An Educational Adventure

Chantal Drolet: Active Learning Through Media Literacy (Master of Educational Technology – UBC)

Palloff and Pratt’s (1999) notion of the “transmission of knowledge” (ETEC 532)

June 7, 2009 by drofilm1 · No Comments · Academic Reflections, Academic research, Learning Theory, UBC - ETEC 532 Arts, Humanities & Tech

 Palloff and Pratt’s Notion of the “Transmission of Knowledge”

Luz Mary Becerra, Venturo Bryan, Chantal Drolet 

1.   How does Palloff and Pratt’s (1999) notion of the “transmission of knowledge”, the nature of the learning process, and the relationships among the learners change when we move to a cyberspace classroom?


Transmission of knowledge:

  • Teacher becomes more of a facilitator pointing the learner to selected resources allowing the learners to work collaboratively in understanding principles and concepts and creating new knowledge.

  • Teacher is usually not there (in person) during the learning process.

  • Use of educational technology as vehicle to transmit knowledge.

The nature of the learning process:

  • Learner-centered, personalized education / easier to link to personal interests.

  • Each must actively participate in the learning process

  • Learning involves more critical thinking skills and less knowledge and recall.

  • Learning becomes an active process

  • Learning outcomes often times change in this environment.Space and time become less of a constraint.

  • Learning includes a sense of autonomy, initiative, dialogue and creativity.

Relationships among the learners:

  • Relationships and connections are made through the sharing of ideas and thoughts.

  • More flexibility in contacting various participants in the educational experience some programs offer no interaction at all, other programs, like the ETEC, offer asynchronous and synchronous discussions.

  • Explore content collaboratively.

  • Learners coming from different backgrounds and a variety of social contexts create a rich learning environment.

  • Culture and social status are not relevant to the participation and interaction among learners.

2.    Palloff and Pratts’ visual representation of the framework for distance learning

  • Palloff and Pratt’s framework for distance learning clearly shows the community as the core element in distance learning.

  • The community seems to be shaped and molded by other key elements. It is clear that the learning that occurs in the community is driven by collaboration, active learning, team work and shared goals.

  • It also shows the role of the teacher as a facilitator, offering guidance, interaction and feedback.

  • There is a clear indication that all the framework elements are combined to create a diverse and rich learning environment.

  • The word “teaching” is not used; “facilitation” and “guidance” are preferred.

  • Emphasis is on “negotiation and teamwork” as a didactic approach, and “collaboration and feedback” among students.

  • Outcomes are clearly established for the students.

  • Learners’ participation in their own learning is exemplified by words like “active, interactivity and creation”.

  • Essentially, the main focus is to provide a variety of elements to facilitate social communication between learners in order to create a learning community. The target is established by the instructor, but students can assist each other in the process of producing knowledge that they can ultimately use in their own field of enquiry.

3.   Palloff & Pratt’s framework for distance learning (visual representation): enhancing understanding of e-learning

  • Emphasis is on the creation of knowledge and the active role of the students.

  • Learning involves a great deal of autonomy from the part of the learner.

  • Learner is to engage himself in the learning process through active participation, feedback and constant questioning.

  • Motivation is a prerequisite. Self-regulation, in terms of time, communication style, respect of due dates, etc, is necessary.

  • Within a “traditional” setting (face to face), there is more focus on competition. The framework tends to overlook this aspect of learning completely.

  • It is not the teacher anymore just passing on information to the learners, but being able to construct knowledge and use it in a context.

4.    Framework for distance learning: limitations  

  • If I had never taken a course online, I might interpret this framework as somewhat idealistic. When I first started with the forums, I found it challenging to communicate in writing in a casual, yet focused way.

  • There is a learning curve when it comes to having virtual conversations. The way we write has to be simple and smart. The words we use show our understanding of the knowledge being explored and at the same time, comments must be concise.

  • Some of my colleagues, who wrote their master’s degree years ago, have the impression that what we do online is a watered down version of what they used to do while being present at university. Although, I tend to think that the way e-learning is organized makes it very difficult for students to “cram”, just show up at the end, or only “study for the test”. It seems to me that online learning necessitates a great deal of rigor in terms of the quality of instruction and assessment evaluation.

  • The model presented by Palloff & Pratt’s is quite adequate, so I can see that now that I am experiencing it myself. However, if I showed it to one of my older colleagues, it may corroborate their biased preconception regarding the quality of the e-learning experience.

  • The framework makes no reference to technology as the mechanism for content delivery. In other words, it is not clear how exactly technology will be used to facilitate learning.

  • There might be a misunderstanding as one cannot readily ascertain the level of technological competence required to perform effectively.

  • There is great emphasis on the collaboration, active learning, and shared goals and so on, but it is not quite clear how this will occur in a distance learning environment.

  • The participation of the teacher seems to be very small which could lead to believe that there is not real interaction between learner and instructor.

5.    Alternatives to using frameworks to understand learning


An alternative framework would include 

  • Finding ways to link didactic material to the student’s existing inventory of understanding – which as the degree progresses should include a greater body of understanding.

  • Providing a way that students can build an ‘inventory’ of skills, knowledge and understanding that they can refer to when evaluating their academic progress.

  • Providing more specific academic targets for the students to aim at.

  • Coaching the student in reflective learning.

  • Providing activities that will improve individual and social skills.


1. Palloff and Pratt (1999a) When teaching and learning leave the classroom. Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom. (pp. 3-20). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

2. Palloff and Pratt (1999b) Defining and redefining community. Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace: Effective Strategies for the Online Classroom. (pp. 21-32). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

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