Tuesday, 5 August 2014

What does good online learning look like?

I, and many other people have been critical about MOOCs because they're not quite the innovative disruption that the media have made them out to be - just the same, decade old online learning.

But, what does good online learning & teaching look like?

The now classic models and frameworks have been about for years - Laurillard's Conversational framework and Salmon's 5 stage model for e-mentoring. They're very useful resources when developing and facilitating online courses, but...

What is the gold standard for taught, online courses?
What things do we need to consider?
What does such a course actually look like?

I've seen many people really promoting opportunities such as #phonar and #rhizo - I didn't really engage with those, but I wonder if those models could be suitable to implement for say, our completely online PG courses?


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  1. Hi Peter
    Salmon’s 5 stage model is an excellent tool for curriculum design and Laurillard’s Conversational Framework is comprehensive, though perhaps a little complicated in my view. Personally, I find the Community of Inquiry model to be the simplest conceptual model within which to consider e-learning, especially blended learning. Information on the Community of Inquiry can be found at
    but the best coverage is contained in Garrison’s book:
    Garrison, D.R., 2011. E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice. Taylor & Francis.

    The reason I like the model is that it is based primarily on the traditional ideals of higher education and promotes critical thinking, discourse, reflection and social interaction, whilst emphasising the essential role of the teacher. It applies equally well in F2F, online and blended environments.


    1. Thanks Tony,

      I haven't come across the Garrison book so I'll follow that up.

      So is good online learning driven by the conceptual framework behind its development? How does the conceptual framework translate into something tangible i.e. a course?
      The Laurillard model is apparently the inspiration behind the futurelearn MOOCs, but they're not great....

      I think the constant criticism of MOOCs over the past year or so (including by myself) has me wondering - if they are bad, what is good? What should we be trying to achieve?

  2. Hi Peter

    Personally, I think the focus on MOOCs can be a bit of a red herring. MOOCs will undoubtedly have a place, but in my view they won't have the impact that some were forecasting a couple of years ago. MOOCs might serve a variety of different roles, for example:
    - Providing a shop window for some of the top global universities to market themselves
    - Providing introductory courses which may encourage participants to take up paid-for courses subsequently.
    - Serving relatively small niche markets but helping to establish the provider as a leading player in the field. E.g. I did Gilly Salmon's Carpe Diem MOOC earlier this year, run by Swinburne in Melbourne, Australia

    I just don't see a sustainable business model for most ordinary universities in MOOCs and I think the emphasis on them can detract from the business of providing good quality online learning as part of our mainstream delivery.