The way of the termite: a theoretically grounded approach to the design of e-learning environments

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7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an argument for a design paradigm for e-learning environments that cater for the needs of diverse learners using social navigation and signposts. The argument begins with transactional distance theory, which predicts an inverse relationship between structure and dialogue in a learning transaction. It is argued that this relationship may be expressed as a function of the control exercised by each participant in a learning transaction, which varies from context to context and, learner to learner. This paper identifies and describes a type of e-learning environment wherein structure is derived from a dialogue-like process between its inhabitants, akin to that used by termites when building termite mounds. In such an environment, control is emergent, arising from the interactions and behaviours of its users. This suggests some general principles for the design of e-learning environments that both shape and are shaped by the communities that inhabit them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-16
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Web Based Communities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • e-learning
  • emergence
  • self-organisation
  • social navigation
  • stigmergy
  • systems theory
  • transactional control
  • transactional distance


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