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
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
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
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.