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This issue of CDTL Brief presents the last instalment of a two-part discussion on the issues surrounding IT-supported Learning Strategies.

September 2003, Vol. 6, No. 9 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
ICT-supported Learning Strategies and Learner-centred Instruction
Mrs Lim-Tan Keh Buoy, Grace
Principal Learning Technologist
Staff & Educational Development Division
Temasek Polytechnic

This paper aims to provide a brief overview of how two unrelated developments, the ever-evolving technological advancements and a paradigm shift in education, have combined together to form a new approach to learning (i.e. from instructor-led to learner-centred instruction) and highlight areas of synergy between the two developments in transforming education via the deployment of ICT (information & communication technologies).

Impact of technological developments on education

The emergence of both ICT and technological tools of multiple capabilities have increased the possibilities of using technology as a powerful medium of delivery, instruction and communication (Lim, 2000c, 2001). The convergence of technologies offers not only easy access to vast online teaching and learning resources, flexible life-long learning and educational opportunities, but also new ways of interaction and communication as well as building online learning communities.

Traditionally, courseware has been built in huge structures with intertwining content, making it difficult to isolate sections of the content for searching and re-purposing. With technical innovations in developing reusable learning objects, courseware content can now be separated into database-driven objects and centrally stored, searched, retrieved and re-assembled according to the learners’ needs and requirements (Barrit & Lewis, 2001; Mow, 2002). This trend of learning object development is well suited for supporting learner-centred instruction.

Paradigm shift from instructor-led to learner-centred instruction

To meet demanding workplace requirements, learners must firmly grasp the fundamentals of their discipline and develop a range of skills that is highly valued by employers. These skills include teamwork, construction of new knowledge, multidisciplinary problem solving, communication, life-long learning, self-assessment, change-management, and a familiarity with technological developments.

However, traditional modes of didactic instruction, which treat students as passive learners and the instructor as the sole provider of information, are no longer adequate in providing learners with the necessary skills. For effective instruction and learning, learners must be actively involved in and be more responsible for their own learning (Lim, 2000a, 2001; Felder, 2000; Lim, et al., 1999). This poses a compelling shift of roles for instructors and learners: instructors now function as facilitators/resource persons and learners are self-directed and autonomous, independently managing and monitoring their own learning (Abdullah, 2001; Clifford, 1999).

Learner-centred instruction focuses on learning rather than on teaching, paralleling learner-centred psychological principles that emphasise the active and reflective nature of learning and learners (American Psychological Association, 1997). Learner-centred instruction moves from teaching learners to facilitating learners to learn.

Deployment of ICT-supported learning strategies in learner-centred instruction

Today, educators face two major challenges: (a) they must manage the paradigm shifts of roles and practices in learner-centred instruction; (b) they must learn and adopt appropriate online learning technologies in their teaching practice to help them achieve their educational goals. Consequently, some ways in which online learning technologies are capable of supporting a learner-centred learning environment are outlined below.

The proliferation of web-based technologies has enabled the quick production of online lectures and other learning resources. Besides being a delivery medium for easy access and download of materials, online technologies are also capable of providing varied, meaningful learning experiences through the careful planning, designing and structuring of learning tasks, activities and support.

  1. Online learning activities

    Online learning activities are tasks and problems used to engage learners (Oliver, 2001) by providing opportunities for learners to actively construct their own understanding of content (Laurillard, 1993). Learners assume much responsibility for their own learning: they are able to determine where, when, how fast and what they learn and in what sequence. In this ‘unstructured’ learner-centred learning environment, learners set their learning goals, create their learning paths by selecting and assembling learning objects, as well as monitor their own progress. Online learning activities that are capable of supporting learner-centred instruction include:

    • By incorporating concepts, problem statements, reference sections and a variety of tools, online technologies are capable of supporting and enhancing problem-based learning processes (Lim, 2002, 2000b).

    • Participation in online debates requires learners to assume an active role so that they are able to reflect on their own perspectives and those of others.

    • Project work to be completed online by teams promotes active participation within a learning community.

    • Apart from being able to disseminate information to learners, online technologies can help in research. For instance, instructors may refer to useful online learning resources, pose provoking/thoughtful questions through email/discussion boards, and provide opportunities for the construction of knowledge, self-reflection and self-assessment.

  2. Online communication and interaction

    Online communication provides excellent opportunities for learners to exchange, share and brainstorm ideas, discuss issues as well as engage in problem solving and critical thinking, independent of time, distance and location. Consistent interaction, via online communication between instructor and learners and among learners over learning issues, is cited as the most essential component of any successful web-based course (Lim, 1998). ICT makes possible two modes of online communication and interaction:

    • Asynchronous or delayed-time communication (e.g. email, listserv, newsgroups and discussion boards) is basically text-based and can be conducted anytime, anywhere. Such flexibility enables reflection and critical thought before any posting is made.

