Theories and Frameworks for Online Education: Seeking an Integrated Model
Concurrent Session 7
This presentation examines theoretical frameworks that focus on the pedagogical aspects of online education. A proposal for an integrated Multimodal Model for Online Education is provided based on pedagogical purpose. The model integrates the work of major theorists and attempts to address the question: Can we build a common integrated theory of online education?
In a provocative chapter of The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Terry Anderson (2011) examines whether a common theory for online education can be developed. While recognizing it is a difficult and perhaps fruitless task, he nonetheless examines possibilities and proposes his own theory which he admits is not complete. He approached this undertaking from a distance education perspective, having spent much of his career at Athabasca University, a major higher education distance education provider in Canada. While he acknowledged that many theorists and practitioners consider online learning as “a subset of learning in general” (Anderson, 2011, p. 46-47), he also stated:
“online learning as a subset of distance education has always been concerned with provision of access to educational experience that is, at least more flexible in time and in space as campus-based education (Anderson, 2011, p. 53).
These two perspectives (subset of learning in general and subset of distance education) complicates any attempt at building a common theory of online education. Blended learning models, for instance, do not easily fit into the distance education schema even though they are evolving as a prevalent component of traditional face-to-face and online education environments.
The purpose of this presentation is to examine theoretical frameworks relevant to the pedagogical aspects of online education. It starts with a consideration of learning theories and funnels down to their specific application to online education. The presentation concludes with a proposal for an integrated model for online education (see Figure 1) based on pedagogical purpose.
This presentation is based on an article published in the Online Learning Journal in September 2017 and was named the 4th most important article on online education published that year by the National Institute for Digital Learning.
Figure 1: Multimodal Model for Online Education