Purpose: E-learning has had an enormous impact on higher education. Published findings from previous stages of this three year ongoing research project have focussed on the experience of pre-service teachers, including: factors contributing to student success; the use of videos; the application of an engagement framework to online learning in arts education; and, the significance attributed to interaction by students in this mode. But what do academics in these domains believe about learning and teaching in an online environment?
Method: This research project explores the application of e-learning to one pre-service teacher unit in music and visual arts education in one Australian university. This research project uses multiple methods of data collection (survey and interviews) and data have been analysed through inductive category construction. This paper focuses on quantitative and qualitative survey data collected from six education academics of varying levels of experience in tertiary teaching who taught this unit in an online mode during in 2010 and 2011.
Results: This stage of data collection has found that all respondents maintained that teaching online is either 'completely different' or 'somewhat different', and that encouraging active engagement requires more effort than in a face to face mode. Three respondents maintained that fully online students had the same opportunity to learn as face to face students, and two that they did not (one participant did not respond to this question).When asked about the success of the online unit in preparing students to use music and visual art in their future classrooms four respondents maintained that it was 'successful' and one that it was 'very unsuccessful (one participant did not respond to this question). Of particular interest is a perception that the unit provides multilayered support for student learning, but that success is critically dependent upon student engagement. Linked to this finding is the perception that monitoring student engagement in this mode is difficult but important.
Conclusion: These findings regarding the perceptions of academics add a different perspective to more extensive data regarding student perceptions. These data coincide with those provided by pre-service teachers about the importance of student engagement to success in this mode. The scope of this survey is limited; however these data will be augmented through interviews with academics in the next stage of data collection. Following these preliminary stages of data collection, more extensive research into academic perceptions involving more participants from more institutions is necessary.