Learning in the South East Quadrant

Well now I am completely involved….participating, collaborating and in the “learner managed learning environment” of the #ONL161 course  (a pedagogical course based on Problem-Based Learning adapted for online courses).
As I stated in my last blog post it was all a bit new and unstructured from what I am used to as a learner but I am not alone in this feeling as the review (see summary below) points out. So now (mainly for my own state of mind) I have re-structured my bookmarks, downloaded specific apps so I can collaborate on the fly and ready to determine the goals and outcomes of the course with my group of colleagues.

After reading the review on: Online learning: it is all about dialogue, involvement, support and control – research by Marion Coomey , John Stephenson, Ryerson Polytechnic University and Middlesex University, UK it gave me an overview of what it is that we are doing on this course. Here is just a short summary of the article as I thought it was very interesting.

One hundred research reports and journal articles were included in the review. Most were published in the period 1998-2000 and it’s focus was on benefits for learners. They based it on the 4 common features

  1. Dialogue
  2. Involvement
  3. Support
  4. Control

They then included these common features (they call it DISC) into a paradigm grid for online learning:

These are the four paradigms:

  • Teacher-controlled, specified learning activities;
  • Teacher-controlled, open-ended or strategic learning;
  • Learner-managed specified learning activities;
  • Learner-managed, open-ended or strategic learning.


You can read more in the full article but I think you get the picture.

So now straight to the South East Quadrant (Learner managed)

As a learner on the course I am in control of the overall direction of the learning along side my colleagues in our PBL3 group, including learning outcomes and longer terms goals what a eureka moment that was! We discuss the topic, read articles and are in the process of structuring up our time together. When it comes to the DISC features we

Dialogue – Have Individual work & collaborative work and find external sources to help us on the way.
Involvement – We are totally involved in the learning activity and we relate our learning to our own personal, vocational and academic needs.
Support – We have a facilitator who is in the background, offering advice on procedures and resources.
Control – We determine the goals and outcomes and monitor our own progress.

Even though we are at the beginning of the course I am already totally bought into this way of learning, however here is some advice from the professionals:

Advice for the South-East quadrant learning environment

  • The role of the tutor, and the amount and level of tutor participation, should be clearly defined (Lewis and Vizcarro, 1998).
  • Embed prompts and other ways for students to interact with the content in order to make the thinking process clear (Henderson et al, 1998).
  • Provide synchronous events (along with asynchronous events) to maintain student enthusiasm and a ‘real time’ sense of participation (Mason, 1998).
  • Develop criteria for students to assess each others’ work (McConnell,1995).
  • Remember that ‘free for all’ open discussions do not usually work (Mason, 1998).
  • Provide guidelines and carefully designed questions (Beaudin, 1999).
  • Create a structure to make teams collaborate (solve problems through a 48 Teaching and Learning Online voting system; write collaborative assignments by dividing tasks into sections) (Marjanovic, 1999).
  • Beware that learners could become so involved in browsing that they might not be thinking about the learning related to specific subject matter (Ewing et al,1999).


  • Beaudin, B (1999) Keeping online asynchronous discussions on topic, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 3 (2),
  • Ewing, J M (1999) Enhancement of student learning online and offline, http://www.norcol.ac.uk/departments/educas/JimEwing/webversion/studentlearning/htm
  • Henderson, L, Putt, I, Ainge, D and Combes, G (1998) Comparison of students’ thinking processes when studying with WWW, IMM and text based materials, in The Virtual Campus: Trends for higher education and training, eds F Verdejo and G Davies, Chapman & Hall, New York.
  • Lewis, R and Vizcarro, C (1998) Collaboration between universities and enterprises in the Knowledge Age, in The Virtual Campus: Trends for higher education and training, eds F Verdejo and G Davies, Chapman & Hall, New York.
  • Marjanovic, O (1999) Learning and teaching in a synchronous collaborative environment, journal of Computer Assisted Learning,15, pp 129-38.
  • Mason, R (1998) Models of online courses, ALN Magazine, 2 (2),
  • McConnell, D (1995) Learning in Groups: Some experiences of online work,       Springer- Verlag, Berlin


10 thoughts on “Learning in the South East Quadrant

  1. thank you for your post, I especially enjoy the clear structure and take home messages. A reflection in relation to the on-line paradigm grid; medical school (in Sweden) is still in the far West with certain winds to the direction of North-West to South-West. While adult learning should be “in the South”-ie learner-managed -to a large extent. I think “we” as faculty perpetuate the old school way of doing things, this is most likely in part due to benevolent ignorance rather than an actual strategy.


  2. Hi Kenneth thanks for the feedback and question. I think what is the most necessary to develop in a course like ONL is what we are doing right now, asking us/students what works and what doesn’t work, taking the advice to improve the next ONL course. Though as we know no students are the same maybe try to provide us/students with opportunities to make informed decisions about whether the course will meet our needs. If we had some Intended Learning Outcomes and able to see more of the syllabus and materials before the course officially starts, us/students will have an opportunity to preview the course and think carefully about whether it will meet our needs.


  3. Great summary of the SE quadrant and what comes in terms of advices if we want to develop that kind of learning environment. What do you think is most necessary to develop in a course like ONL?


  4. I agree with the others. Another good post where you narrow it down to the essentials! A good design can be thoughtprovoking questions for discussions that also are part of the course design. Thanks for the post! 🙂


  5. Thank you for summarising common features of online learning and referring to the advice for the South-East Quadrant. I wonder now whether ONL161 is in the SE. I agree that the course is learner-led, but learning tasks are specified and structured leaving some space for flexibility at the same time…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi desperate learner yes you are right, though I didn’t see it at the time when I wrote the blog, probably something to do with so many things happening at once and not really picking out the essentials of this course. Now that the topic 2 has come up on the ONL wordpress site I see that there is tasks to do. Thanks again for your feedback 🙂


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