What is Online Learning?


Online learning is not new. What has made the topic new is the recent and unprecedented focus on providing learning via the Internet that has been stimulated by the tremendous interest in massive open online courses (MOOCs). What is new in this space is that online learning has “come of age;” the design of online learning is (more and more) specifically intended to encompass the latest research, the most promising developments, and new emerging business models in the online learning environment. At many institutions, online learning is an area newly ripe for experimentation — some would argue it is undergoing a sea change, with every dimension of the process open for reconceptualization. On campuses around the globe, virtually every aspect of how students connect with institutions and each other to learn online is being reworked, rethought, and redone — but it will be some time yet before ideas coalesce enough to be validated by research and implemented broadly.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).
Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Feb 7, 2012

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • While the concept of 'online' is not new, how students are accessing online via their mobile devices is new (in recent years). The requirement to make online content mobile compatible can not be underestimated.- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • Remote access to content by students is now a key driver of new modules - how will the curriculum/course content be created to meet the students' needs - what sections could be put 'online' - will a module be delivered purely online or with some sort of blend? - Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • For those providing programmes to 'off-campus' students online learning encompasses all, or the vast majority, of the learning in which students engage, and the technology that facilitates online learning is the essential infrastructure without which such learning cannot occur. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015
  • Online learning is now the norm for HE and its development is high priority. It is relevant to all forms of provision: on-campus, distance learners, transnational education, and non-award bering provision such as CPD.- b.murphy1 b.murphy1 Feb 14, 2015
    • Online extends reach to those who cannot attend on campus. We have adult learners participating in undergrad and post grad programmes who because of geographical barriers could not attend the physical campus, so accessibility is key for our students.- anne.walsh anne.walsh
  • - Larry.McNutt Larry.McNutt Feb 15, 2015It is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago! - the criteria for a Technological University envisage up to 30% part-time learners and academic programmes offered using a variety of delivery modes.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Connectivity issues that persist in rural Ireland- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • While the wish is to have open access for all learners and the ability to use the available technology to equal effect, there still exists issues with cross platform & cross browser consistency/compatibility/connectivity- roisin.donnelly roisin.donnelly Feb 14, 2015

  • Key to effective delivery of online learning is presence of teacher technical skills or support- roisin.donnelly roisin.donnelly Feb 14, 2015
  • Improving the overall level of digital literacy among the population at large is useful, so that the shortcomings in technology and errors encountered will not negatively and immediately turn the student away from using it- roisin.donnelly roisin.donnelly Feb 14, 2015
  • There is a danger that as campus-based programme teams start to 'move online' with content, modules or programmes they will not learn from the experience of existing online course providers in relation to best practice, different teaching and learning models etc., but will seek to replicate a campus-based teaching and learning model in an online environment, which may not produce the best outcomes for students. This danger is exacerbated by the fact there is no mandatory third level teaching and learning training in Ireland. In that context asking academic staff to engage in teaching and learning activities in an online environment, create effective online teaching tools etc., may be skipping a step (http://www.teachingandlearning.ie/priority-themes/benchmarking-professional-development). There is also the issue of whether such teaching and learning training/CPD would be sufficiently recognised in terms of academic staff workload, career progression etc. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015. I agree. There is a tendency to try and replicate online what is done in the classroom or lecture hall, a practice that can often be far from optimal. VLEs in HEIs are often no more than an electronic filing cabinet, with perhaps a few forums added, or quizzes... CPD not only needs to be recognised and fully integrated in the workload of academics, but it also needs to be thought out carefully. Many courses on offer are still focusing on the technologies without fostering a critical reflection on the changing roles of teachers and learners, and without providing academics with a solid foundation in emerging learning theories that is in my view essential to create good learning designs. - francoise.blin francoise.blin Feb 14, 2015 Agree there is a range of pedagogical approaches that must be utilised to effectively design learning online. - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015 Perhaps the starting point of CPD should be to promote student-centred teaching and learning practices, irrespective of the delivery mode. Digital/online tools may then offer increased possibilities to make this student-centred approach more flexible, efficient and hopefully more effective. - Gerry.Gallagher Gerry.Gallagher Feb 15, 2015
  • There is overlap between this technology and some of the others: social networks; collaborative environments; mobile learning; and telepresence. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015
  • There is a challenge in uplifting legacy content to modern media and in the use of instructional design. Most, if not all, content will be online or have some form of online support in future. - b.murphy1 b.murphy1 Feb 14, 2015
  • Time is needed for allocation to all instructors/trainers/teachers to develop elearning content for students; There is great potential for further CPD for all instructors/trainers/teachers to assist in the development and delivery of elearning content; Time is needed for teachers/instructors to prepare and for the preparation element to be recognised as part of the process; it would be useful for third level institutes to host think-ins for their staff to share new ideas about the use of online technology- roisin.donnelly roisin.donnelly Feb 14, 2015 Agree. The issue of the time to develop resources and recognition for this effort is one which must be addressed if we hope to encourage more teachers to engage in online delivery. Also, a shift in thinking is required from an administrative point of view as our system is based on a face-to-face model (e.g. timetabling, contact hours). - Gerry.Gallagher Gerry.Gallagher Feb 15, 2015
  • I agree with the above comments. Lecturer/ tutor digital skills must be updated. Online is not uploading a PDF document. The recognition that online does not mean less time for the lecturer, nor does online mean decreased costs; online requires significant time investment during preparation and moderating. Also for students, connectivity is essential, nothing as frustrating as waiting and waiting and...for something to download. - anne.walsh anne.walsh
  • - Larry.McNutt Larry.McNutt Feb 15, 2015An analysis of the inability of current higher education structures,policies and procedures to embrace online learning.
  • I agree with Larry above, HE structures and policies are still geared towards classroom/lecture/full-time students- anne.walsh anne.walsh I strongly agree - ken.brown ken.brown Feb 17, 2015 Agree- Gerry.Gallagher Gerry.Gallagher Feb 22, 2015



