Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology

Volume 29(3) Fall / automne, 2003


Guest editorial by Diane P. Janes

About the Guest Editor

Diane P. Janes is an Assistant Professor, Instructional Design, and a member of the Centre for Distributed Learning (CDL), Extension Division, University of Saskatchewan. Originally from Newfoundland, Diane was most recently associated with the Distance Education & Technology Unit, The University of British Columbia, and her doctoral work, with UBC, is in the area of constructivism and instructional theory. She is also Adjunct Faculty with the University College of Cape Breton/Memorial University's joint Master's in Instructional Technology and an Associate Member of UBC's School of Nursing. Diane has been the Book Review Editor for CJLT (and its predecessor, CJEC) since 1993. Contact: Diane P. Janes, Extension Division, Room 413, Williams Building,221 Cumberland Ave. N., Saskatoon SK, Canada S7N 1M3 Email:

"Constructivism has become the reigning paradigm in teacher education…today" (Hausfather, 2001, p. 15). Although he had limited his comment to the United States, it remains an interesting statement when you consider all of the possible learning and teaching theories, paradigms, practices, philosophies and world-views that currently exist in education. Hausfather is not alone in his analysis. Richardson (1997) and Baines and Stanley (2000) concur, suggesting as Hausfather does, that not only is constructivism big within programs that educate teachers, they argue that few (teachers or for that matter, the public) have good appreciation or comprehension of constructivism. Hausfather has even commented that some critics are now calling constructivism into question citing its focus "…on empowerment" and its "soft[ness] on content" as negatives to be grappled with (Hausfather, 2001, p. 15).

Overall, I think we are at a crossroads with respect to the traditions of creating and designing instruction, teaching and learning, and the use of technology in education, as we know them today and especially with respect to online learning environments. If we understand that the field of instructional design (ID) is part of the `technology of instruction', as it has been traditionally thought of, then we should be prepared to agree to the fundamental issues and models that spring from a basic definition of technology. This definition according to Dills and Romiszowski (1997) is "the application of science to the solution of real-world practical problems" (p. xiii). They argue that instructional design at the end of the day endures or collapses on the foundation that supports ID and on which real-world problems of teaching and learning can be solved.

The constructivist path that we could and can take as designers, teachers, and administrators will lead us far beyond this traditional view of instructional design. The question is do we want to go there? And if we do, what do we have to do to get us to there from here? What supports, structures and goals need be in place in order to facilitate this transition. It is my hope that some of these answers, and perhaps other fundamental questions, for our field, may lie in this journal issue.

In the late fall, 2002, the idea for this issue was born over a cup of tea with Mary Kennedy, Associate Editor of this journal. Mary and I had been discussing my dissertation research area, and it became apparent to me that while constructivism and online learning had become a great topic of conversation and debate over the past decade, many of the seminal works in the area had been published in the late 1990s. Five years or more had passed, and technology, plus how we as educators view online learning had changed, developed and grown. We agreed that it was time to take another focussed look at the topic, and that it might make an interesting special issue for CJLT.

After enthusiastic agreement by the Editor, Rick Kenny, and Mary's commitment to mentoring me through my first full journal editing experience, a call for papers was composed and it noted that this issue of CJLT would be "…devoted to the topic of Constructivism and Online Learning. Constructivism as a learning theory has become a dominant force at all levels of education in the past decade. With the advent of online technologies that have a multitude of possibilities in terms of designing online learning, it is timely to revisit the translation of constructivist learning theory into practice" (Call for Papers, Special Issue, Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 29(3), Fall, 2002).

We were amazed by the depth and breath of what we received as a response to the call. In all, we were contacted by 30+ expressions of interest, with 20 papers finally submitted. The papers came from three continents and covered a large variety of interests, confirming for us the many facets of this topic and its application to technology. After exhaustive work on the part of many of our reviewers, seven papers were selected for publication in the Special Issue. A number of articles that did not find their way into this issue were recommended for possible publication in future issues, so you may look forward to a rich and thoughtful discussion of this topic continuing over the next few issues.

Seven papers are presented in this issue, six in English and one in French. Moses A. Boudourides leads the issue with his paper, Constructivism, Education, Science, and Technology, and offers us a brief review of the various streams of constructivism, intending to present a number of answers to the question - what really is constructivism? In Using Activity Theory to Design Constructivist Online Learning Environments for Higher Order Thinking: A Retrospective Analysis, author Dirk Morrison explores design features embedded within a context of an online collaborative issues analysis project (IAP), thought to clearly reflect a constructivist approach. Jesús Vázquez-Abad and Nancy Brousseau in their Analyse de la nature constructiviste d'une activité d'apprentissage collaboratif médié par les TIC examine collaborative learning with ICT in secondary school science, in order to analyse its characteristics and determine criteria for activities of a constructivist nature.

Lisa D. Young in her work Bridging Theory and Practice: Developing Guidelines to Facilitate the Design of Computer-based Learning Environments studied the general constructivist theory that has guided the development of constructivist environments. Her work offers suggestions for the adaptation of modest, generic guidelines, not mandated principles, that can be flexibly applied, and allow for the expression of true constructivist ideals in online learning environments. John C. Nesbit and Philip H. Winne in Self-Regulated Inquiry with Networked Resources note that recent advances in theories of self-regulated learning present an opportunity to re-examine how learners work with networked resources in constructivist approaches such as problem-based learning, project-based learning, and collaborative problem solving. Ke Zhang and Kyle L. Peck, in their study The Effects of Peer-Controlled or Moderated Online Collaboration on Group Problem Solving and Related Attitudes investigated the relative benefits of peer-controlled and moderated online collaboration during group problem solving. Our final paper, Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities and Distributed Communities of Practice by Ben Daniel, Richard A. Schwier and Gordon McCalla, surveys key interdisciplinary research areas in social capital. It explores how the notions of social capital and trust can be extended to virtual communities, including virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice.

As I finish my work on this issue, I have some final thoughts. First, this issue would not have been possible without the support of Mary Kennedy. She has been my mentor, colleague and friend since I began this journey into educational technology in the late 1980s, first as my professor, then thesis supervisor for my Master's degree, and now colleague and friend. In the middle of this issue, I made the move from Vancouver to Saskatoon, from The University of British Columbia to the University of Saskatchewan and she was there to catch all of the pieces when they felt like they were falling! Thank you, Mary!

My thanks are also extended to Rick Kenny for his sage advice and to the academic volunteers, who every year, dedicate their time and energy to making sure this Journal is the quality journal we want to produce. They read the papers, comment on the newest books and offer up their latest research for scrutiny. It is a production of many! Also thanks to Gary McManus of Cartodesign, for his patience during the latter stages of production and publishing. Finally, my appreciation is extended to the writers and researchers who submitted their manuscripts for this issue. This Journal is a tribute to your work and research.


Baines, L. A., & Stanley, G. (2000). We want to see the teacher: Constructivism and the rage against expertise. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(4), 327-330.

Dills, C. R., & Romiszowski, A. J. (Eds.). (1997). Instructional development paradigms. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Hausfather, S. (2001). Where's the content? The role of content in constructivist teacher education. Educational Horizons (Fall), 15-19.

Richardson, V. (Ed.). (1997). Constructivist teacher education: Building new understandings. Washington, D.C.: Falmer Press.

ISSN: 1499-6685