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Syllabus Feb 2001

A Starting Point Bibliography for Online Teaching and Learning - New Classics and Personal Favorites

Over the last few years, I have been asked many times for references and research studies on key issues in online learning and technology. I suspect that many of you have also fielded such questions. We as a community – in higher education — have a tradition of relying on research and best practices. When we are in unfamiliar territory, we tend to reflect and think, has anyone been here before?

Some of the more popular questions are, How will technology improve teaching and learning?  The new technology environment is complex and expensive— how do we know it works?  How do we know how long it will take a faculty member to move a course to the web? Or does it take more time to teach online? How do we know what teaching and learning strategies work in the new environment? Where are the guidelines for the design, development and delivery of online learning? Bottom line, the question is,  “Do we have any research supporting what we are doing with technology?

The good news is that we know much more in 2000 than we did in 1985, when microcomputers suddenly started proliferating on desktops, or in 1975 when computer-based instruction delivered on mainframes appeared on the scene. The bad news is that we don’t know as much as it would be good to know.

To answer some of the questions posed above, I have personally found it helpful to think of the field of online learning as an interdisciplinary field combining insights from the five areas of  (1) brain and learning research, (2) distance learning research and practice, (3) traditional higher education research and practice, (4) theory and practice on designing and delivering degrees and courses, and (5) Internet and technology research and monitoring.

This brief bibliography is intended as a starting point to some of the “new classics,” plus some of my personal favorites, and also some web sites that serve as portals for web content, monographs and publications on these topics. Note: My personal favorites include monographs that I have authored or co-authored.  So, yes, there is some very personal bias here as well. 

Many thanks to those of you who have spurred this collection of resources on by your many questions and comments. I welcome feedback as to your favorites from this list and your own nominations for new classics and personal favorites you might want to suggest for all of our mutual colleagues.

1. Brain and Learning Research

Three of the references in this group are true classics on the philosophy and theory of learning.  These books by Dewey, How We Think and Experience and Education, explore and affirm accepted fundamentals of the teaching and learning processes. Dewey’s discussions on interactivity and continuity as keys to effective educational experiences remain as fresh now as when they were written. The books by Bruner and Vygotsky also affirm the process of education as an active, constructive, interactive process. Vygotsky’s concept of the Zone of Proximal Development emphasizes the importance of learning readiness and customization of learning, goals that are now possible with the influx of enabling technologies.  

**  Bruner, Jerome S. The Process of Education. New York: Vintage Books, 1963.

** Dewey, John. How We Think. 1998 Edition ed. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1933. And Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1938.

** Vygotsky, Lev S. Mind in Society The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Edited by Cole, Michael; John-Steiner, Vera; Scribner, Sylvia; and Souberman, Ellen. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978.

The next three books on learning and brain research are new classics. The book by Pierce Howard is organized effectively with a format that first describes research results, followed by practical applications of that research to learning. This Owner’s Manual for the Brain is large, almost encyclopedic in nature, covering wellness in mind and body in addition to learning, memory, creativity, and problem solving. Pinker’s book is probably the most in depth analysis of what we know about the mind and the brain. Pinker is a professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT.  He discusses the 20th century insight of the Computational Theory of Mind, which effectively links the ethereal mind with the physical brain.  The book by Bransford, Brown and Cocking presents the collective wisdom from a 1996 workshop on The Science of Science Learning.  It is the one that most directly addresses the teaching and learning processes and technology influences up to that time.

Bransford, John D.; Brown, Ann L., Cocking, Rodney R. How People Learn. Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1999.

Howard, Pierce J. The Owner's Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research: Bard Press, 2000.

Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Don’t miss exploring online, the Center for Dewey Studies at http://www.siuc.edu/~deweyctr/

and the Explorations in Learning & Instruction: The Theory Into Practice Database at http://www.gwu.edu/~tip/ developed by Greg Kearsley.

2. Distance Education Tradition —Evolving to include Online Learning

Much of the work in traditional distance learning has its origins in the 30 year plus work of the Open University in the United Kingdom. Many other countries with geographically dispersed populations such as Canada and Australia are also rich sources of research and practice. 

