E-Learning and Action Research as Transformative Practice

Oct. 22, 2008

Source: Innovate (2008) 5 (1)

(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

Recent Internet developments and advances in networking have encouraged students' collaboration with other students and instructors, increased students' access to experts, and provided an array of learning resources.
However, the potential of technology to transform the teaching and learning environment is still far from being realized in institutions of higher education.
The e-learning program within the Masters Degree (MSc) Program in Education and Training Management in the School of Education Studies at Dublin City University (DCU) is attempting to realize that potential by integrating technology with active learning activities in an online learning community.

Participants in the e-learning program are themselves practicing educators, experienced in handling teaching and learning problems.

The Web of Betweenness
The e-learning program is grounded in a philosophy of learning that embraces what Irish theologian and philosopher John O'Donohue has termed a "web of betweenness" (O'Donohue 2003, 132-133).

The exploitation of information technology's potential in the classroom can also give substance to Lick's (2006) concept of an authentic learning.
My commitment to a web of betweenness reflects my belief that learning is a social, interactive process involving members of a community of sharing participants who can develop new understandings through dialogue. The concept of the authentic learning team reflects a similar belief in the power of collaboration and dialogue in learning.

Action Research

In addition to its commitment to engaging a web of betweenness, the MSc program at DCU is underpinned by an action-research approach. 
Action research is about improving education and, at the same time, contributing to knowledge.

Through two linked twelve-week modules, first-year participants in the program are guided to inquire about their pedagogical practice, create Web-based artifacts that relate to that practice, reflect on this process, and articulate their own tacit knowledge about practice.
Online dialogues help students to reflect on and formulate strategies for improving pedagogical practice.
Using examples drawn from a cohort of students working their way through the Emerging Pedagogies module, I demonstrate how information and communication technologies, and online discussions in particular, can be used to help students recognize and examine the values that underlie their teaching and learning, thereby enhancing their personal knowledge base for professional practice.

Lick, D. W. 2006. A new perspective on organizational learning: Creating learning teams. Evaluation and Program Planning 29:88–96.
O'Donohue, J. 2003. Divine beauty: The invisible embrace. London: Transworld Publishers.

Updated: Oct. 26, 2008