Reflection #3


Way back in weeks 9-10 of this course, we looked at Stephen Marshall’s e-Learning Maturity Model (eMM). It is a self-critiquing and reflection tool that can be used by tertiary institutions to evaluate their levels of maturity in five dimensions that categorise e-Learning. When assessing an organisation’s capability using eMM the practice is to select a number of actual courses (e.g. three or four). The selected courses should be be representative of organisational practice rather than exceptional. The purpose of eMM is to assess actual activity rather than intended activity for the future. A 4-point scale focuses on colours which give an overall picture (‘carpet’) of capability in a particular dimension, visually identifying areas for action and guiding an institution towards maturity.

I did an intuitive assessment of an online distance postgraduate course from a New Zealand university, focusing on just one process dimension (Delivery). The activity helped me to understand the comprehensive nature of the assessments, in this case the institution’s capability around the course’s learning outcomes, documentation and student support. I also created a mindmap to highlight the relationship between the different structural components of the eMM. I found that quite difficult to do, maybe because I’m a more linear thinker, or perhaps because I was already distracted by the looming prospect of the research article.

I do think this is a useful tool for tertiary institutions to use to self-critique their own e-Learning capability or maturity. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m on my institution’s Learning Technology Steering Group. On our social media site we have recently been discussing Marshall’s case study on a mid-size ITP with a lot of similar e-Learning goals to our own (Marshall, 2012). Interestingly, the ITP had been using the eMM for six years to benchmark its capability, with the biggest gains coming when they gave responsibility to the teaching staff and focused on developing staff capability and new teaching models. Rather than Roger’s model of innovation focused on early adopters, systems were put in place for adoption by all staff. That’s quite a commitment, requiring considerable resourcing to engage all staff.

Research assignment

I am struggling somewhat to clarify my research topic, finding it difficult to move from the review essay to a research focus. I have no primary research nor case study to analyse, which means I’m relying on limited secondary research on the topic I chose – innovating with online synchronous technologies to develop students’ academic literacies. My reading and thinking has moved back and forth from Niki’s ecological perspective, looking at all the stakeholders that affect and are affected by adopting the technology, to a focus primarily on the tutor and student. While web-conferencing provides a viable, flexible alternative to face-to-face academic support in individual consultations, the literature suggests real issues around group or class engagement when the tutor is not the regular class teacher and has little time or opportunity to build rapport and trust. I’ve been reading about Michael Moore’s Theory of Transactional Distance and wondering if that is a relevant concept to use to analyse online learning practices. Moore’s theory examines three factors that influence the teacher/student relationship in distance learning: dialogue, structure and learner autonomy (Falloon, 2011).

So, anyway, I digress. I’m not sure how many theoretical concepts to use. Is three too many? (I want to include the CBAM). What I’m thinking is that I need to turn this around and consider what guidance other tertiary learning advisors would appreciate if asked to teach and support distance students online. What information and skills do they need? What support do they need? How do they engage students in a meaningful and timely way? What are the barriers and pitfalls to look out for? And that’s where I’m at; purpose identified and the article still in the conceptual stage.

All that’s left to do is write it… time


Falloon, G. (2011). Making the connection: Moore’s theory of transactional distance and its relevance to the use of a virtual classroom in postgraduate online teacher education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(3), 187–209.

Marshall, S. (2012). E-learning and higher education: Understanding and supporting organisational change [Case study report]. Wellington, New Zealand: Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Marshall, S. (2007). E-Learning Maturity Model: Process descriptions [draft report]. Retrieved from


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