Learning Principles and Practices

ELI recognizes that each institution is unique. Therefore, we avoid "one-size-fits-all" approaches. Instead, we focus on practices that work for multiple institutions and institutional types, specifically, practices that institutions can successfully adapt to their unique needs and circumstances.

Current Topics

IT Assessment

IT's potential to transform teaching and learning is realized through assessment. Evidence is critical to teaching and learning to gauge improvement, accountability, and so forth. Many ways exist to accumulate useful evidence (assessment, evaluation, e-portfolios), but asking appropriate questions and matching assessment strategies to them are prerequisites to obtaining good information. Accumulating evidence is one step in improving teaching and learning with technology; it must be linked to improvement strategies and changes in practice to be effective.

Questions the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) explores include:

  • What kind of evidentiary framework will help improve student learning?
  • Teaching and learning with technology facilitates student learning through the activities it enables, such as increased access, ease-of use, engagement, support, feedback, interactivity, collaboration, and networking. What types of evidence support this?
  • How can institutions develop a culture of evidence that supports the continuous improvement of teaching and learning?

Interaction and Engagement

Active learning is emphasized in contemporary learning theory, which finds that interaction leads to greater student engagement, retention, and competence. Colleges and universities are developing innovative combinations of technology and pedagogy that make learning more interactive. The results of their efforts indicate that student learning and engagement improve as interactivity increases.

Questions ELI explores include:

  • How does interaction improve existing teaching and learning practice?
  • In what ways can online laboratories, simulations, and games provide learning experiences that are experiential, authentic, and interactive? Do these environments result in more effective learning?
  • Are there models of interaction that can be replicated across institutions and disciplines?
  • How can we use existing technologies to design more interactive and engaging learning environments?
  • What are the implications of interaction and engagement on space? Support? Faculty development?

Learning Space Design

The effective design of learning spaces—whether a classroom, a laboratory, a library, or an informal space—can enhance learning. As educators have integrated communication, collaboration, and computing technologies, learning spaces have morphed. The design of learning spaces goes beyond the physical to include the virtual. Educators, technologists, and space planners are combining technology, pedagogy, learning science, and physical space.

Questions ELI explores include:

  • What kinds of spaces enhance student learning?
  • What are learning space design principles for classrooms? Informal spaces? Online activities?
  • Do we first ask about the educational experience and learning activities and then consider space? Are educational issues kept at the center of space planning?
  • What assumptions should we challenge as we design learning spaces for the future?

Successful Learning

Teaching does not necessarily result in learning. We know students differ in learning styles and history, motivation, and personal circumstances. How can colleges and universities ensure that learning is successful? Part of the answer is to identify the barriers to student success, which may range from the time a class meets to the way material is presented. Institutions are experimenting with alternatives designed to enhance successful learning. Many are also reexamining the fundamental question of what it means to be educated in the 21st century and restructuring programs to meet future needs.

Questions ELI explores include:

  • What variables must be addressed to ensure successful learning?
  • What are student expectations and needs? How can institutions tailor programs and services to meet those needs and expectations?
  • How can technology be used to increase the flexibility of learning opportunities? Which technologies improve access to higher education? Which technologies are most cost-effective?
  • How do we know when learning has been successful? How should institutions measure learning effectiveness? How can individuals track their own learning success?
  • What skills, competencies, and attitudes are important to learners as they prepare for life and work?