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by Rena Fulgencio and Liane Nakahara


Rapid advances in technology are giving e-learning a new makeover. The traditional online environment allows for open book tests and very minimal to zero class interaction. That’s changing, according to online communication instructor, Mark Marabella, whose Communication Futures class is redefining distance learning at HPU.

“ E-learning shouldn’t be just like a classroom setting, but online. It should be more interactive and make use of all the possibilities of the World Wide Web,” said Marabella.

Marabella is one of the pioneers in the future of online learning— not just here in Hawai‘i, but nationally as well. He is a co-founder of ProLearners, a learning methodology development, research, and consulting company that specializing in asynchronous and remote e-learning systems.

“ We still don’t know everything about e-learning; we’re still trying to mold and shape it,” said Marabella.

Marabella utilizes a chat room and a new system called Community Brilliance, which he created with Dr. Paul Heinberg of the University of Hawai‘i. The program consists of knowledge explorations, a three-step process.

Every week, each member of the class authors a challenge question relating to the chapter reading. Then, the questions are reviewed by fellow classmates and returned for editing. Last, a test comprised of the challenges that have been written and edited is given. Participation in these knowledge explorations and various discussion boards are key to students taking responsibility and being accountable for their own learning. In this kind of setting, Marabella explained, the instructor becomes a facilitator supervising the learning experience.

“ The biggest difference between Community Brilliance and other online learning is that you’re a part of a group… that have to do assignments and then assess them together. CB is more concerned with assessing and how people are learning,” Marabella said.

HPU has been using the program since 2002, but Marabella has been using it since 1997. Since implementing Community Brilliance, he has moved his focus to participation rather than performance, because “people who don’t do so well on one assignment may get discouraged from trying hard on anything else for that class, and that’s not what I want,” Marabella said.

He hopes that in the future, schools such as HPU set aside the funding to allow for more use of graphics and streaming video in their online courses. Although it would cost $20,000 to $30,000, Marabella would love to someday incorporate that technology in Community Brilliance. It would make learning more fun, Marabella said, adding that he even sees digital 3-D or holographic images in the future of e-learning.

“ These images will be as realistic as they can be. We will one day be able to take a 3-D tour of a building, and it will be like we’re walking through and seeing it for ourselves in person,” he said.
Among other courses, Marabella teaches COM 3760, Communication Futures, online at HPU.



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