Maggie Hutchings

  • Quick-fix learning: challenging the concept of learning for learning’s sake

    Maggie Hutchings
    University of Bournemouth

    Session 1d

    Monday 3 September 2007, 15.45-16.45

    Research paper

    Themes: Learning for learning’s sake

    E-learning enthusiasts have been positing paradigm shifts in educational practice for many years with predictions of new learning domains and different forms of educational interactions, resulting from convergence and maturation of computing and telecommunications. Government policy and educational institutions herald learning technologies as significant means of improving the quality of the student learning experience (Dearing 1997, JISC 2004). Yet the gap between espoused theory (Argyris & Schön 1978) and realities of online practices continues with surveys demonstrating online technologies predominantly used for delivering information rather than facilitating effective learning (Jenkins et al 2005).

    The gap between aspirations and practice may be explained by complexity and pace of change in technology (Giddens 1991) and the multiplicity of factors at work in learning situations so that when new technologies and drivers emerge to influence and challenge pedagogical practice, the rationale for innovations is routed in technically feasible rather than pedagogically sound practice. This paper will argue that analysing associations between practices of human agents and technology affordances is at the heart of understanding what works, what does not and why. Evidence from doctoral research of learning and teaching practices in online environments will be shared to enable a critique of the relationship between online learning as a “quick fix” information commodity and as a purposeful process for individual learners (Dewey 1933). A cross-case comparative analysis, highlighting differences in student and tutor online experiences, identified emergent themes for discussion including differences between learning as gaining discursive knowledge and learning as transformation through experience, between reflection and reflexivity, time-space distanciation (Giddens 1984) and time-space compression (Harvey 1990) and between learning as product and as process (Lash 2002).

    The consequence of this analysis will be to challenge the concept of learning for learning’s sake and to offer a theory of learning as transformation of experience through praxis and reflexivity, acknowledging the wholeness of agents operating with their senses, emotions and cognitions (Dewey 1933, Archer 2000) and demonstrating the potential of online learning to effect structural changes in educational practice through the radicalisation of time and space mirrored in student approaches to learning.

    It is hoped this paper will contribute to debates on what effective learning is and how it can be encouraged in different online contexts and that by offering guidelines for e-praxis the gap between espoused theory and practice may be lessened.


    • Archer, M. 2000. Being human: the problem of agency. Cambridge University Press.
    • Argyris, C. & Schön, D. 1978. Organizational learning: a theory of action perspective. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.
    • Dearing, R. 1997. Higher education in the learning society. National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education. HMSO.
    • Dewey, J. 1933. How we think. Boston: D.C.Heath.
    • Giddens, A. 1984. The constitution of society. Polity Press.
    • Giddens, A. 1991. Modernity and self-identity. Polity Press.
    • Harvey, D. 1990. The condition of postmodernity. Blackwell.
    • Jenkins, M., Browne, T., Walker., R. 2005. VLE Surveys: a longitudinal perspective for higher education in the UK. UCISA.
    • JISC 2004. Effective practice with e-learning.
    • Lash, S. 2002. Critique of information. London: Sage.