Head of gold, feet of clay: The online learning paradox


  • Thomas Michael Power Laval University
  • Anthony Morven-Gould Laval University




core faculty, obstacles, push and pull, blended online learning design


Although online learning (OL) is becoming widely accessible and is often viewed as cutting-edge, the actual number of regular faculty participating in this form of teaching remains small. Moreover, OL, despite its growing recognition, is often associated with high rates of student dissatisfaction and isolation, withdrawal, and attrition. Furthermore, although administrators typically champion support of OL, they often seem unable or unwilling to marshal the necessary financial, human, and technological resources to produce high-quality course materials and to effect efficient course delivery. In short, online learning seems paradoxically to be both booming and busting simultaneously. It is expanding supply yet hitting similar obstacles that distance education encountered generations earlier. Under these circumstances, OL is unlikely to become mainstream without a major redirection. This article applies economic principles and concepts to OL. The revised conceptualization posits that an understanding of stakeholder priorities is the key to improved online course design and delivery.

Author Biographies

Thomas Michael Power, Laval University

Dr. Thomas Michael Power is Programs Director and Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at the Faculty of Education, Laval University in Quebec City, Canada. He is • Founder of the www.BOLD-research.org researcher community, • Deputy Director – Education for the GEOIDE-sponsored GeoEduc3D project http://geoeduc3d.scg.ulaval.ca/ and • Member of the Board of Directors and Director of Research for the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (www.cnie-rcie-ca) • Member of the Board of Directors and of the Coordinating Committee for the Inter-university Learning & Technology Research Center (CIRTA) http://www.cirta.org/ • Member of the Editorial Review Board for the French-language scientific journal Revue des sciences de l'éducation and • a reviewer for several other scientific journals. • author of A Designer’s Log published by Athabasca University Press. He was formerly • Director of Communication and Associate Researcher with the SAGE for Learning Research Network, Simon Fraser University/Télé-université; • Instructional Designer and Assistant Professor at University of Moncton; • Visiting Scholar at Simon Fraser University and • Field Director for the CIDA-funded, Canada-Gabon Technical and Scientific Project, Gabon, Central Africa.

Anthony Morven-Gould, Laval University

A. M. Gould A. M. Gould PhD Assistant Professor Faculty of Social Sciences Department of Industrial Relations Université Laval Pavillon J.-A.-DeSève Local 3276 Québec (Québec) G1K 7P4 CANADA Phone: (418) 656 2131 ext. 5747 Fax: (418) 656 7688 Email: Anthony.Gould@rlt.ulaval.ca http://www.rlt.ulaval.ca/



How to Cite

Power, T. M., & Morven-Gould, A. (2011). Head of gold, feet of clay: The online learning paradox. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(2), 19–39. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v12i2.916



Research Articles