(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on third-level education in Ireland?

  • Putting content 'online' is new for many lecturers and they need to understand elements of copyright, intellectual property and instructional design - before they come to the elearning team- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015 Agree with Alison - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015 Totally agree - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015
  • The potential impact for students as 'consumers' of online content is the key driver for 3rd level in this area. If an adult learner is trying to complete a post-graduate course part-time, they do not want to travel for a F2F course - they want to learn 'online' at their own pace/time - and will go to a course/provider that offers this.- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015 Agree with Alison - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015
  • Any improvement to the technology(ies) behind online learning will make it easier to support 'off-campus' students achieve their educational goals. It will also make it easier for campus-based programmes to be improved by having an effective online learning element, or to move to being a blended programme by moving a substantial portion of the programme into an online environment. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015
  • There is a danger that online learning could have a negative impact on third-level education in Ireland if its implementation is not knowledge-based, with academics sufficiently supported with training, resources etc. by their institution. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015
  • There will be a systenatic shift in the use of digital learning environments from the simplicity of information repositorties and machine testing to the practical use of tools for educational transactions (assessment and feedback), to the sophisticated use of synchronous and asynchronous tools for collaborative interaction, and finally to rich bespoke developments for premuim provision.- b.murphy1 b.murphy1 Feb 14, 2015
  • - Larry.McNutt Larry.McNutt Feb 15, 2015The potential impact could be transformative - provided we embrace an alternative model of curriculum design, delivery and assessment. Going on past experience that is unlikely to happen - and we will continue to experiment i.e tinker around the edges. The field of educational technology must mature into a recognised profession that is not defined by technology - but as designers of learning environments and experiences to address the needs of the diversity of all our learners.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Most of our Masters and PG Diploma courses are now offered either online or blended - to address the needs of the part-time students - eg. Masters Early Childhood Education, Masters Intercultural Education, and Post Graduate Masters in Education.- Alison.Egan Alison.Egan Feb 12, 2015
  • Our MSc Applied eLearning for both academic staff and eLearning trainers/consultants is a blended two year part-time programme to allow flexibility for participants wishing to balance study with their busy work practices.- roisin.donnelly roisin.donnelly Feb 14, 2015
  • We offer our MA as an online programme, with the option of attending workshops. Interestingly, most students opt to attend the workshops; the social aspect of learning is valued by students - anne.walsh anne.walsh
  • - Larry.McNutt Larry.McNutt Feb 15, 2015There are a myriad of projects - from "pilot projects " to innovative mainstream offerings.
    At ITB - programmes include horticulture, mechatronics, data mining and IT. - http://www.itb.ie/CourseFinder/pt.html

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon Project sharing form.