Wise and Quealy: At the limits of social constructivism: Moving beyond LMS to re-integrate scholarship

Wise, L., & Quealy, J. (2006). At the limits of social constructivism: Moving beyond LMS to re-integrate scholarship. In L. Markauskaite, P. Goodyear, & P. Reimann (Eds.), Who’s Learning? Whose Technology? Presented at the The 23rd Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education, Sydney, Australia: Sydney University Press.





Twenty years: use of computers in higher ed. Online learning (at least in Australia) since early 90s. Perception that "central web-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) are the required infrastructure to support elearning in a quality university" (899). Assumption that this will lead to innovation, student-centered, interactive learning.


The implicit research framework of elearning


Elearning''s Tower of Babel


Outcomes have not met expectations. Difficulty of assessment. "One of the major challenges of providing a coherent research framework for elearning derives from the inherently cross-disciplinary nature of elearning, and the resultant difficulty in discourse across disciplinary boundaries" (900). Lack of vigorous debate. "In elearning a particularly frustrating aspect of the existing literature is the seeming lack of connection between theory and practice in the dominant applied research paradigm" (900). Does not actually test a hypothesis. 


Theoretical positions in past research/theorizations: social constructivism, communities of practice, and learning networks. Finds fault with these constructs for this type of research.


Elearning, communities of practice and the shattering of scholarship


Cites Laurillard (2002): uses social constructivist position to argue for model of uni teaching encompassing community of practice, networks, creativity. However, position is for conducting research, not teaching model. Need for formal control by experts. "Individual learning is the responsibility of the learner and the nature of discipline expertise is the responsibility of the community. And if, as we would argue, the core discipline-based knowledge evolves through activitiy within the communities of practice rather than through the outside agency of educational design, what is left for the social constructivist educational designer to do other than sit back and watch the learning unfold?" (902) Instead, academics must learn to be teachers, and that doesn''t work with social constructivist/community of practice framework.


Argues no real research between problems with teaching/ opportunities of technology, consideration of nature of ''student demand.''"It would seem somewhat irresponsible if not downright dangerous, to transform an educational institution without a well-established, soundly reasoned cause" (903).


LMS, communities of practice, networks and pedagogy


Overview of LMSs, structure (rather formal). Course content, in vision of communities of practice, should be "subservient" to discussion, that community is "primary unit of learning" (903). Structure of LMS discourages creations of communities of practice. 


"The contiguity of statements about change, elearning, adaptive networks and cybernetics has a pleasing ring of authenticity about it but requires much deeper domain-specific argumentation to provide any insight into the role of elearning in pedagogy and knowledge representation, and the effect of change on the traditional university as an organizational system" (904).


Organisation and quality control


Managerial perspective/ LMSs facilitate control/regulation. Again, this does not fit into ''vision'' of LMS as innovation/change to pedagogy.


On the one hand, it is claimed that elearning (delivered via a central LMS) will allow unprecedented opportunities to build enriched student-centred learning environments and communities of practice free of spatiotemporal constraints; on the other hand, it appears that LMS provide a means to create perceived order in teaching and learning practice. This brings to the foreground the intrinsic tension between creativity and innovation versus regulation and control in the domains of pedagogy and management respectively. Any serious advocate of elearning as a vehicle for pedagogical transformation will need to confront and resolve the inherent conflict between order and creativity, between the checklist-based quality of observable outputs (“content”) and the qualitative evaluation of teaching and learning quality, and between autonomy and independence on the one hand and regulation and control on the other. (904-905)


Back to the future: Transparent ivory towers


Revisits the arguments; if we want to transform, need to recognize that elearning as structure not enough as a way of innovation; instead, can recreate the structures/barriers. Potential, but need to address university elearning infrastructure.