Title: The way of the termite: a theoretically grounded approach to the design of e-learning environments

Authors: Jon Dron

Addresses: University of Brighton, Watts Building, Lewes Road, Brighton BN2 4GJ, UK

Abstract: This paper presents an argument for a design paradigm for e-learning environments that cater for the needs of diverse learners using social navigation and signposts. The argument begins with transactional distance theory, which predicts an inverse relationship between structure and dialogue in a learning transaction. It is argued that this relationship may be expressed as a function of the control exercised by each participant in a learning transaction, which varies from context to context and, learner to learner. This paper identifies and describes a type of e-learning environment wherein structure is derived from a dialogue-like process between its inhabitants, akin to that used by termites when building termite mounds. In such an environment, control is emergent, arising from the interactions and behaviours of its users. This suggests some general principles for the design of e-learning environments that both shape and are shaped by the communities that inhabit them.

Keywords: self-organisation; transactional distance; social navigation; stigmergy; e-learning; systems theory; transactional control; emergence; online learning; signposts; learning transactions; design; web based communities.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2006.008611

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2006 Vol.2 No.1, pp.3 - 16

Published online: 11 Jan 2006 *

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