e-Learning Instructional Strategies to Teach to the Whole Person

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Teaching to the whole person is more important than ever.  But how can we do this in an online learning environment?  I work at a Jesuit and Catholic college where I’ve been learning about Jesuit education and Ignatian pedagogy. The principles of Ignatian pedagogy include context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation (Korth, 1993).  To address these in distance education, I’m developing an instructional design (ID) model that is a combination of learner-centered, experience-centered, activity-centered, and content-centered to fully address the whole person in online courses. Ragan, Smith, and Curda (2008) stated that a combination ID model is possible.  Not only is it possible, to include research-based best practices, it is absolutely necessary to provide diverse and rich experiences in online environments.  Otherwise, a single-mode of learning will become monotonous and decrease student motivation to learn.

Table 1 provides instructional strategies for the online environment that engender higher-order thinking (cognitive presence) for each approach.  This chart represents an initial listing to assist educators with strategy selection depending on various affordances and constraints such as time, resources, et cetera. For example, an activity-centered lesson is based on an interactive task and requires collaborative tools and student groupings. Content-centered lessons are passive tasks where the student generally only interacts with the content; the exception being discussions of content. Experience-centered-activities require a hands-on approach to developing something or serving/working with others. The learner-centered activity provides the learner with more autonomy over their pursuit of knowledge and includes metacognitive actions for self-regulation of learning; the affordances and constraints for this type of activity are highly dependent on the task.

Table 1

Cognitive Online Instructional Strategies to Teach to the Whole Person

Activity-Centered Content-Centered Experience-Centered Learner-Centered
· Analysis of case studies

· Critically review an article

· HyperInquiry team project

· Academic controversy assignment

· Develop a book trailer on topic

· WebQuest

· Pretest/Posttest

· Write a literature review

· Complete modules on topic in computer-adapted lab/program

· Write essay

· Make a presentation

· Discuss content with peers and instructor


  • Develop questionnaires

·Develop a personal model of topic

·Participate in a simulation

·Develop a workshop

·Develop a wiki on topic

· Develop a podcast on topic or narrated PowerPoint

· Develop a how-to guide or video tutorial on procedure

· Write a blog post on topic

· Serve others as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer on topic

· Virtual fieldtrip

· Peer-review of papers or projects

· Students create m/c questions for review

· Design a project

· Evaluate a program

· Write an autobiography of your interaction with topic

· Complete self-evaluation

· Develop a personal learning network

· Capture reflections in journal, audio, or video

· Curate digital books and articles on topic for lifelong learning

Note. I linked some of these activities to sources of my own and others. Check back soon for an update!


Korth, S. J. (1993). Precis of Ignatian pedagogy: A practical approach.  International Center for Jesuit Education, Rome, Italy.

Ragan, T. J., Smith, P. L., & Curda, L. K. (2008). Outcome referenced, conditions-based theories and models. In J.M. Spector, M. D. Merrill, J. van Merriënboer, & M. P. Driscoll (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd ed.) (pp. 383- 399). New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates/Taylor and Francis Group.

Author: teacherrogers

Content developer, instructional designer, trainer, and researcher

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