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«Author(s) Csete, J; Lam, P CITE Seminar: What Makes Online Learning Good?: A Citation Conceptual Model Supported by Real Examples, Hong Kong, China, 17 ...»

Title e3Learning Tools: Showcasing and Test Driving

Author(s) Csete, J; Lam, P

CITE Seminar: What Makes Online Learning "Good"?: A

Citation Conceptual Model Supported by Real Examples, Hong Kong,

China, 17 February 2006

Issued Date 2006

URL http://hdl.handle.net/10722/43996

Rights Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License

Online learning strategies: Interaction examples that work

Josephine Csete, PhD

Senior Educational Development Officer, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Paul Lam, PhD Postdoctoral Fellow, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Yiu-Hing Wong, MSc Project Fellow, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Background A growing body of literature describes the potential benefits that eLearning can bring to learning and teaching. Hatzipanagos (2005), for example, talks about the use of the web as an important resourcebased learning (RBL) tool that promotes student-centred learning. Laurillard (2001) and Wenger (1998) talk about social learning through the building of ‘communities of practice’ using the web technology, making it possible for learners to learn through discussion and collaboration. Similarly, Preece (2000) suggests that the web has allowed learners to form into ‘online communities’ which enable interactions in an ‘anytime, anywhere’ format and support the autonomy of learners. Northover (2005) describes changes in the university student population to accommodate a growing number of mature students who have family and job commitments. Increased learning flexibility made possible by web-assisted teaching has growing importance for this changing population.

As the trend towards the growing importance of technology in teaching and learning is clear, the relevant question is not whether eLearning should be used, but rather how technology can most appropriately be used.

Simple and Enriched Interactions The present paper presents a perspective on this ‘how’ question by looking at web uses by the type of interaction they are able to enact. Swan (2003) explains interaction as the “reciprocal events involving at least two actors and/or objects and at least two actions in which the actors, objects, and events mutually influence each other” (p. 4), and that interaction is central to learning. eLearning is able to facilitate at least three main kinds of learning-enhancing interaction: interaction with content, with instructors, and with peers.

Figure 1 below illustrates how, using this model, a student can act on and get responses in the three areas.

Online quizzes, for example, involve learners through interacting with content. Forum discussions, used as a form of group-learning tool, involve interactions with classmates. Online assignment submissions are one way to use the web for assessments in which learners and the instructors interact.

The present paper suggests that these interactions can range from simple to highly enriched. Simple interactions are one-directional or with limited feedback and exchanges. Enriched interactions are twodirectional and negotiation of meanings is possible. Figure 1 shows the two types of interactions with thin single-directional arrows and bold two-directional arrows respectively.

With this in mind, an investigation was carried out to look at the interaction natures of the eLearning experiences supported by the e3Learning Project with the aim of identifying the ways enriched interactions can be achieved. e3Learning is a Hong Kong government funded "Teaching Development Grant"(TDG) project. It operates across three universities, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

–  –  –

Interaction with content Just-in-time information through online references • Better explanation of dynamic concepts through animation and simulation • Application of concepts through online cases • Improvement of procedural knowledge through videos • Consolidation of knowledge and skills through self-assessment with feedback • Learning through playing educational games • Increasing assessibility through mobile-learning • Interaction with instructors Clarification of ideas with teachers through chat-rooms and discussion forums • Extended discussion on news and controversial ideas • Answering students' questions about the course using forum & FAQ • Sharing expertise through video conferencing • Interaction with peers Building an online learning community • Peer learning through online group work • Challenging each other's ideas through peer commenting and discussion • Reflective learning through peer critiques and revision of assignments • Building a larger learning community through inter-cultural exchanges • Better understanding through synthesis and creation by doing multimedia projects •

Table 1: eLearning Strategies Arranged by Interaction Type

In the next section, selected strategies are presented for each of the three interaction types; i.e. content, instructors, and peers. For the full list and to view working examples / self-explanatory demonstrations, please refer to the site at http://e3learning.edc.polyu.edu.hk/Disted05.

–  –  –

Below are a few sample strategies that involve students interacting with content.

Consolidation of knowledge and skills through self-assessment with feedback: The example is an • online quiz which takes the form of a ‘slot machine’. The teacher requesting this learning object wanted to get students to test their knowledge of grammar in an interesting way. Students choose the answer and pull the handle for answer checking. The correct answer will be provided to the students and points will be awarded. Immediate feedback is provided from the computer to the students, taking interaction from single direction to a simpler form of enriched interaction.

Better explanation of dynamic concepts through animation and simulation: An example is found in a • virtual simulation for Optometry students. The teacher developed a web-based simulation to let the students practise objective refraction using a professional tool (retinoscope) in different scenarios.

Multiple attempts are allowed and results are emailed to students and teachers. A virtual machine has been developed to resemble the real machine as much as possible. Students learn through trial and error. The online programme behaves according to students’ input, and thus facilitates enriched interaction for the students.

Learning through playing educational games: Games are thought to be an effective way to engage • students in learning activities (James, et. al. 2003). The teacher of a course on molecular biology has developed a role-play game to let students act as a researcher to gather required materials like enzymes, substracts and DNA fragments by completing different learning-related tasks. The final mission is to handle a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) experiment. The teacher wants to develop students’ problem-solving skills related to the profession. The game facilitates interaction by responding to students’ actions, thus allowing two-way and very rich interactions.

