Towards an understanding of the learning processes that occur in synchronous online seminars for the professional development of experienced educators


The National College for School Leadership (now the National College) exists to serve the development needs of school leaders in England. The College has begun to use web conferencing in several areas of its work including its professional development programmes, strategic initiatives and support and networking opportunities. Web conferencing tools offer a range of modes of interaction including audio, chat, text, desktop sharing, presentations and video conferencing. It thus has the potential for multi-process learning. The research reported here investigated the ways in which multi-process learning using these tools can be understood. It asked ‘What insights can be gained into the learning processes occurring in synchronous online seminars involving experienced educators? A literature review was carried out to provide background on the current thinking about learning through web conferencing and to explore factors that might be essential for the collective construction of knowledge in this context. Recorded internal and external NCSL web conferences were chosen as case studies; these provided the data for independent qualitative analysis by each of the researchers. From this analysis a model of the learning processes, identified in the data, was developed and related to the current literature. The major findings and model were further reviewed, in the light of their own web-conferencing experiences, by a large number of expert College educators. The resulting ‘model of multi-process learning in web conferencing’ identifies the part played by social, informational, individual internalisation and co-construction stages in multi-process learning.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    OfSTED is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. Amongst other things, it is responsible for inspecting schools in England

  2. 2.

    Similar seminars are continuing.


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Correspondence to Keith Postlethwaite.

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Seddon, K., Postlethwaite, K., James, M. et al. Towards an understanding of the learning processes that occur in synchronous online seminars for the professional development of experienced educators. Educ Inf Technol 17, 431–449 (2012).

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  • Web conferencing
  • Multi- process learning
  • Adult learning
  • Distance learning
  • Human multi-tasking