Breaking down online teaching: Innovation and resistance


  • John Hannon La Trobe University



The term "innovation" is associated mainly with change in practice using educational technology. This paper explores the question of why innovations in online teaching and learning in higher education break down or deliver less than they promise: why they are so resource intensive, so prone to breakdown, and why they often fail to live up to their promises? Two cases of innovation were selected from a broad doctoral research project across three Australian universities, involving 24 interviewees. One case was a bottom up, wiki based learning space inspired by a constructivist commitment, the other a top down response to organisational change in a degree program. Despite literature on case studies which offer useful, evidence based approaches and models for online pedagogy, there is a lack of analytical perspectives with which to engage with breakdowns and "thwarted innovation" in online learning. The focus in this paper is online teaching, and breakdowns are scoped beyond the technologies involved and encompass social, material and discursive entities. An actor network perspective (Callon 1986; Latour 1987; Law 2000) is used to explore the relationality between social and technological entities, and the sociotechnical assemblage which constitutes online teaching. It argues that (i) crucial factors are hidden by the normative perspective inherent in the implementation of technology systems, and (ii) recognising the connections between the social, material and discursive entities in online learning offers a strong analytic basis for innovative teaching and learning practice.


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Author Biography

John Hannon, La Trobe University

Lecturer, Online and Flexible Learning,
Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Centre, La Trobe University




How to Cite

Hannon, J. (2009). Breaking down online teaching: Innovation and resistance. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(1).