Morgan, D (2009) Teaching and Learning has always been a highly social activity. Technology hasn’t changed this. Or has it? Paper to the Learning Technologies Conference 2009

This paper focuses on leadership, interaction and the design aspects of learning technologies and the e-learning process, reflecting on the importance of the learner being engaged and motivated in e-learning as well as the importance of collaborative learning.

Morgan establishes that technology is a tool to enable learning rather than delivering learning in itself and this reinforces the important role of the teacher in creating an interactive environment and “creating, facilitating and guiding” online learning. This student centred active learning approach is also seen as self-directed or autonomous learning and sees the learner as being responsible for their own learning, self-guided, making choices as to what to interact with and to what extent.

The foundation of this thinking is in constructivist learning, the concept that “learners have the ability to construct their understanding by drawing on their past and present experiences and reflecting on these.” In terms of e-learning this approach stresses the importance of the design of the e-learning activities in shaping learning. Key skills for the teacher in designing activities are planning, technological knowledge, understanding learning styles and providing opportunities to interact on a range of levels.

Just having access to information is a passive experience, the challenge is to make the experience an active one; activities that “require analysis, evaluation and application….to enhance learning…” (Lynch, 2002, p.12). This leads to an element of empowerment in the learning process leading to motivation and satisfaction, what would seem an implicit reference to wider motivation theory and the relationship between discretion and motivation and satisfaction.

The design of the e-learning activity should focus around three areas:

  1. Learning Tasks (including application of concepts);
  2. Learning Resources (support for, not the learning in itself); and
  3. Learning Support (guidance and encouragement)

In establishing collaborative learning, the teacher’s role is also important to “encourage active participation and reflection; foster a sense of community, and model ‘safe’ communication and ethical uses of the medium”. This would also involve skills to effectively mediate or police the community as well as facilitate relationships within the online community.