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Qualitative insights from a Canadian multiinstitutional research study: in search of meaningful e-learning

Faculty Advisor




e-learning, human connection, design, support

Abstract (summary)

This paper reports the qualitative findings of a mixed methods research study conducted at three Canadian post-secondary institutions. Called the Meaningful E-learning or MEL project, the study was an exploration of the teaching and learning experiences of faculty and students as well as their perceptions of the benefits and challenges of e-learning. Importantly, e-learning was conceptualized as the integration of pedagogy, instructional technology, and the Internet into teaching and learning environments. Based on this definition, participants reflected on e-learning in relation to one or more of the following contexts: face-to-face (f2f) classrooms in which instructional technologies (e.g. learning management systems, video and webconferencing, mobile devices, etc.) are used; blended or web-enhanced learning environments; and fully online learning environments. Data collected for the study included survey data (n=1377 for students, n=187 for faculty); narrative comments (n=269 for students, n=74 for faculty); and focus groups (n=16 for students, n=33 for faculty). The latter two sets of data comprise the basis of this paper. Four major themes emerged based on the responses of students and faculty. Represented by the acronym HIDI, the themes include human connection (H), IT support (I), design (D), and institutional infrastructure (I). These themes and sub-themes are presented in the paper as well as recommendations for educators and administrators who aspire to make e-learning a pedagogically meaningful experience for both learners and their teachers.

Publication Information

Carter, L., Salyers, V., Myers, S., Hipfner, C., Hoffart, C., MacLean, C., White, K., Matus, T., Forrsman, V., & Barrett, P. (2014). Qualitative insights from a Canadian multi-institutional research study: In search of meaningful e-learning. Canadian Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 5(1), 1-17. doi:10.5206/cjsotl-rcacea.2014.1.10


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