Is Distance Education Threatening Student-Centred Learning?


Our series introductory post outlined the basic elements of the communicative approach, and the need for students to be at the centre of the learning process principle among them. Nowadays, we are all necessarily immersed in online learning, which begs the question: are our online lessons truly student-centred? Sadly, the answer seems to be no.

Two factors could be identified to account for the lack of student-centred lessons in online learning. The first is the teachers’ lack of familiarity with technology: this is probably the first time most of us have had to be fully involved in online teaching, where technology is not an aid but the tool that makes it all happen. As a result, we may try to keep control of the lesson by directing all interaction and activities, repeating instructions, ensuring that everybody has heard clearly, among others.

The second factor is related to students and technology. On many occasions, teachers report that their students are not fully involved in the lessons, regardless of the resources used to engage them. Often, students blame the equipment, network connectivity, among others, to justify their lack of involvement. It is not possible for teachers to see what the students are actually doing and get their attention by means of non-verbal cues, only resorting to using their voice and consequently increasing TTT.

Considering this challenging scenario, is it likely that online lessons could become fully student-centred? This will only be possible if students’ production is maximised and teachers keep their talk to a minimum. In this new context, this could mean students constantly delivering evidence for collaborative work in the form of recorded group presentations, monologues or interactions, possibly more than once every lesson. The biggest drawback about this, however, is that the teacher’s workload after the lesson increases significantly, having to provide feedback to every learner or every class. For now, this seems to be the most practical way to reduce teacher talk and ‘encourage’ students to participate.

What do you think?

How can students participation be maximized in an online learning environment?


  1. Mayra, thank you so much for your post I really liked it.
    I think all teachers are wondering if so much work is a bad dream or a nightmare, and that’s why I consider your support and the collaboration from all teachers will be relevant inside this new circumstances.


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