Can eLearning Promote Higher-order Learning Without Tutor Overload?

Fox, Seamus and MacKeogh, Kay (2003) Can eLearning Promote Higher-order Learning Without Tutor Overload? Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 18 (2). pp. 121-134. ISSN 0268-0513


While numerous claims have been made for the pedagogical benefits of eLearning, these claims are rarely subjected to rigorous empirical evaluation. Moreover, there are indications that eLearning is more expensive to deliver than conventional distance teaching. One component of this extra cost arises from the greater time input required of teachers/tutors in eLearning environments. This article evaluates a number of online pedagogical techniques which offer the potential to enhance student learning of higher-order cognitive skills while limiting demands on tutor time. The online techniques tested were resources/debates and peer-tutoring. Evaluation of the learning of higher-order skills was carried out through analysis of students' contributions to a series of online discussions. This evaluation suggests that, given the appropriate pedagogical design, students can develop effective ways of conducting online discussions which display evidence of engaging in higher-order learning. In addition, the online pedagogical techniques did not appear to make excessive demands on tutor time. However, further work is required before a more definitive statement can be made about the potential of eLearning to enhance higher-order learning with reasonable levels of tutor input. The conclusions of the article will include an outline of the directions of this further work.

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