» Education » E-learning pedagogy–fact or fiction?

E-learning pedagogy–fact or fiction?

Homework on the beach

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about pedagogy, and in particular the idea of an online or e-learning pedagogy. Teachers I work with all want PD in e-learning pedagogy.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Of course. But what is it? What does everyone mean by e-learning pedagogy or online pedagogy?

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about what pedagogy is, because I don’t think a lot of people really understand it. Actually, at the time, I’m not sure I really understood it. It is often bandied around as the thing we have to do and consider, but sometimes I wonder if it’s an excuse – particularly when it comes to e-learning and giving it a go. Although in that post I mentioned that pedagogy is about teaching children, I don’t think it necessarily matters now that we use this term often in talking about teaching adults.

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching.

So what is e-learning or online pedagogy then? Is it simply the art and science of teaching online or the art and science of teaching with technology?

Do we need to consider Pedagogy 2.0 which focuses on the 3 Ps – personalisation, productivity and participation?

Or maybe the newer idea of Peeragogy is what we should be looking at. The video below is about peeragogy.


The issue I have is that I don’t think this is what any of the teachers are looking for when they ask for PD in e-learning pedagogy. I think what they’re really asking for is guidance in instructional design and also best practice for teaching and learning online. Yes, pedagogy is a part of best practice, for sure, but I feel that it’s not all of it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since going through teacher training, is that pedagogy is not something that is taught. You cannot run a PD session on pedagogy. You learn it on the job. You experience it. It’s an art and science that in some ones is particular to individuals. Yes there is some theory surrounding it (the science), but then there is no one way to teach correctly (the art). I have learnt so much about teaching and learning through experience. Through trial and error. Through failure and success – sometimes more failure than success!

The other thing I’ve learnt about teaching online is that apart from the platform/medium being used, what we do is similar to face-to-face. No, I’m not saying we can sit there and lecture our students, but is this best practice face-to-face? We want to see interaction amongst students and with their teacher and the content. We want to see group work – collaboration. Innovation. Student-centered learning.

A lot of the best practice in online teaching is the same best practice in face-to-face, classroom teaching. The difference is in how it is delivered, and much of that comes down to instructional design.

What do you think? Is there really an online or e-learning pedagogy? Do we need to totally change the way we teach? I’m sure some do, but perhaps some need to anyway.

Is the request for e-learning pedagogy an excuse to not give e-learning/blended learning a go? It shouldn’t be. Most, if not all of us, would have developed our art of teaching by jumping in, trying it out, learning from our mistakes and adapting what we do accordingly.


Image: Flickr- Ingo Bernhardt CC-BY-2.0

4 thoughts on “E-learning pedagogy–fact or fiction?

  1. I agree that so often e-learning PD is confused with learning design or simply using how to use the tools. Thing is you can have the ‘whizziest-bang’ looking environment and still no-one will come and in reverse you can have a clunky old system that provides an engaging and vibrant community for a group of learners. As you referred to in your post reflection is critical and failures often hold the key for those ‘light bulb’ moments where we see with clarity and can act to move our communities (whether they are online or face to face) onwards and upwards. Reflection, reflection, reflection!! It does help to have awesome colleagues to bounce ideas around with too!

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