Sunday, March 22, 2009

eLearning - is it andragogically sound?

I mentioned on our online chat last week, an article from Robert John Muirhead (2007) "E-learning: Is this Teaching at Students or Teaching with Students" (Sam originally referred me to this article).

The article argues that eLearning is mainly not student-based learning but is more of a pedagogical than an andragogical approach - limiting the learner's experience to that which is planned and set out by the teacher.

Muirhead quotes Knowles and Associates (1984) who says that the four concepts that separate androgogy from pedagogy are:

"(a) adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction;
(b) adult experiences provide the basis for learning activities;
(c) adults are most intersted in learning subjects that have immediate relavance to their job or pesonal life, and
(d) adult learning is problem-centred rather than context-oriented"

Muirhead says that the exception to this, is the discussion board, which lends more towards an androgogical approach.

How can we design our eLearning courses so that they are more pedagogically sound? Evaluation would play an important part in this. It is critical that a Needs Analysis is conducted to ensure that adults are involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction. This would include the learning styles of the learner, their prior knowledge and whether eLearning is the most appropriate medium for the course - to name a few.

With eLearning design, I think that extra effort has to be made by the teacher to be as flexible as possible in the delivery of the course. Obviously the content is prepared in advance, but whereas in a f2f classroom the teacher is easily able to adapt the session to the needs of the students at a moment's notice, this is not so easy in an online environment. This is where discussion boards and group work are invaluable and where critical thinking and creativity can be fostered.

What are your thoughts?


Knowles, M., and Associates. (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Muirhead, RJ. (2007). E-learning: Is this Teaching at Students or Teaching with Students? in Nursing Forum Volume 42, No. 4, October-December 2007.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Will have to read the resources. Thanks for sharing.