Another report from the B.C. Educational Technology Users Workshop in Victoria, June 5-6.

My keynote on strategic thinking about e-learning argued strongly for a ‘revolutionary’ approach to the use of learning technologies, arguing that merely adding technology to classroom teaching added cost without discernible benefits.

The conference organisers arranged a debate at the end of the workshop on evolution or revolution for technology in post-secondary education. I was unable to stay for this, as I had to get to Ottawa, but the session was recorded and looked to be great fun. If you have 45 minutes to spare, you can follow the whole debate at:

My response to this was that the debate, as debates tend to do, raised some straw men. In particular, the debate seemed to come down to whether face-to-face teaching is better than fully online teaching, and by implication, it is fully online teaching that is the revolution. (Also that what mattered most was good pedagogy, but I don’t see this as a ‘separator’ between face-to-face and online teaching – both need good pedagogical approaches).

My argument is different. I believe that the real revolution comes in developing flexible forms of delivery that combine face-to-face with online teaching in different ways for different kinds of students and different topics. Revolution is needed in the way we organize and design teaching. We need to be able to design courses so that they accommodate to the variable needs of different kinds of students. This means getting away from the default model of classroom teaching, and thinking the only alternative is fully online or ‘distance’ teaching.

We need to design courses in such a way that students who want most of their learning in a classroom or on campus can get that, students who want some flexibility but are willing or able to come on campus for some time can get that, and those students who want everything online can get that. I believe it is possible now with technology to provide that flexibility within the same course with good design. But that would be a revolution, because it would be a paradigm shift from current models.


  1. Differentiated instruction. Definitely that is always the goal in K-12, at least where I’m from. No reason it should not apply to post-secondary as well.


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