Some simple truths need to be kept in mind. Three seem most important:
1. Learning is always about relationships – the relationship between the learner and knowledge, learner and the instructor and between the learner and his or her peers. Memorable learning links to relationships. Online learning must be seen as being about enabling and strengthening relationships.
2. Learning is about commitment – learners and instructors as well as institutional leaders and academic administrators need to be committed to the task of learning and teaching. Online learning has to enable this commitment to be demonstrated. If we see online learning as a distribution platform or a way of reducing cost we are in danger of reducing commitment.
3. Learning outcomes stem from learner engagement – powerful learning occurs when students feel engaged with the work of learning. Online learning needs to be designed to enable this to occur. If its text and video connected to machine marked quizzes how can I become engaged? This is why instructional design is so important – online learning will be transformative when it truly is more engaging than any other form of learning.
As we learn our way to the next generation of our colleges and universities – one which embraces online learning – we need to bear in mind these core truths. If we lose sight of them, we lose sight of why we created these institutions in the first place.