The books by A.W. (Tony) Bates and John S. Daniel are excellent starting points for learning about well-designed and cost-effective distance education programs and experiences. Bates’ book provides a summary of the media and technologies used in distance education and discusses the design and applications of each of these media formats. The Daniel’ book analyses the current higher education landscape including the role and management of large mega-universities, given the Internet and the array of tools for supporting flexible, asynchronous learning.

The book by Moore and Kearsley is a basic book, providing a solid introduction to the field of traditional distance education.  The monograph by Sherron and Boettcher describes some of the foundational ideas supporting the development of interactive distance learning programs at Florida State combining synchronous videoconferencing, web and traditional print resources. The WWWebble article in Syllabus has long been a favorite of folks, describing three different types of web courses, from 100% web courses to web-enhanced courses on campus.

** Bates, A.W. (Tony). Technology, Open Learning and Distance Education. New York: Routledge, 1995.

** Daniel, John S. Mega-Universities and Knowledge Media: Technology Strategies for Higher Education. London: Kogan Page, 1997.

Moore, Michael G., and Greg Kearsley. Distance Education: A Systems View. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996.

Sherron, Gene T. and Boettcher, Judith V. Distance Learning: The Shift to Interactivity. Vol. 17, Cause Professional Paper Series. Boulder, CO: CAUSE, 1997.  www.educause.edu

Boettcher, Judith V. "Distance Learning: Another Look at the Tower of Wwwebble." Syllabus, October 1999, pp. 50 - 52.

Here are a few starting points on the web. 

The url for the Open University of the United Kingdom is at http://wwwicdl.open.ac.uk/. This site contains links to programs and on-going research in this field.

Another good resource is  http://www.usdla.org/  This is the site for the United States Distance Learning Association. The association's purpose is to promote the development and application of distance learning for education and training. The organizational members include representatives of Pre-K through grade 12 education, higher education, home school education, continuing education, corporate training, military and government training, and telemedicine.

Another good place to get started on academic resources in higher education distance learning is at the University of Wisconsin. http://www.uwex.edu/disted/home.html

3. Higher Education Traditional Campus Environments – Evolving to a Combination of Campus and Web Learning

The books in this section are intended primarily for faculty who want to develop more explicit knowledge of instructional design and adult learners. Other books in this section focus on the challenges of designing course web sites and implementing the oft-articulated goal of building online communities. 

The classics in this section are Malcolm Knowles’ book—now in its fifth edition—on the theory of andragogy, the study of adult learners, and the book on Learning Networks written by Linda Harasim, Teles, and Turoff. The book edited by Kahn is a collection of studies (59) on all aspects of web-based instruction (WBI) including some useful case studies. The two books that focus most on moving teaching and learning to the web are the Boettcher and Conrad book and the Sarah Horton book. The books by Palloff and Pratt and Draves provide useful insights on the design and nurturing of online communities.

** Knowles, Malcolm; Holton, Elwood F. ; and Swanson, Richard A. The Adult Learner: The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development. 5th Edition ed. Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing Company www.gulfpub.com/books.html, 1998.

** Harasim, Linda; Hiltz, Starr Roxanne; Teles, Lucio; and Turoff, Murray. Learning Networks:  A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning Online. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997.

Boettcher, Judith V. and Conrad, Rita Marie. Faculty Guide for Moving Teaching and Learning to the Web. Mission Viejo, CA: League for Innovation, 1999.  The League for Innovation site (www.league.org) provides a host of good publications on active learning and teaching.

Draves, William A. Teaching Online. River Falls, WI: LERN Books, 2000.

Khan, Badrul H.  Ed.  Web-Based Instruction. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications, Inc, 1997.

Draves, William A. Teaching Online. River Falls, WI: LERN Books, 2000.

Horton,Sarah. Web Teaching Guide. New Haven CT: Yale Press, 2000.

Palloff, Rena M. and Pratt, Keith. Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc, 1999.

To close this section, I would encourage you to check out a report of a year long faculty seminar on online learning at the University of Illinois. A group of 16 faculty studied online learning over the course of a year and wrote a report on the benefits and the challenges of online learning from a faculty perspective.  http://www.vpaa.uillinois.edu/tid/report/toc.html

Other sources of good information on course management templates and book sites and related news link sites are vendor sites, but let’s save that for another time.

