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Online learning: Are we asking the right questions?

Without warning, and almost overnight, the higher education sector has embarked on a whole-scale experiment in online learning. There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for both students and teaching staff, but what can the academic literature tell us about online learning?

Please click here to visit this blog which was kindly contributed by Rachel Ambler, an independent researcher, Gervas Huxley, Teaching Fellow at the University of Bristol, and Mike Peacey, Senior Lecturer at the New College of the Humanities.

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In this review of the literature, we define online learning as ‘a learner’s interaction with content and/or people via the Internet for the purpose of learning’. For example, students interact by watching a pre-recorded lecture online (interaction with content) or participating in an online discussion group (interaction with people). An important distinction that the literature makes is between synchronous and asynchronous learning – whether student and teacher are online at the same time. A Zoom meeting is ‘synchronous’ whereas an instructor-moderated Facebook discussion is ‘asynchronous’.

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