On this page we've combined various models on how e-learning can work and coupled them with our own thoughts and experiences to produce one, hopefully easy to follow, model.
The models we have combined come from the following papers:
Mayes states that in order to learn via technology, leaners must go through the following "Conceptualisation Cycle":
The purpose of this stage is to provide the learner with an awareness of what they need to learn and understand, this is most commonly achieved in face to face classroom or lecture based sessions but also takes place when the educator uploads resources, such as PowerPoint files or word handouts, to a web based learning environment (WBLE), such as Moodle or a class website, Mayes calls such online resources "Primary Courseware" and their purpose is to provide students with information which they need to understand and learn if they are to be successful on that particular course.
It should be noted that Primary courseware does not actually facilitate learning itself, it's used to provide support for what happens in the classroom and if this is the sole extent of a courses "e-learning" provision then it isn't really e-learning per se, as true learning cannot take place online by just uploading some Powerpoints and handouts for students to access in their own time.
Mason calls this the "Content + Support" model but we prefer to call this the "Bolt on" model.
This is most commonly seen when educators first start making use of a WBLE, whereby they will upload resources for students to access but this does not impact on the delivery of the module or the tutorial/lecture based support system that is offered.
If an educator does provide any "web based" resources (as opposed to uploaded powerpoints & handouts) then typically these will have been sourced from somewhere else, as opposed to being developed or customised by that educator to meet the specific needs of their students. In addition such online resources will be passive, like a link to another web page or an article for students to read, as opposed to providing students with an interactive experience and meaningful feedback based upon said interactions.
In the majority of cases it can be argued that any use of technology here has been "bolted on" to the existing course and is peripheral to the core student experience, neither enhancing their learning opportunities or providing any real logistical gains.
Sadly in our experience this is what most educators perceive e-learning to be, they dutifully upload passive power points, handouts and the occasional web link to an online learning space for students to access but then don't experience any pedagogical benefits for their students as they do not then engage with the next two steps of the cycle...
The purpose of the construction stage is to provide learners with meaningful online tasks that allow them to apply the concepts outlined to them in the conceptualisation stage, Mayes calls such online activities "Secondary Courseware" and these usually take the form of online self marking tests which then provide students with feedback based upon their responses or final score.
The introduction of Secondary courseware normally occurs when tutors have gained the confidence and competence with the technology to be in a position to either develop new online resources or modify existing ones to suit the needs of their learners on an ongoing and on-demand basis. Such content will be "wrapped around" existing or traditional content and typically students will spend half of their time engaged with each, Mason refers to this model of teaching the 50/50 or "Wrap Around" model.
In our experience it takes educators 12 to 24 months to reach this stage, having previously engaged with the "bolt on" approach as they become familiar with the technology and the possibilities it offers.
In comparison to the "bolt on" model, the student's have more freedom and responsibility in shaping their own learning experience as they are able to pick and choose which online activities they wish to interact with, and get feedback based on their interactions, whilst all still engaging with the "core" traditional resources which would typically be delivered in a face to face classroom environment.
This is the stage where learning actually takes place using technology & the benefits of doing so can be observed, both in terms of the student experience and in efficiency gains in running an online course, allowing students to interact with one another to gain a common understanding of the topic and thus taking some of the pressure away from the tutor.
This is achieved by students participating in effective computer based communication (CMC) with their teachers and fellow students whereby their understanding of the concepts outlined in stage 1 and applied in stage 2 can be assessed via online discourse which will bring to light any misconceptions about the subject and allow these to be addressed via meaningful online two way conversations.
This is typically only achievable when the educators running the course are at complete ease with the technology and are able to use it as naturally as they might a whiteboard and marker, Mason calls this the "integrated" model:
Here tutors possess the confidence and competence to use the technology to make the transition from be a sage to a mentor, guiding the students through the curriculum and supporting them to come together to form a Community of practice, engaging in social constructionism to interact with one another to develop a shared understanding of the learning outcomes of a particular course.
The student experience is defined by online collaborative activities, learning resources and joint assessments and mirrors the way in which the majority of people will operate once they enter the wider world of work. The vast majority of the course will be online and students will be able to pick and choose which resources they wish to engage with, as well as working with their peers to co-author new resources for the student group to make use of.
In many ways this could be considered as the "apex" of e-learning as we presently understand it and as such is only really possible once the educators leading the course have successfully integrated the use of technology into their learning cultures and are able to use it quickly, confidently and robustly.
Based on our experiences and from the research of others, in our humble opinion the bottom line is this.
If you want to use e-learning effectively you need to provide three things for your learners