & Page, 2009). Research has determined that several principles enhance online learning:

  • Learning and retention improve when the material is presented with words and pictures and not words alone (Clark and Mayer, 2008, p. 74).
  • Images are relevant to the instructional purpose, not decorative (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 74).
  • Relevant images and text should be presented near each other (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 95).
  • Use audio narration or text to explain on-screen graphics, but not both (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 130).

Understanding of these principles will help educators develop effective lessons, ones that take advantage of the multimodal approach through e-learning and may even be better for student learning . Handley et al (2008) state: “Students engaged in learning that incorporates multimodal designs, on average, outperform students who learn using traditional approaches with single modes” (p. 13).

Go where reluctant teachers are - at first

With a vast array of tools and applications available for educator use, it can be overwhelming and intimidating to go forward and online. Little and Page (2009) state: “Keeping faculty one step ahead of emerging technologies—and providing them with the support to manage what often feels like a rising tide of new tools and learning research—can indeed be difficult. Managing the widening gulf between early adopters and less technologically savvy faculty can be downright frustrating” (p. 16). The trick may be to approach resistant teachers with a language they can understand and relate to. Lee Lefever (2009) suggests: By taking technology out of the picture in the beginning and speaking in recognizable terms, you can prevent your audience from throwing up their hands and saying ‘I don't get technology!’ Instead, you're offering an invitation - an introduction to the subject that speaks in their language and lives in their world” (“Explainer Tip: Stop Talking About Technology”). Once they have a grasp of what it is and how it relates to what they already know, they may have the motivation to make it their own.


Handley, C., Wilson, A., Peterson, N., Brown, G., & Ptaszynski, J. (2008). Out of the classroom & into the boardroom. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/educause/docs/EducauseWhitepaper.pdf

Lefever, L. (2009, July 28). Explainer Tip: Stop Talking About Technology - Common Craft - Our Product is Explanation. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from http://www.commoncraft.com/explainer-tip-stop-talking-about-technology

Little, J., & Page, C. (2009). Charting the Course and Tapping the Community: The EDUCAUSE Top Teaching and Learning Challenges 2009 (EDUCAUSE Review) | EDUCAUSE. Retrieved July 29, 2009, from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume44/ChartingtheCourseandTappingthe/171775


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