Pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping: Multidimensional facets of time in online education


  • Pekka Ihanainen HAAGA-HELIA School of Vocational Teacher Education
  • John Moravec Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota




open learning, online learning, pedagogy


A linear, sequential time conception based on in-person meetings and pedagogical activities is not enough for those who practice and hope to enhance contemporary education, particularly where online interactions are concerned. In this article, we propose a new model for understanding time in pedagogical contexts. Conceptual parts of the model will be employed as a “cultural technology” to help us relate to evolving phenomena, both physical and virtual. We label these constructs as pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping times.

Pointillist time and learning takes place in “dots” of actions that consist of small, discrete moments (e.g., tweeting). Producing, receiving, and sharing ideas in this context are separate points in each actor’s timeline. Cyclical time and learning emerges from intensive periods, which are highly visible in online forums. This construct reveals itself through interactions that often exist in multiple online environments. Overlapping time and learning involves various configurations of linear, pointillist, and cyclical layers, which are mainly evident through the simultaneous uses of social communication technologies.

Pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping time constructs enable new orientations for conceptualizing time in pedagogy. In this article we also introduce de-, re-, and en- modes of these pedagogies that connect with approaches to meet the needs of learners for individualization, personalization, and cyborgization.



How to Cite

Ihanainen, P., & Moravec, J. (2011). Pointillist, cyclical, and overlapping: Multidimensional facets of time in online education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(7), 27–39. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v12i7.1023