Another dot in the blogosphere?

e-Learning or e-Doing?

Posted on: August 28, 2008

My trainee teachers are experiencing e-learning week. They won’t have to make the long journey to campus, but I am sure that they will be busier than usual. But it could be worse!

When NIE had it’s first e-learning week in Feb 2007, it was applied to all academic groups. The effect of often overly ambitious, untested, and unrealistic tasks was multiplied by as many courses trainees were taking at the time. It was no surprise that e-learning week became more like e-doing or e-suffering week!

I have my thoughts about this semester’s e-learning week, but I would like to hear first from as many of my preservice teachers as possible. I want to do this as a feedback mechanism to my colleagues.

So feel free to air your views, and as you do so, remember that you are teachers and professionals!

15 Responses to "e-Learning or e-Doing?"

Hi Prof Tan,
I cannot agreed more to the e-suffering week. The amount of effort that goes into assignment is definitely more than 10 marks. From my point of view, it should be call ICT week, cos I eat, sleep and dream of ICT assignment. Now I have got a phobia of opening up my emails, that’s because all the communication comes through emails and that equal to Stress. Enough said of the challenges, I would like to commend on the topic choosen for the elearning week though. The topic is very relevant and closely related to what we will experience in future. Although the assignment is demanding, It had actually values added to my learning for my e-suffering week.


Hey Dr. Tan,

I felt that the individual component of the e-learning exercise was very well thought-out. There was a good range of resources we were exposed to and I actually learnt how to use the e-journal system much better thru this exercise. The scaffolding provided in the research brief also provoked much thought and was very useful in organizing the information gathered.

However, I felt that there should not have been a limitation imposed on issues faced in an online environment. Since we are graded based on “balance” of F2F and online issues, then why is there a limitation imposed on online issues and not on the others?

The collaborative task, however, was what I felt was confusing. Not in terms of coming together and sharing ideas, but more in terms of the presentation of it. The instructions are not clear as to how to present the “best ideas” (which I assume refers to the best strategies?). There is no provided scaffolding for the ‘summary’ in the collaborative page.

Furthermore, upon entering the Course Wiki page in Integrating Technology, it becomes unclear whether we are supposed to “add” to the page everything we have, or simply add on to what’s already there (meaning that do not put in what’s already been said). Are we then supposed to structure our own collaborative page in a similar way as the course wiki page?

That being said, this exercise has not only enhanced my content knowledge, but also illustrated to me how to do a knowledge-building exercise (which is the Engaged Learning approach I identified most closely with this) and the potential difficulties in doing so.

Just my two cents worth. ūüôā


Hi Andrew,

I’ll answer your first question on why the online issues were limited to two areas. The curriculum committee opted for this approach because the other aspects of cyberwellness will likely be addressed by other courses that you take in NIE.

I agree that the collaborative component may be somewhat confusing. There are a few reasons for this.

First, collaboration is never as straightforward as individual work. Second, the process and product of collaboration in its truest sense is often emergent, i.e., you don’t always know what the end result is. Third, collaboration is a messy process, but the end result is more valuable than simple cooperation (at the moment, the common wiki page is a product of cooperation, not collaboration). Fourth, the experience of attempting to collaborate online gives you an anchor for writing about issues of planning, implementation, management, and evaluation. This last point is part of the knowledge building process to experience, warts and all.

Hope this clarifies matters somewhat.


Thanks for the clarification Dr. Tan. I understand more now regarding the exercise.

You mentioned in your comments a distiction between “cooperation” and “collaboration”? What are the differences? I’m keen to find out.

I’ve looked it up a bit here but am still not so clear how we can move a project from cooperative to collaborative. Is most of what we’ve produced on our wiki collaborative page and the 1+1=3 page supposed to be collaborative then – rather than cooperative?


@ Andrew: It is rather unfortunate that many people do not see the difference between cooperation and collaboration. There are key differences.

The link you provided does provide some clues on how they differ. However, that person’s reflection was still rather vague (“collaboration, unlike cooperation, requires the parties involved in a project jointly solve problems”). It only focuses on problem solving. It also does not specifically address other educational aspects of cooperation and collaboration.

The other blogger did mention one key difference: “Truly collaborative processes enable differing and possibly conflicting views to merge and create something new and previously unimagined”.

The differences are critical. I will be revealing more clues in the sessions to come. I will reveal some concepts in mini lectures and the activities you participate in. (I note that some of you are cooperating as you prepare your demo projects while others are collaborating.) So stay tuned!

In the mean time, you may want to dig a little deeper into the topic. If you find any gems that reveal some differences, do share them here.

To address your last question, the 1+1=3 page is still cooperative. It will need some work before it is collaborative. It is a work-in-progress!


