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What This Means For Curriculum Development

There is sense in integrating e-learning incrementally. This will vary according to need, but is likely to be determined, amongst other factors, by:

  • awareness of the tools and support available
  • access to relevant 'good practice' examples and experiences of other
  • level of confidence in the use of the tools themselves, and
  • staff skills in course design and tutoring in the e-environment

Mason (1998) suggested an evolving process based upon three main models of an online course, based around increasingly learning-focused objectives.

Content + Support

Separate solutions for content (web materials, sometimes within a VLE type packaged learning environment or content management system) and learning support (email, computer conferencing, and increasingly use of blogs).

These tend to replicate traditional methods with online replacements with rudimentary amounts of collaborative activity amongst students, peer commenting and online assessments 

Students of such courses frequently report conflicts with learning the materials and participating in the online activities.


Content consists of tailor made materials (study guide, activities and discussion) wrapped around existing materials (textbooks, CD-ROM resources or tutorials). Online interactions and discussions occupy about half of the students' time, while the predetermined content occupies the other half. Less of the course is pre-determined and more is created each time the course is delivered, through the discussions and activities. Real time online events sometimes feature in this model, as well as the next.


The course consists of collaborative activities, learning resources and joint assignments. The heart of the course takes place online through discussion, accessing and processing information and carrying out tasks. The course contents are fluid and dynamic as they are largely determined by the individual and group activity. In a sense, the integrated model dissolves the distinction between content and support, and is dependent on the creation of a learning community.