Online Learning and its Users

Online Learning and its Users

Lessons for Higher Education

1st Edition - April 25, 2016

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  • Author: Claire McAvinia
  • eBook ISBN: 9780081006337
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780081006269

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Online Learning and Its Users: Lessons for Higher Education re-examines the impact of learning technologies in higher education. The book focuses particularly on the introduction and mainstreaming of one of the most widely used, the virtual learning environment (VLE) or learning management system (LMS). The book presents an activity theoretic analysis of the VLE’s adoption, drawing on research into this process at a range of higher education institutions. Through analysis and discussion of the activities of managers, lecturers, and learners using the VLE, lessons are identified to inform future initiatives including the implementation of massive open online courses (MOOCs). A replicable research design is included and explained to support evaluation and analysis of the use of online learning in other settings. The book questions accepted views of the place of technologies in higher education, arguing that there has been a repeated cycle of hype and disappointment accompanying the development of online learning. While much research has documented this cycle, finding new strategies to break it has proved to be a more difficult challenge. Why has technology not made more impact? Are lecturers going to be left behind by their own students in the use of digital technologies? Why have we seen costly and time-consuming failures? This book argues that we can answer these questions by heeding the lessons from previous experiences with the VLE and early iterations of the MOOC. More importantly, we can begin to ask new and different questions for the future to ensure better outcomes for our institutions and ultimately our learners.

Key Features

  • Presents institution-wide analysis of the adoption of a key educational technology for higher education, validated across multiple sites, to support deeper understanding of the use of learning technologies in context
  • Describes Activity Theory and presents a replicable model to operationalise it for investigations of the use of online learning in higher education and other settings
  • Provides a unique perspective on the historical experience of VLE adoption and mainstreaming to identify important insights and essential lessons for the future


E-learning researchers and practitioners in further and higher education in the UK and Ireland

Table of Contents

    • Series Page
    • List of Figures
    • List of Tables
    • About the Author
    • Foreword
    • Acknowledgment
    • Introduction
      • Reasons for Writing
      • Aims and Scope
      • A Note on the Study
      • A Note on Terminology
      • An Overview of This Book
    • Chapter 1. Enter the VLE
      • 1.1. Introduction
      • 1.2. The Development of Online Learning in Higher Education
      • 1.3. Virtual Learning Environments
      • 1.4. How Has the Virtual Learning Environments Been Mainstreamed and Supported?
      • 1.5. Conclusion
    • Chapter 2. Challenges and Disappointments
      • 2.1. Introduction: The Virtual Learning Environment at the Crossroads
      • 2.2. The Literature of Disappointment
      • 2.3. A History of Disappointment
      • 2.4. Explanations and Proposed Solutions
      • 2.5. Critiquing Disappointment: The Case of the Virtual Learning Environment
      • 2.6. Conclusion
    • Chapter 3. Activity Theory
      • 3.1. Introduction
      • 3.2. What Is Activity Theory?
      • 3.3. Important Concepts in Activity Theory
      • 3.4. What Is the Relationship of Activity Theory to E-Learning?
      • 3.5. Operationalising and Applying Activity Theory
      • 3.6. Conclusions
    • Chapter 4. Lessons for e-Learning Management and Support
      • 4.1. Introduction
      • 4.2. The Adoption and Mainstreaming of the Virtual Learning Environment: The Activities of Managers
      • 4.3. The Adoption and Mainstreaming of the Virtual Learning Environment: Activities of Central Supporters
      • 4.4. Discussion: Learning from Contradictions
      • 4.5. Conclusion
    • Chapter 5. Lessons for Teaching in Higher Education
      • 5.1. Introduction
      • 5.2. Lecturers’ Use of the Virtual Learning Environment
      • 5.3. Discussion: An Unshared Object Between Lecturers and Central Supporters
      • 5.4. Conclusion
    • Chapter 6. Lessons From Our Learners
      • 6.1. Introduction
      • 6.2. Students’ Use of the Virtual Learning Environment
      • 6.3. Discussion: An Unshared Object Between Students and Lecturers
      • 6.4. Conclusions
    • Chapter 7. Learning to Break the Cycle
      • 7.1. Introduction: Revisiting Contradictions and Unshared Objects
      • 7.2. The Story of the Virtual Learning Environment
      • 7.3. Identifying Points for Development
      • 7.4. Recasting the Debate About Online Learning in Higher Education
      • 7.5. Conclusion
    • Chapter 8. Lessons for the Future – The VLE and the MOOC
      • 8.1. Introduction
      • 8.2. What Is the MOOC and What Is Its Significance?
      • 8.3. Does the MOOC Work?
      • 8.4. Modelling the MOOC
      • 8.5. Discussion
      • 8.6. What Can the Virtual Learning Environment Really Tell the MOOC?
      • 8.7. Conclusion
    • Chapter 9. Conclusions
      • 9.1. Introduction
      • 9.2. Five Lessons for Higher Education
      • 9.3. Why It Matters
      • 9.4. Conclusion
    • Index

Product details

  • No. of pages: 262
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Chandos Publishing 2016
  • Published: April 25, 2016
  • Imprint: Chandos Publishing
  • eBook ISBN: 9780081006337
  • Paperback ISBN: 9780081006269

About the Author

Claire McAvinia

Claire McAvinia is a Learning Development Officer at the Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre (LTTC) in Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Ireland. Her current role involves teaching on DIT’s Postgraduate Diploma in Third Level Learning and Teaching, MSc in Applied eLearning and MA in Higher Education, also contributing to CPD modules and academic development workshops, curriculum development, research, and supervision of Master’s and doctoral students. Claire has worked as an educational technologist and academic developer in Ireland and the UK since 1998, gaining extensive experience in the integration of new technologies in teaching and learning in a wide range of settings. She holds a BA in French and English from Trinity College Dublin, and MA in Applied Language Studies from the University of Kent. Claire has completed Postgraduate Certificates in education at University College London and the UK Open University, and was awarded her Doctor of Philosophy from Trinity College Dublin in 2011.

Affiliations and Expertise

Learning Development Officer,Learning, Teaching and Technology Centre (LTTC), Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT), Ireland

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