Here are some strategies that involve students interacting with instructors.

Clarification of ideas with teachers through chat-rooms and discussion forums: A teacher of • radiography has made use of a chat-room activity to facilitate idea exchanges. The teacher lists out discussion topics and assigns the time to have an online tutorial. At the appointed time, the teacher facilitates discussion so that students are not passively sitting in front of the computers but have twoway idea exchanges with their instructor. Peer to peer communication is also possible using this strategy, but focus tends to remain on the teacher as expert.

Extended discussion on news and controversial ideas: A teacher set up an assignment which required • students to post and discuss the latest news as forum discussion topics in a business course. The teacher spends a great deal of time commenting on students’ postings. Students also show high involvement and participation in the conversation with the teacher as well as each other. Student growth in sensitivity to events happening around them is observed through this design which achieves rich interactions.

Sharing expertise through video conferencing: Group projects are completed by design school • students in HK and design students from schools in other countries. The final presentation is carried out using video conferencing in which students can simultaneously see and hear each other and the teachers and view the project work. Teachers from the schools in both countries gave feedback to students, providing an interaction-rich context for students to learn.

Lastly, here are some strategies that involve students interacting with their peers.

Building an online learning community: This is a 100% online programme teaching Pragmatics in • the English language. Students have to submit group assignments weekly. The discussion forum becomes an important channel of both instructor-to-student and student-to-student communication.

Though the teacher also participates, students are encouraged to discuss their assignments and weekly tutorials among each other.

Challenging each other's ideas through peer commenting and discussion: During this course in • Nursing, students are out in clinics and hospitals for placement. They are encouraged to share their working experience in a forum. This virtual community not only provides a chance for them to express their happiness and difficulties, but also provides a way to give comments and support to each other, ensuring rich interactions.

Reflective learning through peer critiques and revision of assignments: The teacher divides her • students in a Nursing course about Home Care into groups and defines a debate topic in the forum.

Pairs or small groups have to debate and feedback on alternate weeks. Each group has 3 chances to post on their debate topic. It takes 6 weeks to complete a debate, but the interactions observed are extremely rich.

Building a larger learning community through inter-cultural exchanges: By using the forum as the • common platform, Masters' degree students learning Design from Korea share and discuss "customer behaviour" with sub-degree students in Hong Kong. The context of this interaction-rich ‘Learning Community’ has moved from ‘local’ to ‘global’.


Web-based learning strategies can be classified according to the type of interaction they foster: with content, with instructors, or with peers. The paper highlights that interactions range from simple to very enriched. There are strategies that tend to generate the enriched type of interactions and the paper has exemplified the strategies with real cases. It is hoped that these strategies can guide future eLearning planning and practice, as it is reasonable to assume that for more effective learning to take place, eLearning experiences should be able to provide enriched interactions. For further exploration of these interaction types including a rubric for selecting appropriate strategies, please refer to another paper presented at this conference titled “Online learning strategies that work: real examples (with an emphasis on strategy planning)” by the same authors.


Hatzipanagos, S. (in press, 2005). Empathic interfaces and communication protocols: groupwork and dialogues in discussion forums. Paper presented in World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (ED-MEDIA) 27 June – 2 July, 2005, Montreal, Canada.

James, J., Beaton, B, Csete, J., & Vogel, D. (2003). Mobile educational games. In D. Lassner & C.

McNaught (eds), ED-MEDIA 2003, Proceedings of the 15th Annual World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, 23–28 June.

Norfolk Va: Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education.

Laurillard, D. (2001). Rethinking University Teaching: A Framework for the Effective Use of Educational Technology. London: Routledge Publishers.

Northover, M. (2005). An Investigation into the Complexity of some Pedagogical and Administrative Factors in the Implementation of an e-Learning System. Unpublished thesis for the degree of Master of Computing, Unitec New Zealand, 2005.

Preece, J. (2000). Online Communities: Designing Usability, Supporting Sociability. Chichester, Wiley.

Swan, K. (2003). Learning effectiveness: what the research tells us. In J. Boume & J.C. Moore (Eds) Elements of Quality Online Eduction, Volume 4. Clin and Babson Colleges: Sloan Center for Online Education.

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Biographical Sketches

Dr. Josephine Csete has a PhD. in Educational Systems Development and more than 15 years experience in designing, developing and implementing educational innovations as well as teaching others to do so.

She has been working at Hong Kong Polytechnic University since 1995 and is the Principal Project Supervisor of the e3Learning Project.

Address: Education Development Office Polytechnic University of Hong Kong Hunghom, Hong Kong SAR E-mail: etjcsete@inet.polyu.edu.hk Phone: (852) 2766 6317 Fax: (852) 2766 6301 Dr. Paul Lam is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Paul's current focus is on the design, development and evaluation of web-assisted teaching and learning.

Address: Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research The Chinese University of Hong Kong Shatin, Hong Kong SAR E-mail: paul.lam@cuhk.edu.hk Phone: (852) 3163 4055 Fax: (852) 2603 6804 Mr. Yiu-hing Wong has been working at Hong Kong Polytechnic University for 5 years in eLearning promotion and production. Yiu-Hing has solid experience in requirement analysis, educational technology application and workshop tutoring.

Address: Project Fellow Polytechnic University of Hong Kong Hunghom, Hong Kong SAR E-mail: oreric@polyu.edu.hk Phone: (852) 2766 6311 Fax: (852) 2766 6301

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