Seven habits for highly effective e-learning

Stephen Hills, senior lecturer in the Guildhall School of Business and Law, on his research around online pedagogy.

Date: 23 July 2021

My research focuses on testing the effects of mode of delivery and associated capabilities on student self-mastery, satisfaction and experience on an International Sports Business course, but the results have a wider application.

The use of modern technology to automate existing teaching processes,  or to digitise traditional learning practices, represents ineffective learning and teaching. My study, presented at this year’s Student and Staff Research Conference, advocates for the reimagining of e-learning so that technology is innovatively leveraged to add value to existing pedagogy and principles of highly effective learning and teaching.

To carry out this study, I proposed and tested seven different habits for highly effective e-learning, the effects of which were evaluated using a quasi-experimental design whereby the seven habits were incorporated into the design of a distanced learning International Sports Business course, which was also delivered as a face-to-face course, serving as a comparison condition.

The seven habits were:

  1. Appealing to a broader range of learner interests by providing a range of topics that students can choose between.
  2. Leveraging the flexibility of online learning to accommodate different paces and schedules of learning by allowing students to access content when they want and not requiring them to wait for the next step. 
  3. Providing different ways of learning the same thing by providing a range of media and different modes of assessment.
  4. Leveraging the richness of technology to establish problem-based cased studies to facilitate active learning.
  5. Leveraging the virtual proximity and flexibility of technology to extend learning, interaction and collaboration beyond the classroom.
  6. Giving immediate feedback to the learner by using automated quizzes to check and enforce understanding.
  7. Leveraging the accessibility of technology to provide efficient access to learning resources by providing one-click access to learning materials.

The results of these habits did not surprise me, with all aspects of the online course scored highly by the students. There was a positive and significant difference with the face-to-face course for content self-mastery, learning pace self-mastery and learning process self-mastery, whereby the face-to-face course was unable to duplicate the technological capabilities.

However, the face-to-face capabilities were able to equally provide problem-based learning opportunities and a sense of community and exceed the distance learning course for content interest and timely and formative feedback.

The previous three semesters of pure e-Learning accentuated the gap between higher and lower performing students of London Met’s diverse student body. Higher performing students often performed even higher due to the additional capacity to learn provided by e-learning, whereas lower performing students often performed lower due to lower visibility of their learning activities.

Effective e-learning design should leverage the capabilities of technology, but there remain trade-offs between distance and face-to-face learning, such that blended learning can take advantage of the relative strengths of both modes of learning.