4.  Instructional Design: Designing for Delivery of Online Degrees and Courses and the Higher Education Landscape 

Costs and Economics

Among the most-oft asked questions about online learning is, “How long does it take to design and develop online learning?” And “How much does it cost to move courses to the web?” The book by Finkelstein, France, Jewett and Scholz is just published and is a welcome addition to this line of inquiry. The classic in this list is the book by Greville Rumble that examines the costs of open and distance learning.

Finkelstein, Martin J; Frances, Carol; Jewett, Frank I; Scholz, Bernhard W., ed. Dollars, Distance, and Online Education: The New Economics of College Teaching and Learning, Series on Higher Education: American Council on Education-Oryx Press, 2000.

** Rumble, Greville. The Costs and Economics of Open and Distance Learning. Stirling, USA: Kogan Page, 1997.

Designing and Developing the Infrastructure

Planning for the delivery of online learning includes planning for the entire digital plant infrastructure to support online learning as well as preparing faculty, students and staff for this new format and the new space of online learning. There are a number of monographs that address various aspects of this infrastructure and the campus-wide changes that are needed to support these efforts.

Boettcher, Judith V., Mary M. Doyle, and Richard W. Jensen, eds. 2000. Technology-Driven Planning: Principles to Practice. Ann Arbor: Society for College and University Planning. Technology-Driven Planning: Principles to Practice. Ann Arbor: Society for College and University Planning. Ann Arbor: Society for College and University Planning, 2000.

** Dolence, Michael G. and , and Donald M. Norris. Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning, 1995.

** Resmer, Mark, James R. Mingle, and Diane Obilnger. Computers for All Students: A Strategy for Universal Access to Information Resources: State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), 1995.

Surveys and Best Practices

As higher education institutions plan for online degree programs and courses, questions about the goals and mission of a university quickly come to the fore.  Questions are often asked about who is doing what, and with whom, and what standards for good practice might be. Here are two resources that can provide some help here. One is a report from the National Center for Education Statistics, and another is a summary of the Principles of Good Practice for online learning.  The Principles of Good Practice originated at WICHE, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (http://www.wiche.org) Another useful resource is the annual computing survey by the Campus Computing Project by Casey Greene. This helps answer questions such as the ubiquity of computer access and use of course websites on traditional campuses.

Green, Kenneth C. Campus Computing, 1999. Encino, CA: The Campus Computing Project, www.campuscomputing.net, 1999.

Lewis, Laurie; Farris, Elizabeth; Snow, Kyle; Levin, Douglas; and Greene, Bernie. "Distance Education at Postsecondary Education Institutions: 1997-98."124. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Education; National Center for Education Statistics, 1999.  NCES 2000-013 http://nces.ed.gov

Southern Regional Education Board. "Principles of Good Practice: The Foundation for Quality of the Southern Regional Electronic Campus.” Atlanta: Southern Regional Education Board, 1997.

Planning and Technology Organizations

There are a number of higher education technology organizations that regularly publish magazines, books, monographs, and webcasts on these topics: Here they are with the urls of their main pages.

5. What’s Next with Online Learning?  Looking Forward; Looking Back

Many of our questions about moving to online learning link to much larger societal issues.  Making sense of how the explosion of technologies can serve us well in higher education requires big picture thinking about the future, the format and costs of the technologies, the speed of change and adoption of technologies, and managing the change process.  Here are a few of my favorite “Internet history” and “future thinking” resources.

** Barker, Joel Arthur. Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future. New York: Harper-Collins, 1992.

Berners-Lee, Tim with Mark Fischetti. Weaving the Web. First ed. New York: Harper-Collins, 1999.

Gershenfeld, Neil. When Things Start to Think. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 1999.

Hafner, Katie and Lyon, Matthew. Where Wizards Stay up Late: The Origins of the Internet, Touchstone. New York: Touchstone by Simon Schuster, 1998.

** Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations. 4th Edition ed. New York: Free Press, Division of Macmillan, 1995.


Originally I had planned this list to be much shorter, but one great resource, one great classic or one new classic always leads to another. Even with this long list, my computer is still overflowing with other great resources. Also, many of the authors in this list are well published and have books in progress.

Again, let me invite you all to propose your own classics and your own favorites for sharing. I know I have omitted some really great stuff! 

Judith V. Boettcher


Revised December 17, 2012
Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 1997-2010