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Accommodating learner diversity in web-based learning environments: imperatives for future developments
journal contributionposted on 2003-12-04, 00:00 authored by J Sheard, Julianne LynchJulianne Lynch
In this article, we focus on the use of Web-based learning environments for university students. We draw on an evaluation of an online environment that was developed to supplement face-to-face components of an undergraduate education unit in an Australian university. We explore learners' affective responses to this environment, finding that students' responses were often related to their familiarity with the learning environment, their skills and confidence with computer technology, and their preferred learning styles. It is not surprising to us that different students experienced the environment differently as this is the foundation of constructivist and socio-cultural understandings of learning. Yet, the models that currently predominate in the provision of online learning environments in universities offer very little in terms of responding and adapting to students' individual needs and preferences. Instead, online Web-based learning environments are most often designed to anticipate an average, or sometimes ideal, learner. We argue that designing for an imagined average or ideal learner does not adequately respond to the challenge of accommodating learner difference. If hopes for student-centred education are to be realised, future technological and pedagogical developments in online course provision need to be sophisticated enough to respond and adapt to individual students' needs and preferences across a wide range of variables.