An E-Learning Theoretical Framework

By Aparicio, Manuela; Bacao, Fernando et al. | Educational Technology & Society, January 2016 | Go to article overview

An E-Learning Theoretical Framework


Aparicio, Manuela, Bacao, Fernando, Oliveira, Tiago, Educational Technology & Society


Introduction

E-learning unites two main areas, learning and technology. Learning is a cognitive process for achieving knowledge, and technology is an enabler of the learning process, meaning that technology is used like any other tool in the education praxis, as is a pencil or a notebook, for example. Although this seems quite simplistic and logical, a pencil is more technologically transparent tool, and its use may therefore seem more natural to many. Furthermore, technology underpins other problematic situations because it includes various dimensions. E-learning systems aggregate various tools, such as writing technologies, communication technologies, visualization, and storage. For these reasons, researchers and scientists have sought to transform e-learning systems into technically transparent tool, like a pencil or notebook. The e-learning literature is vast and continues to grow steadily (Aparicio, Bacao, & Oliveira, 2014b). Investigating e-learning systems' adoption and usage reveals that continuous growth everywhere in the world, as well (OECD, 2012). The growth rate of on-line courses stands at 65% (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009), and some researchers suggest that at a governmental level, policies should be advocated enabling the e-learning usage (Kong et al., 2014).

As Hart (2009, p. 28) says "reviewing the work of others you will be able to identify the methodological assumptions and the research strategies." For these reasons, a holistic literature review is a valuable guide for researchers. However, no such overall view exists in the current literature. Consequently, the contribution of this article is threefold. First, we identify e-learning concepts ecosystem. Second, e-learning is examined from different angles; some studies are focused on how platforms operate to deliver information; others focus on the classes' pedagogical content development, others focus on the user interaction. This article presents a broad literature review. Finally, based on the literature review we present a theoretical framework on e-learning systems.

The paper is structured in six sections: the first presents a discussion of the e-learning concept; the second presents a literature review on e-learning related concepts; the third presents the trends of the concepts, based on a bibliometric study; the fourth summarizes various e-learning studies. Several dimensions of e-learning systems, such as stakeholders, pedagogical models, instructional strategies and learning technologies, make up the fifth section. In the last section, we present the main result of this literature review, a theoretical framework for e-learning.

E-Learning systems related concepts

E-Learning systems are an evolving concept, rooted in the concept of Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) (Zinn, 2000). The concept of CAI first appeared in 1955 as a means of teaching problem-solving (Zinn, 2000). Table 1 presents concepts related to e-learning. Computer assisted learning definitions have been studied in various ways. Some studies stress the technology while others have focused on communication (Mason & Rennie, 2006), as shown in Table 2. Our research reveals 23 concepts that belong to the use of computers in learning activities, used especially for learning purposes. The following table is arranged in ascending order according to the number of appearances of concepts in scholarly publications from 1960 to 2014. From Table 1 we see that e-learning concept was not the first term to be used in conceptualizing the use of computerized systems to enable or facilitate the learning process. In the 1960s, this concept focused on task accomplishment and thereafter focused more on the students. Mary Alice White coined the term "e-learning" in 1983, in a journal article entitled "Synthesis of Research on Electronic Learning." E-learning was defined as "learning via electronic sources, such as television, computer, videodisk, teletext, videotext. …

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