McCombs and Vakili (2005) put out an extensive paper calling for a framework based on research-validated theories to create and design e-learning. They propose a framework, but one that is based on learner-centered psychological principles, and which is used to support the idea of nonlinear, complex learning. I had a hard time matching the two concepts: valid research theory and principles based on a science (instrumental rationality), with non-linear/complex/chaos events such as learning.
However, their attempt to build a framework for design of e-learning, research-based and validated, is a good call for the rest of the field to do the same.
They then offer a literature synthesis of various strategies to enhance online/web-based learning. They call for methods to ensure individualization, social construction, constructivism, personal choice and effective use of technology.
Reading through their suggestions I started to panic as a teacher and designer. The need to offer such an array of activities and tools was daunting. But they were right. There is a need to create learning that is cognitively stimulating and rich, and that motivates students, connects them with others, and looks to the cognitive, emotional and social development of the person. My question then becomes how to do this eloquently and without copious hours of development work?
They alluded to many available tools on the Web and otherwise that offer simulations, a chance to dialogue, ability to use other visual information besides text, helps organizes information, gives access to expertise, along with the need to offer safety, choice, co-teaching, learning supports, etc.
The activities and strategies they offered could easily be created with tools, but more important are initiated by values. I wonder if setting up a personal checklist along with resources or links to resources might be a helpful way for instructors to organize their thinking on how they want to teach (values), along with the learning tools to be implemented (resources), yet updated regularly based on readings and current studies (research-based strategies).
I recommend this article as a guide for creating dynamic and current modes of learning.