E-Learning Theory and Practise by Caroline Haythornthwaite and Richard Andrews

E-learning. Theory and Practice


Caroline Haythornthwaite and Richard Andrew

This 2011 work, with a very simple but accurate title is aimed primarily at the education sector, but in our view contains several chapters that are of value to all those interested in e-learning, meaning- those in the corporate sector!


This work is thoroughly researched and referenced and has impressive clarity in addressing the new challenges e-learning faces. Chapter 12 discusses the requirement for research to move on from “about” e-learning to “for” e-learning – something we wholeheartedly agree with!


For the time pressed professional take a look firstly at Chapter 5 – “Participatory Cultures”. This chapter deals with the huge changes in how learning is taking place and the new skills educators and trainers need to deal with the issues facing learners and learning:

Evaluation skills

Firstly the authors highlight that learners are now “dipping into the web for short term needs” and the new challenge they face is how to evaluate these multiple sources? The authors put forward the requirement for “participatory Literacies” to ensure the learners skills in retrieving and evaluating materials are developed well enough to meet the challenge of ever more data becoming available.

Blurring of work – life boundaries

The second trend highlighted is the growing use of social networking tools, and “the blurring between the lines of engagement for personal fulfilment, social interaction and career advancement.”

The persistent conversation

The persistent nature of learning, presentations and conversations are no longer one offs – they now exist and persist. The increasingly conversational tone of the social – learning interactions is also highlighted. As I recently noted at a conference – The Cloud never forgets!

Permeability of learning environments

Something that is often called “second screen learning” means that learners will now use all manner of devices connected to the internet during moderated learning events, classroom or virtual classroom, and this brings about a whole new set of challenges and distractions!

The end of the “expert era”?

There is a fundamental change in where authority now lies in learning , and who cedes or assumes authority will be a major challenge, as participatory learning will allow everyone to contribute (on equal terms?)…..so will this mean the end of the expert’s role as a teacher to one of a guide? Sage on the stage to guide on the side! (P207)


Chapter 8 – e-learning ecologies, is a useful chapter looking at the works of Thomas Davenport and others on Information ecologies (indeed we here at Learning Light in our Learnscape approach draw heavily upon information ecologies and the work of Xavier Gilbert into learning organisations) and how this metaphor translates to learning, and e-learning in particular.

I noted that the ecology metaphor (Goodyear 1998) is designed “to turn attention to the relationship between learners and their environment and to address e-learning design with a view to the actual versus idealized view of what a learners work entails” – absolutely in our view! (page 144).

The ecology metaphor works well in allowing us to give understanding to the ever evolving situation e-learning finds itself in. “As a new niche in the education environment e-learning entities – programs, teachers, stakeholders – are experiencing, in Engestrom’s terms expansive learning and expansive transformation of collective and individual understanding.” P159.


Other chapters deal with inclusion issues and cultural issues – useful if you are considering a global e-learning programme.

Finally chapter 12 identifies that there is a still a huge requirement for more research into e-learning, and comments/forecasts and defines the future in one paragraph   “The contemporary rapid change in knowledge base, and the subsequent need for life- long learning in support of, and alongside work and career, spur the need for adult learning platforms that are manageable by the full time worker. E-learning has become that platform, taking evening classes and library use on –line, in the growing number of online courses, programs and support mechanisms. Such change further drives e-learning innovation as design and use of online learning environments, mobile learning , and online learning resources become integrated into what it means to teach and learn online and computer-mediated synchronous and asynchronous participation, with distributed others, becomes essential to what it means to be an e-learner”