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MirandaNet Fellowship Casestudy

Membership List | Publications | Research | Specialist Area List | Braided Learning Ejournal

The quality of e-learning

Peter Calder

Year of posting: 2004



1. What do you understand the role of e-facilitator to be?

Listening to what people say
Be polite and tactful
Be confident
Respond proactively - Try and be one step ahead.
Keep to the point
Summarise points positively.
Feel positive about the outcome and do not take sides.
Avoid bias and do not make prejudgements.
Use humour and do not take yourself too seriously.
Humanise the online experience
Interact socially and professionally online with 'participants - especially those who are new to the online experience.
Keep the discussion going and make sure that all get heard.
Be concise and to the point.
Know when to stop.

2. Select one message, which you contributed to the online discussion. Explain your purpose in contributing this message and describe how it added to the discussion with reference to the uptake.

From E-learning discussions - May 2003 (Responding to) John C(uthell) As regards having a computer on the teachers desk - I do, but its mainly used for registration. I rarely get a chance to use it with the students- somehow 34 students crowding around a 17" screen seems to be a bit pointless. - I would love an interactive w/board or even a video projecter and it would be good to book a class into our computer suites but they've been taken over by ICT........

As regards efacilitation I tend to use discussion forums in my 2 subject areas of chemistry and psychology - these tend to be useful and directly impinge (and help me) on what I have to teach. I suppose to be honest I would hardly ever use the GTC forums for teacher professional issues - I just don't have the luxury of's just that I've so much to do that.....

This efacilitation course, however, has been useful because its made me think.. to be controversial I often wonder if we get swept up by the technology and lose track of what is important in the classroom. No doubt ICT is here to stay and no doubt it will change the way we teach / students learn but whether it is effective ????? and gives value for money ??? Thoughts of self fulfilling prophecies come to mind. Is there a danger that we become so heavily involved in the technology that we tend to lose sight of where we are going ? Anyway I sound like a Luddite so I will stop.

I felt that the whole discussion was getting very cosy and that everyone was agreeing with every one else. I felt that we needed to be more critical – the message was designed to get a further response but no-one took the bait.

3. Salmon's 5-stage model of online discussion progresses from stage 1-access, to stage 2-soacialisation, to stage 3-information exchange, to stage 4- knowledge construction, to stage 5 dissemination. Which stage did your group arrive at by the end of the course? How would you characterise this stage with reference to typical messages exchanged in your group.

In one discussion Session 5: 31 Mar - 14 Apr - Design Strategies there was a lot of discussion raised about learning styles – I felt that the majority of the group were interacting and that we were actually at Stage 4 in the process – knowledge construction.

4. What criteria would you use if you were asked to evaluate an online learning course?

Criteria I would use: Establish a clear set of objectives so everyone knows where they are going. There is a manageable endpoint clear to all participants. Have an efacilitator who is able to develop the flow, remain tactful and enthusiastic. Get participants to complete manageable, realizable set tasks on a weekly basis. These set tasks require greater elearning experiences as the course progresses. After every task summarise the main strengths, minimize the weaknesses so that a participatory feel good factor is established. Ensuring that course objectives are realized by all. Do a quantitative analysis of the discussions i.e thread length etc together with some kind of critical analysis of the learning process.

5. How does the experience of learning online differ from face-to-face (F2F)?

In many cases online learners learn how to learn in a technological environment which may be threatening and detract from the learning process. This does not generally happen with F2F interactions

Compared to most F2F learning environments, online learning requires students to be more focused and better time managers and to be able to work both independently and as group. I know this from bitter experience – it’s amazing how much time you waste flitting from place to place whilst on line!!!

On line learning compared to F2F instruction is more costly in terms of time, energy, and imagination as it does not allow for the nonverbal communication that adds so much to human interactions. There are no real clues to what will happen next.

One powerful advantage of on line learning technologies is that they support the use of cognitive-based theories of learning. These theories, which include constructivism, and the social development of knowledge, view learning as taking place when individuals interact purposefully with the environment and construct knowledge through these interactions

On line learning environments can be designed to be highly interactive; to require the completion of meaningful and authentic tasks; and to encourage reflection, collaboration, and multiple practice, all characteristics of constructivist learning theory. You also have the advantage of doing these tasks when you want to.

Aims of the research

The aim of this research is to investigate if the quality of e-learning determined by analysing the contributions of teachers whilst participating in the General Teaching Council discussion forums changes with time. This process will be done twice. The first time will be to carry out a survey of the teacher's forum discussions during the whole of March 2003 and compare this with discussions taking place during the whole of June 2003.

The expected outcomes.

With an increased awareness of the General Teaching Council discussion forums and the development of the E-facilitators scholarship I would expect that the quality of learning by teachers participating in these forums improves over time. Consequently I would expect that as more of scholarship participants use the discussion forums the quality of e-learning will increase. March 2003 was chosen to represent a month when the scholarship participation was low. I would expect that the scholarship participation in June would be a lot greater. Consequently I would expect their contributions to improve the quality of the learning process. As the user's experience with the discussion forums increases one would expect a steady increase in the number of messages per person coupled with an increase in heterogenity. However one disadvantage with this is that as the group becomes more secure and comfortable with each other the quality of discussion turns into a group think mentality, becoming closed and short of creativity.


content analysis, density, threaded discussion, Bloom's taxonomy, TAT analysis


Go to this link

Click here for my Professional Study (embedded linked version)

For my critique of this study, click here.

And for my assessement of what has been learned, click here.

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