Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Theory for eLearning - Mark Nichols

“A scientific hypothesis….is a suggested solution for an unexplained occurrence that does not fit into current accepted scientific theory.” They often follow the if..then..because framework."(Zimmerman, 2012)

It is clear that Nichols' perception of a hypothesis to those of the scientific world is somewhat different. Had Nichols changed his title to the Principles of eLearning, then for me the article would have been plausible. 

Nichols' principles are also riddled with subjective judgements eg: “The choice of eLearning tools should reflect".....eLearning tools are best made...". which makes these statements appear somewhat relativistic.

All of which challenges Nichols' claim that he is seriously proposing a theory for eLearning.

With which hypotheses do you agree? State your reasons

Hypotheses 5 - eLearning can be used in two major ways; the presentation of education content, and the facilitation of education processes.
I think a fundamental component of eLearning is to enable learners to construct their own meaning and their own learning. Equally, there are times when facts have to be assimilated, understood and acted upon with no added creative dimensions.

I wholeheartedly agree with one of his supporting statements for hypothesis 5: "Further advances in technology will lead to the revision of this particular hypothesis" although I would suggest that this statement might extends to the entire document.

Hypothesis 8 - Effective eLearning practice considers the ways in which end-users will engage with the learning opportunities provided to them.        
The endusers' objectives needs to be one of the principal determinants of any learning technology. Personal drivers plus accessibility of the eLearning – whether providing for: additional visual needs or physical access to electricity, Wifi, broadband etc. is essential for eLearning success.

Hypothesis 9: - The overall aim of education, that is, the development of the learner in the context of a predetermined curriculum or set of learning objectives, does not change when eLearning is applied.
We could broaden this out to all learning objectives per se. Nichols need not have limited the hypothesis to a structured syllabus which is implied by the term 'curriculum'. Appropriate.'eLearning' is likely to support learning objectives be they formal or informal.

Clearly technology has moved on apace since the publication of this article and the growth of mobile devices and apps, social networking sites, Youtube and online games does, I would suggest, challenge the assumptions made in some of Nichols other hypotheses about eLearning.

Zimmerman, K. (2012) What is a Scientific Hypothesis? In Livescience [online] Available from: (Accessed 15/02/2014)

Nichols, M. (2003) ‘A theory for elearning’, Educational Technology & Society, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 1–10; also available online at

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