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Comparing apples and oranges: toward a typology for assessing e-learning effectiveness

Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management

ISBN: 978-0-85724-125-2, eISBN: 978-0-85724-126-9

Publication date: 7 June 2010


E-learning programs exist in a wide variety of formats. Without a framework for distinguishing between different e-learning programs, it is a challenge for researchers to compare their effectiveness or identify characteristics of e-learning that contribute to learning effectiveness. Based on general theories of learning, we develop a typology that compares e-learning programs in terms of the nature of the learning interactions they provide for learners in three dimensions: degree of interaction, learner control of interactions, and informational value of interactions. The typology dimensions apply to learner–instructor, learner–learner, and learner–instructional material interactions. We also discuss important theoretical implications of the typology. First, we show the utility of the typology for comparing the effectiveness of different e-learning programs. Second, we apply the typology dimensions to develop a theoretical framework for e-learning research that provides a foundation for examining factors that influence learning effectiveness in an e-learning program. The framework identifies e-learning program characteristics, learner characteristics, and contextual factors that impact learning effectiveness in different e-learning environments. It also shows how the typology dimensions align with learning goals to influence learning effectiveness.


Sharon Hill, N. and Wouters, K. (2010), "Comparing apples and oranges: toward a typology for assessing e-learning effectiveness", Liao, H., Martocchio, J.J. and Joshi, A. (Ed.) Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management (Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 201-242.



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