Beyond stalemate: Seeking solutions to challenges in online and blended learning programs

Paula Charbonneau-Gowdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Concerned calls for more empirical research in the area of fully or blended online learning approaches have yet to be heeded. The concern is not unwarranted given that most higher learning institutions worldwide are moving increasingly to partial or complete online course offerings. Our own work in this area has been directed at uncovering challenges in Virtual Learning Environments (VLE’s), particularly those related to participatory issues that are being recognized in educational scholarship from a sociocultural perspective as the essence of successful learning, regardless of the field. The high stakes involved in learners´ proactive and critical participation in knowledge building through social interaction online, as opposed to passive assimilation, are closely connected to effective programs and their desired outcomes. We have argued that understanding the barriers that prevent these participatory practices involves a multifaceted perspective, including the voices of learners, and importantly, teaching practitioners. The significant quantitative and qualitative data we have generated in the different phases of our longitudinal inquiry using case study methodology have revealed disturbing challenges in the programs. These issues are primarily rooted in the degree of active participation on the part of many learners, especially in essential social interactive practices and this despite the commitment, enthusiasm and support of instructors for the VLE modality. Yet without significant student engagement and responsive participation not only are learning goals jeopardized, but so too is the underlying cost structure that often is assumed to support such programs. We are left with seeking a way forward. To do so, in this paper, we apply the investigative work we have done to emerging frameworks for evaluating these online programs. Our aim is to uncover a clear and evidenced-based argument for solutions to offer to key stakeholders and concrete steps they can take for improving their blended modality program offerings. The results of this exercise we believe provide an accessible roadmap for action for the large-scale online program in our investigation and new insight for online learning more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-66
Number of pages11
JournalElectronic Journal of e-Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Large-scale online programs
  • Program evaluation framework
  • Social e-learning approaches
  • Virtual Learning Environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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