Finally in the Spotlight: How Contemporary Learning Theory is Saving Education Online During COVID

Paula Charbonneau-Gowdy, Jaime Pizarro, Danisa Salinas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


A surge of literature documenting myriad challenges being faced online during the COVID pandemic strongly suggests that e-learning scholarship has fallen short of conveying an understanding of how to build highly effective e-learning spaces. Recent stories from practitioners abound with reports of absenteeism, cameras and microphones turned off, inaction in forums and a general reticence on the part of learners to engage online. Where have we missed the mark in our efforts to have contemporary e-learning theory affect online practice? Scholarship is indicating that the root of the disconnect often lies in the conventional instructional designs being used in these spaces and the teaching, learning and assessment practices they support. In response to such issues, we conducted a qualitative action research initiative to apply an instructional design (ID) model, based on contemporary learning theories and goals, in a teacher education program in Chile. The study took place in 2020 over 2 academic semesters. In this study, we focussed on the impact of these changes on a small group of first-year Pre-service Teachers (PSTs, n=17), experiencing online learning for the first time. Pre and post interviews, an open-ended questionnaire, field notes from self-assessment portfolios and observations of the digital environment were used to collect data. We also draw on two other data sources in the same context: 1) an earlier report of this initiative that focussed on the Teacher Educators (TEs) in the same program (n=4), and 2) survey data collected in a preparatory stage of the action research on the experiences of the greater university student body (n=1,054). Evidence revealed that initially learners’ epistemological views were heavily influenced by the teacher-centric and content-driven pedagogies of earlier schooling. Yet, results also showed that the contemporary learning design framework had positive implications for many students’ social, cognitive, and metacognitive competencies. Clear signs of more active investment in social interactive learning online on the part of the PSTs and of flexible, self-directed behaviours were evidenced. The results of this study provide an empirically based practical solution for connecting current learning theory to practice in online contexts, solutions that could endure even once the challenges of the pandemic crisis are behind us.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-655
Number of pages14
JournalElectronic Journal of e-Learning
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • contemporary learning theories
  • higher education, COVID-19 pandemic
  • instructional design model
  • online learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Finally in the Spotlight: How Contemporary Learning Theory is Saving Education Online During COVID'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this