Whilst much of the focus over recent months has been on “teaching on-line”, perhaps it is now time to redirect some of this emphasis and consider learning more broadly, in the same way learning occurs in life – through self-direction.

This shift would require a pedagogical rethink, assuming pedagogy has been driving decisions around the use of lecture-based learning’s reproduction ad nauseam in online learning, rather than convenience.

Weimer’s (2002) ageless Learner Centred Teaching (LCT) framework argues that student motivation is heightened when students have greater control of their learning; when students are empowered to make choices about their learning. Such decisions may influence when they learn, how they learn, where they learn, with whom they learn and also, in some instances, what they learn.

Quality on-line learning design shifts the focus from direct instruction to learning affordances and self-direction, enhanced through technology and aided by careful design of the learning environment. This means that learning can occur effortlessly with – and also without – the presence of the teacher.

Well designed on-line learning should incorporate “chunked” learning material that incorporates text, audio, graphics, animation, video and interactive-based practice learning, as well as synchronous and asynchronous discussion opportunities. There should also be plenty of opportunities for students to check their understanding of subject matter.

Students should not need to wait around for a teacher to show up (physically or virtually) for learning to occur.

Though it is not mentioned often, in most instances, the cost of a subject to the student is the same regardless of mode (on-line or on-campus). Learning on-line needs to be so much more than the “poor cousin” or crude replication of the face-to-face experience. It can’t continue to be the square pedagogical peg forced into the round pedagogical hole.

Conceivably COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for leverage; a juncture to position online learning appropriately and pedagogically to enable a self-directed learning approach.

Associate Professor Jay Cohen, Director of Online Learning and Teaching at Charles Sturt University

[email protected]


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education