Strategic learners at a distance

Tony Greener, Susan Greener, Asher Rospigliosi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


This working paper explores the application of ideas about interaction and conversation at the root of online learning (Shale & Garrison 1990, Laurillard 2002, Sims 2003) to an undergraduate course delivered at distance but aiming to provide an online interactive learning experience. Su et al (2005) discuss the difficulties many teachers face when working with new technologies in trying to encourage interaction at a distance, where learning new software, and finding the time to innovate and persist with new ways of using the affordances of online environments for learning, take their toll in a busy schedule. As a result the opportunities for interaction may be few in reality, because the designed elements are replicated from face-to-face teaching experience and teachers are unsupported in their technology learning. The paper explores the experience of developing an online course for final year undergraduate learning, staffed by UK teachers and delivered to students in South Africa and United Arab Emirates (UAE). Two semesters are contrasted, where the design elements available in the first semester (web pages, hotlinks, online library facilities and asynchronous conferencing in addition to core texts) were supplemented on the basis of student feedback reporting lack of personalised response and detailed explanation. In the second semester, module leaders were asked to learn new software to develop video lectures (based on Powerpoint with visual and audio commentary), improved scheduling of synchronous livechat sessions and weekly summary webcasts, which could be downloaded or streamed as movies or audio podcasts. Interviews with the teachers concerned evaluate the move to a richer online design, particularly in relation to students’ choices about which elements to use. Increasing the video and webcast-mediated relationship between learner and teacher appeared to have the effect of reducing text-based contact in asynchronous forums. Was this moving away from the very essence of collaborative and interactive online learning back to a passive distance model?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 3rd International Conference on e-Learning
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
EventThe 3rd International Conference on e-Learning - Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 1 Jun 2008 → …


ConferenceThe 3rd International Conference on e-Learning
Period1/06/08 → …


  • Distance learning, learning approaches, VLE, learning design


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