Perceptions of E-learning in Secondary Education

| August 9, 2010

Journell, W. (2010). Perceptions of e-learning in secondary education: a viable alternative to classroom instruction or a way to bypass engaged learning? Educational Media International, 47(1), 69-81.

Article Review

This study was part of a larger study on secondary students’ asynchronous discussion in the subject of history conducted by Journal (2008). In order to address the questions of how secondary students and teachers perceive online learning, Journell (2010) conducted a qualitative case study of a secondary e-learning history course in Southwestern Virginia. The 13 students who took the course represented the focus of Journell’s case. The data of the study includes 1) teacher interview (at the beginning of the course), 2) email correspendences with teacher and students, 3) individual students’ interviews (in the middle of the course), and 4) students’ discussion threads, investigating their general perceptions of e-learning. Open coding was applied to analyze the data.

Journell’s finding projects a passive image of e-learning perceived by the teacher. First, the teacher viewed e-learning as primarily a medium for transmitting content–“one that paled in comparision to classroom instruction and did not provide the necessary social and emotional aspects” (p. 74). The teacher also asserted that online instruction is involved with more rote memorization and repetition than the usual classroom instruction. In addition, the teacher held a skeptical view about the interaction and engagement of online students.

However, students’ perceptions towards e-learning varied. While the majority of students thought e-learning provides a quicker and faster approach to learning, which is not as rigorous as traditional courses, a small number of students began to admit that they thought e-learning class is harder than the regular class and a lack of self motivation became the main reason for students who struggled with the course. The commonality is that students, like their teacher, thought e-learning is a medium which is not conductive to social learning.

Secondary e-learning is still in its infancy, as stated by the author. The teaching ethos of the teacher in the e-learning course was limited by the medium–the technical use of the online environment as a content transmission tool, instead of the potential new ways of interaction and engagement an online environment could offer. The study shows a gap in the quality of distance learning between higher education and secondary education, which implies inadequate teacher education for secondary teachers in distance learning and the use of web 2.0 tools.

EdLab Connections

This qualitative study contributes to the consideration of a new direction of professional development for secondary teachers. For future Edlab projects, it may inspire us to develop future library workshops on web 2.0 educational tools. The workshops can offer teachers hands-on experiences as well as new ways of thinking about technologies for teaching. The study may also inspire us to consider future projects for EdLab research, for example, the perceptions of Edlab staff on informal learning via blogging, on a new technological tool, or on reading an e-book.