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An Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning

Learning Module


Online education is growing at a rapid pace, both in higher education and the compulsory years of school education. In this learning module, we operate with a broad definition of online education, including not only courses that are offered at-a-distance, but blended courses that include a mix of in-person and at-a-distance participation, and in-person courses that use online media. The underlying philosophy of the learning module is that, in the new online learning media, there is no fundamental difference in medium and pedagogical practice between in-person and at-a-distance delivery. Addressing these issues, the learning module has both a theoretical and a practical focus. Theoretically, participants will analyze the changing shape of ‘new media’, exploring their implications for teaching and learning. Key issues include multimodality, the dynamics of participation, ‘big data’, social diversity, and changing patterns in the flow of knowledge. In the practical part of the course, participants will design, peer review, and publish an online learning module in Scholar, or another a learning management system of their choice—for actual or hypothetical implementation.


This learning module melds theory and practice in an exploration of the dynamics of online learning. It consists of four theory updates, four practice updates, and a project. Participants will be asked to comment on each of the admin updates, make an update of their own on each topic, as well as comment on several other participants' updates. There also is one peer-reviewed project - to draft a learning module or course, peer review others' learning modules, and revise own learning module for publication and presentation to the other participants.

New users to Scholar should view the video and PDF tutorials to be fund in the Help area, in the top right of the screen.

In Theory 1: Participatory Media, Changing the Balance of Agency

For the Participant

This first theory update focuses on what is frequently called 'participatory media' - the traditional print encyclopedia versus Wikipedia, mass media versus social media, broadcast television versus YouTube, top 40 radio versus SoundCloud or Spotify, newspapers versus blogs. The effect is to create knowledge ecologies and cultural relations which are less hierarchical (experts speak while knowledge seekers listen) and more horizontal (peer-to-peer). The underlying change is a shift in the 'balance of agency' in the representation and communication of human meanings. Not all of the changes are good, or the structures of the new media necessarily compatible with democratic values ... To what extent have we in education kept up with these changes? Here is a paper where we discuss some of these ideas:

Cope and Kalantzis: New Media, New Learning

Comment: What has happened to media since the internet? What are the implications for education? Have we educators kept up with the changing times?

Make an Update: Take one area of media, or one example of a new media transition - from our recent past, or even a possible imminent transition. Describe the changes that are afoot. What are the media theorists saying about this? Name a theorist or theory and apply the theoretical concept they are advocating (e.g. 'peer-to-peer', 'crowdsourcing', 'participatory'). What does this mean for education? In this and your other updates, use new media to convey your message, making the most of Scholar's own new media capacities to include images (infographics and the like), documents, videos, embedded media etc.

Also, of direct relevance to those participants who work in online higher education, as professors we're going to include some video self-reflections on our own pedagogical practice. Hopefully, these will be of interest to participants at all levels of education.

Media embedded October 14, 2015


Media embedded October 14, 2015


For the Instructor

Project: Create a Learning Module

For the Participant

Now we are going to start to design a learning module or course in Scholar or a learning management system of your choice. We are going to draft, peer review, revise and share this work as a web publication. If you are using Scholar, you'll find 'how to' instructions in section 5 here. (You can always reach this area via the Help link in the top right of the Scholar screen.) You'll find higher education and school examples here.

If you are not developing this work in Scholar, we can still use it for peer review and publish the outcomes of your efforts. If your module or course is not behind a login wall, just include links. If it is, find a way to show us the work in Scholar, perhaps by saving as .doc or .pdf output that you can upload, or a recording a video walk-through that you embed in Scholar.

If you have any questions about how to use Scholar, ask them in the comment box below. It's likely someone in the group will know the answer and give you a quick response.

Comment: If you have any tips or questions about creating a learning module at any time, use the comments space here. This can become something like a frequently asked questions space for the group, and for sharing tech answers and design suggestions among the group.

How this update looked while I was writing it - see the way the two-sided format for learning modules is laid out in Scholar's Structure tool?


For the Instructor

The project we have connected to this learning module has default settings where creators and reviewers are anonymous to each other during the review process. However because, in the updates, we ask participants to discuss what they are doing in their learning module, anonymity may be hard to preserve. These feedback settings can be changed each time the project is implemented.

Learning Module Project Rubric


In Practice 1: Transforming 'Classroom Discourse'

For the Participant

Activity streams and threaded discussions are integral parts of new media—on Facebook and Twitter, and the comments on blogs and videos. How are these parallel to, and different from, traditional classroom discussions? An interesting counterpoint is Courtney Cazden's classic Classroom Discourse.

We've articulated our thoughts using Scholar as an example in our New Learning community. (And while you're there, please join this community!)

Comment: Online classroom discussions, just how different are they?

