Bates and Poole (2003) provide useful frameworks for evaluating effective teaching with technology in higher education. In particular Bates used the acronym SECTIONS to describe one specific model that is useful in the context of the M4D course review. It is described in the table below.


Bates has updated his framework over the past few years to account for new technologies and models of practice, such as MOOCs. Currently he is discussing a more refined schema in his presentations and blog posts, and according to Bates (2014a) the new schema (PSLR) will be useful for “deciding where in the continuum of online learning a course or program should be, but it doesn’t have a catchy acronym.”

This updated schema asks four questions that educators and instructional developers should consider prior to designing a new course or program (Bates, 2014a):

  • Pedagogy: How would you really like to teach (e.g. information transmission; experiential; inquiry-based; knowledge management)?
  • Students: What kind, what age, ability to learn independently; experience in the subject area?
  • Desired learning outcomes (skills and content) to decide what is best done online – or the requirements of the subject discipline?
  • Resources: What instructional design and technology support is available?

The PSLR framework and elements of the SECTIONS framework were used in reviewing the pedagogical and technical approaches used by the M4D team. In particular, the PSLR framework was used to develop questions requiring a text-based response from the M4D development team in the March 2014 online questionnaire.


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