I understand the rationale of e-learning week is to simulate a national emergency like SARS.
For realistic simulation, schools and polytechnics practice school closure.
However, at NIE, it is different in the sense that different courses have different dates for e-learning.
Hence, students still NEED to travel to NIE.
For example, this week is e-learning for ICT course, next week is e-learning for psychology course, and following week e-learning for computer applications course.

Perhaps it is better to have e-learning next week 1-5 Sept (MOE school term holiday) as many in-service teachers are coming to attend classes, causing some shortage of resources like workshop space etc.


Hi Dr. Tan,

One of my CS teachers mention about the “high-stake” national examinations that are prevalent in our educational system. It sets me thinking about the educational system most of us had gone through. These exams have become so entrenched in our consciousness that some of us have subconsciously adopted the same attitude for every single piece of assignment – something that has to be cleared to achieve a passing grade for the module. Perhaps, this is the reason why we view this week as “e-suffering”?

On the flipside, if our educational system (back in pre-university days) has been one of formative assessments with encouraging feedback along the way, guiding us in our learning journey and allowing opportunities to make constructive mistakes, then we might adopt a differing view towards assignments and tests? Then, perhaps it will be truly e-learning for us.

The above are just some of my personal thoughts. Personally, I’m still wavering in-between, so I guess it’s somewhere between e-suffering and e-learning for me.


@Vincent: The original intent of NIE’s e-learning week was to simulate campus closure. The intent now is to promote more progressive pedagogies.

The latter is a better move because having a common e-learning week is very stressful for trainees. Imagine doing in one week what you had to do for this ICT course and multiply it by as many other courses as you are taking now!

It is also better because teacher educators can think of more innovative ways of teaching without the pressure of limiting what they do simply because another department is also implementing e-learning.

It will take a lot more time before e-learning matures in NIE. My own observation is that you are experiencing NIE’s middle phase of e-learning. My view is that the next phase should be for teacher educators from different disciplines to collaborate on e-learning during a common week.


@Ellen and Lian Siong: How about the need to “suffer” before you can learn? After all, “no pain, no gain” right?

But here is another related issue: Could you have learned as much if the task was different or simpler. In other words, is there an optimal amount of “suffering”?

These experiences and that question are important to reflect on because one day you might have to plan, implement, and evaluate your own e-learning.


Hi Dr Tan,

I felt quite enriched by the reading I did, but I thought it was one task too many i.e. the workload could’ve been streamlined into either the Individual or the Group section for this week.

Both activities are equally useful in terms of scaffolding for our learning, so perhaps it would be good to plan it for future courses such that the individual assignment takes place this week, then the group assignment the following week.

So that I don’t take up too much air-time on your blog and so that I have some content on mine, I shall continue the argument over there in my reflection!


@Laremy: I couldn’t agree more that the individual and group tasks should be spread over at least two weeks. That would have been my plan if I had a full say in the way the course was designed.

However, I was constrained by a schedule and a syllabus. For example, in the current standardised design of the course, the first four weeks are heavy in content and we FIT (Focus on Integrating Technology) in the rest of the weeks. I would rather that the initial content be explored over at least twice that time and overlap with the FIT phase.

This need to standardise is in turn due to the fact that the ICT course is a foundation course. I don’t agree with the administrators and policy makers, but I bide my time and hope to make my point over time. ūüėČ


After reading all the comments above, it reflects on how i felt about e-learning at first.However when i think deeper into it, isn’t this what our students might be saying? Are we suffering because we didn’t like the research? Or is it just a normal Singaporean complain (including me)? How can we motivate our students, and we have first hand experience in difficulties to overcome ourselves in self-regulated learning?

I remembered that i had a questions to teachers in my school during my contract teaching: “Are we doing what we are preaching? How can we expect our students to do something when we ourselves do not believe it, or are unable to do it?” Issues such as why are you so lazy and why are you not listening, or even why are you not learning?
Hee… 5 cents worth of thoughts…


@Johnny: You raise an important point in needing to experience e-learning as students in order to better plan for it as teachers. Any “suffering” or suffering you experienced is then not wasted.

I am sure that the curriculum committee did not design “suffering” into the e-week activities. In fact, one of the goals of the activities was to help all of you with the first assignment.

The suffering is due to many things, a few of which you have pointed out. I’d add that NOT having the mindset and traits of an independent learner might contribute to any difficulties you or your peers may have experienced. This is turn may be due to personality traits and the type of schooling (teacher centric) you experienced.

I am very glad you see the importance of self-examination. As educators, we must be models of learning if we are be effective teachers. Only by reflecting and working on areas of weakness to we become better models.


[…] – bookmarked by 4 members originally found by Anislav on 2008-12-16 e-Learning or e-Doing? – bookmarked by 4 members […]


[…] on from my comment on Dr Tan’s blog, I feel very fulfilled after completing the readings and tasks, but I wonder if it is possible to […]


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