Make an Update: How are you planning to orchestrate 'classroom discourse' in the learning module that you are designing? As you read others' updates, please focus on offering constructive suggestions and advice.

Meanwhile, some more self-reflection from our experience of online teaching in higher education:

Media embedded October 15, 2015


For the Instructor

In Theory 2: Learner Diversity, Where Active Learning Gives Voice and Expresses Identity

For the Participant

Consider this question: do new media create a space for diversity, give voice to human differences, and cater to a wider range of cultures, dispositions, interests and kinds of people? And to the extent that they do, have we taken advantage of these affordances in learning? The following papers include discussion of the issues of learner diversity, new media and pedagogy:

Kalantzis and Cope: Learning and New Media


Cope and Kalantzis, Assessment and Pedagogy in the Era of Machine-Mediated Learning

Comment: What is new (and possibly not new) about the 21st century dynamics of diversity? How have new media contributed to this? What have been our responses in education?

Make an Update: Take one aspect of diversity (gender, social class, ethnicity, disability, affinity, culture, sexuality, age, etc.) and explore the ways in which new technologies or media have affected social dynamics and identities. And/or take one of these areas, and explore the way in which new technologies and media have influenced pedagogical practices that support diversity (or fail to support it).

Media embedded October 15, 2015


For the Instructor

In Practice 2: Designing Collaborative Projects

For the Participant

In education, there is a long tradition of collaborative and project-based learning. Do new media transform this tradition, or do they just make an old tradition more practicable? Here's a description of our own pedagogical aspirations, as expressed in Scholar:

Cope and Kalantzis, Towards a New Learning

Comment: What do you consider the potentials for peer-to-peer and project-based learning?

Make an Update: Find a theory or practice of collaborative or project based learning? Describe it. What are the lessons learned? What are the underlying principles? How are you going to translate these lessons and principles into practice in the project that you are going to create in your learning module?

Media embedded October 15, 2015


For the Instructor

In Theory 3: Multimodality, Changing the Means of Representation of Meaning

For the Participant

New media are multimodal, offering teachers and learners a wider range of tools for representation and communication. Here is some of our thinking about the nature and impact of multimodality on society and learning:

Kalantzis and Cope, Regimes of Literacy
Kalantzis and Cope, Literacies (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Comment: What's new (and perhaps not-so-new) about the representational and communicative potentials of new media? How have we exploited or failed to exploit these affordances in education?

Make an Update: Take one example of multimodal media and communications and explore its uses or potentials in education.

Media embedded October 15, 2015




For the Instructor

In Practice 3: Assessment Strategies

For the Participant

Historically, educational assessments have mostly been summative. Their orientation has been retrospective and judgmental. This is assessment of learning. Formative assessment, by contrast, is assessment for learning. It happens during the learning process and its frame of reference is prospective and constructive.

There are a number of canonical ways to collect evidence of learning. Many learning management systems - Scholar as well, not that it's really a learning management system - support the following modes of collection of data providing evidence-of-learning:

  • Participation in discussion
  • Rubric-based peer, admin and self-review
  • Surveys: Knowledge surveys (e.g. item-based and short answer tests) or information surveys (without right or wrong answers)
  • Big data engagement and natural language processing analyses

Here's a quick primer of assessment theory:

Kalantzis and Cope, New Learning, Cambridge University Press, 2012


Comment: To what extent do emerging educational technologies maintain or transform traditional assessment practices?

Make an Update: Take one traditional mode of assessment. Describe its processes and rules. How are these extended or changed in computer-mediated learning? How can traditionally summative modes and methods also be oriented to provide formative feedback for learners? How have you translated these ideas into practice in your learning module?

For the Instructor

In Theory 4: Big Data, Changing the Processes and Logics of Assessment

For the Participant

The phrase 'big data' evokes at times fear, at times utopian optimism. What does it mean and what are its implications for education? Here are our thoughts:

Sources of Evidence-of-Learning: Learning and Assessment in the Era of Big Data

Interpreting Evidence-of-Learning: Educational Research in the Era of Big Data 

Comment: Hype or danger? Game changer? What are your thoughts and about 'big data' and its impact on education.

Make an Update: Describe and analyze one aspect or instance of 'big data', in education or society (with implications for education).

Media embedded October 15, 2015


For the Instructor

In Practice 4: Reflection on Our Practices

For the Participant

By now, the learning modules you have created in this course will have been published. It's time to reflect on the process.

Make an Update: How have your thoughts about the theory of learning and assessment developed through this learning module? How have these thoughts influenced the writing of your own learning module? List some lessons learned for others moving into the space of online learning.

And here some remaining and concluding self-reflective thoughts from us:

Media embedded October 15, 2015


Media embedded October 15, 2015
Media embedded October 15, 2015


For the Instructor