    • Synchronous or real-time communication takes place via chat rooms, electronic whiteboards, audio conferencing, video conferencing, file and application sharing, and live e-learning/virtual classrooms. With improved network bandwidth and more capable conferencing tools, real-time communication is gaining popularity in complementing asynchronous interaction.

    Both modes of communication are well suited for learner-centred instruction in promoting knowledge construction and creating online communities for collaborative learning (Coomey & Stephenson, 2001; Oliver, 2001; Lim, 2001, 1999). Instructors can capitalise on the capabilities of online technologies to design group-learning activities (e.g. peer assessment, collaboration and interaction) and promote self-directed learning. However, a wealth of literature indicates that for any type of online interaction to be successful, it must be carefully structured into the course as learners will not automatically participate in group discussions, debate, or answer the questions posed online (Coomey & Stephenson, 2001; Oliver, 2001; Lim, et al., 1999; Lim, 1998; Laurillard, 1993).

  3. Online learning support

    Online learning support is an integral part of the online learning process in guiding learners and providing feedback (Coomey & Stephenson, 2001; Oliver, 2001). In learner-centred instruction, learners direct and control various aspects of their learning (e.g. learning outcomes, choice of group members), with instructors in the background providing advice and general guidelines on resources and procedures. Various means of online learning support include:

    • Learning guides (e.g. generic ones on study and research skills or specific guides on how to complete a particular online course).

    • Online mentors and buddies who facilitate, coach or guide learners through the course.

    • Online personal learning portfolios (e.g. learners’ journals, personal learning logs) to promote self-reflection (a critical component of learner-centred instruction).

    • Online public learning portfolios to encourage peer review and feedback on each other’s work.


The current shift from an instructor-led to a learner-centred learning environment can be well supported by the concomitant development and proliferation of online technologies and tools. The effective deployment of ICT-supported learning strategies calls for good practices in designing and structuring learning tasks and activities that promote active involvement of learners, and also provide support and feedback for self-directed learning. If the use of technology is to be maximised, the dominance of the instructor-led approach to instruction must be challenged.


American Psychological Association. (1997). Learner-centered Psychological Principles: Guidelines for School Redesign and Reform. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association and the Mid-continent Regional Education Laboratory. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Abdullah, M.H. (2001). Self-Directed Learning. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English & Communication, Digest #169 EDO-CS-01-10.

Barritt, C. & Lewis, D. (1999). Reusable Learning Object Strategy. Cisco Systems, Inc.
(Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Clifford, V.A. (1999). ‘The Development of Autonomous Learners in a University Setting’. Higher Education Research & Development. Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 115–128.

Coomey, M. & Stephenson, J. (2001). ‘Online Learning: It Is All about Dialogue, Involvement, Support and Control—According to the Research’. In J. Stephenson (Ed.), Teaching & Learning Online. London, Kogan Page. pp. 37–52.

Felder, R.M.; Woods, D.R.; Stice, J.E. & Rugarcia, A. (2000). ‘The Future of Engineering Education II. Teaching Methods that Work’. Chemical Engineering Education, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 26–39.

Laurillard, D. (1993). Rethinking University Teaching: A Framework for the Effective Use of Educational Technology. London, Kogan Page.

Lim, G. (2002). ‘Supporting PBL with Technology: More Possibilities’, presentation at Temasek Centre for Problem-based Learning Retreat, Nov 2002, Temasek Polytechnic Singapore. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G. (2001). ‘A Framework for Integrating Technologies in Teaching & Learning’, presented at the 12th International Conference for Society of Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE2001), Florida, USA. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G. (2000a). ‘Integrating Technologies in Teaching & Learning’, presentation at Temasek Engineering School Staff Seminar, Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G. (2000b). ‘Supporting Problem-based Learning with Technologies’, Temasek Engineering School, Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G. (2000c). ‘Convergence of Technologies: Impact & Implications for Education’, presentation at Creating IT Courseware for the New Millennium Seminar, Temasek Engineering School, Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G.; Goh, B.H.; Chakravarthy, R.R.S.; Yeo, S.A. & Teoh, A.P. (1999). ‘Implementing a Web-based Instruction—Issues and Lesson Learned’, full paper accepted for the Eleventh Annual World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications, EDMedia99 (Washington). (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G. (1999). ‘Online Collaboration via Desktop Video Conferencing’, presentation at Technical Forum, Temasek Engineering School, Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Lim, G. (1998). ‘Replacing Classroom Lecture with Web-based Instruction: Implications for Courseware Design & Development’, The Sixth International Conference on Computers in Education ICCE98 (Beijing). (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Mowat, J. (2002). Learning Objects & Instructional Design. The Herridge Group. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

Oliver, R. (2001). ‘Seeking Best Practice in Online Learning: Flexible Learning Toolboxes in the Australian VET sector’. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 204–222. (Last accessed: 3 January 2003).

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The Value of Online Student Peer Review, Evaluation and Feedback in Higher Education
ICT-supported Learning Strategies and Learner-centred Instruction
A Study Investigating the Impact of Web-enhanced Learning on Student Motivation