Exploring Two Teacher Education Online Learning Designs: A Classroom of One or Many?

Summer 2008

Source: Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Volume 40, Issue 4; Summer 2008, p. 475-496

Online learning is rapidly becoming a permanent feature of higher education. In a preponderance of instances, online learning is designed using conventional educational practices: lecture, grades, group discussion, and the like. Concerns with traditional pedagogy instantiated by course management systems raise questions about the quality of learner's online experiences. There is a need to reconsider the design of learning opportunities in light of emerging online delivery modes.

This study compared learner perceptions of two online courses-one using the more traditional approach capitalizing on the affordances of Blackboard and one using the Community of Practice Learning System (COPLS) one-on-one model (Norton, 2003).
This study aimed to capture students' perceptions, experiences, and preferences related to these two learning designs.


Thirty-one members of the Integrating Technology in Schools graduate cohort completed both online courses, offering the unique possibility of assessing the two designs from the perspective of the learner.

Research Questions

Researchers asked three questions:
(a) How would you describe the quality of your learning in each of these two designs?
(b) What were the positive aspects of each design?
and (c) What were the challenging aspects of each design?

Results revealed that both environments were perceived as providing a high quality learning experience. In addition, results point to the importance of self-regulation, the role of the instructor/facilitator/mentor, and the role of the group as factors influencing learners' perception of the quality of their learning experience, positive aspects of their learning experience, and challenges that influenced their learning experience.

Norton, P. (2003). COPLS*: An alternative to traditional online course management tools (*Patent Pending). Charlottesville, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Updated: Nov. 03, 2008