Pentexonomy: A Multi-Dimensional Taxonomy of Educational Online Technologies

Pentexonomy: A Multi-Dimensional Taxonomy of Educational Online Technologies

Kimberley Tuapawa (University of Newcastle, Australia), William David Sher (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Ning Gu (University of Newcastle, Australia)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9932-8.ch013
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Educational online technologies (EOTs) have revolutionised the delivery of online education, making a large contribution towards the global increase in demand for higher learning. Educationalists have striven to adapt through knowledge development and application of online tools, but making educationally sound choices about technology has proved challenging, amidst the extensive and largely unclassified range of tools. The absence of a taxonomy comprehensive enough to guide EOT choice is a concern, given the current global extent of online activity. This chapter addresses this issue by proposing a new taxonomic framework of EOTs called the Pentexonomy. Developed by augmenting five existing taxonomies, all of which include current EOT insights gathered during 2014-15 interviews with blended learning experts, the Pentexonomy synergises a range of perspectives to produce a robust, contextualised, and multi-dimensional classification which facilitates effective decision-making on EOT activity.
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The Internet is a phenomenal digital structure that has revolutionised the application of online technologies. By providing a “ubiquitous and universal means” of interconnection it has enabled a growing populace of over 2.4 billion users to rapidly exploit an expanding array of digital services (Tselentis et al., 2009, p. 9). The digital frontiers have extended mankind’s metropolis of ‘digitalia’, with impressive advances hallmarking the global network as an “extraordinarily successful” catalyst for growth (Tselentis et al., 2009, p. 9).

Industry-wide the Internet has generated opportunities. Tertiary education institutions (TEIs) and educationalists in particular have found the developments occurring within distance and blended education to be significant. Ambitious new endeavours to deliver online education to learners have been bolstered by online technologies, as evidenced through the inauguration of two massively open online course (MOOC) ventures, Udacity and Coursera. Herein the Internet has provided a channel through which students have been recruited at an astonishing rate (The Economist, 2012). In April 2012, Coursera had enrolled one million students. By January 2013, this number had risen to over two million. “It’s most successful class... had attracted over 180,000 students” (The Economist, 2012, p.1).

Predictions about future online learning suggest that as “the pace of change” rapidly accelerates, “hybrid classes will proliferate” (Anderson, Boyles, & Rainie, 2012, p. 17). This is now happening, as “millions of students [take] online courses… [giving] evidence that this modality is meeting a clear demand” (Allen & Seaman, 2015, p. 21). Similar forecasts indicate that the digital delivery of university-level course work via cheaper technologies will revolutionise higher education (Anderson et al., 2012). For educators, this may elicit “threatening change and unsettling volatility” or “exciting possibilities” (Chandler, 2012, p. 1), congruent outlooks to online education’s “story of amazing successes, coupled with important failures” (Allen & Seaman, 2015, p. 21). Despite these varying perceptions, the reality of the Internet’s transforming influence is evident. “Academic leaders at all types of institutions” are reporting “increased demand for …online courses” with “the demand for online offerings…greater than that for the corresponding face-to-face offerings” (Allen & Seaman, 2010, p. 5). In fact, the proportion of institutions stating that online learning is critical to their strategy is at an all-time high (Allen & Seaman, 2015). Increasingly evident is the belief in “the power of this form...” of education to “to engage and inspire people outside of the confines of an institution” (Kernohan, 2012, p. 1).

Factors including the affordability, affordances and accessibility of online technologies are contributing to the shift away from traditional in-class methods of delivery to more digitally-driven systems which accommodate a wider range of students. Clearly, “the idea that learning occurs only within” the “confines [of an institute] is becoming obsolete” (Annetta, Folta, & Klesath, 2010, p. 73). Will “the trend toward blended learning systems…increase” to become “so ubiquitous that we will eventually drop the word blended and just call it learning”? (Bonk & Graham, 2006, p. 7). As online technologies continue to advance and as distance end-users become more familiar with the capabilities of online learning, it is likely that improved and expanded applications that “increase connectedness, community and collaboration” will be developed (Bonk & Graham, 2006, p. 562). These will be accompanied by appropriate support for digital tools that strengthen and accelerate learning (Tuapawa & Skelton, 2012). Educationalists understand that “no longer are classes one-dimensional”, but as ‘modality demands’ transition from face-to-face to online, an exploitation of digital services must occur to improve traditional methods of delivery, the features of which can be “transferred and…enriched in online environment” (Weller, 2013, p. 48).

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