n South African Journal of Education - 'Re-zoning' proximal development in a parallel e-learning course

Volume 22, Issue 4
  • ISSN : 0256-0100
  • E-ISSN: 2076-3433



The action inquiry reported in this article focused on the way in which students engaged in, and what their views were on, a course that included two concurrent modes of delivery - a face-to-face version and its exact twin in online format, the former being complemented by the latter. This twinning course was introduced to expand learning opportunities in what we perceived to have become a compressed face-to-face curriculum with less scheduled teaching time than previously. Additionally, we wanted to engage students by exposing them to a constructivist educational landscape in the twin courses by challenging them to construct a multi-media metaphor as main learning artefact, integrating their ways of learning in this artefact. We believed that the two courses would reinforce each other in an educational symbiosis, and that the online version would compensate for less face-to-face learning and teaching time, due to logistical changes at the institution. In the first set of findings, in a research project that will continue for three years, the researchers found that it was initially very disturbing for the students to work in parallel mode within the same curriculum, but that they gradually became au fait with the processes and that the majority saw it as an opportunity to become more proficient learners. There were, however, a substantial number of students for whom the disturbance of their cognitive comfort zone of mostly reproductive 'learning' was an extremely negative experience. They appeared to be trapped in their educational comfort zones and had narrowed their zones of proximal development, probably because of fixed patterns of educational behaviour, which could include an epistemology that was not receptive to self-directed learning.

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