Monday, June 20, 2011

e3 Instruction

e3 (effective, efficient, engaging) is based primarily on a problem-centered, peer-interactive, and technology-enhanced instruction. Two memory processes exist: assoc

Problem-centered refers to instruction that is taught with the specific intent of allowing the learners to solve a real-world problem. Instruction covers all the skills that are required to solve the task. The  overall sequence of problem-centered instruction is to demonstrate a skill and then apply it to a problem. This demonstrate-apply cycle is repeated until learners gain all knowledge required for solution of problems. A sequence of 3+ cycle (demonstration-apply) problems are recommended.

Peer-interactive refers to activities such as: peer sharing, peer demonstration, peer collaboration, peer critique, and peer-telling. Peer-telling is the least effective of the peer-interactive activities. Each activity relates to a First Principle.
  • Activation - Peer Sharing
  • Demonstration - Peer Demonstration
  • Application - Peer Collaboration
  • Integration - Peer Critique
A list of assignments was also included for individuals to follow.
  1. Description of problem
  2. Resources (papers, videos, animations, power point)
  3. Worked problem
  4. New problem
  5. Individual solutions (posted to assigned group)
  6. Group collaboration (discussion board)
  7. Group solution
  8. Group critiques
  9. Group collaboration (revision)
Instructor roles were said to consist of 2 main responsibilities
  1. Course development - instructor develops a sequence of the previously listed problems for the course
  2. Monitor course
    • if a member of a group is inadequately participating - admonish
    • if a group solution is inadequate - suggest revisions

Merrill provides a very clear description of the concepts presented in this article. The model of First Principles of Instruction which incorporates Problem Centered approach was extremely helpful. Even more helpful is the provided list of activities. I feel this information would be important to give any instructor of an eLearning course.

However, this kind of approach does seem slightly restrictive in some ways. By providing a list of activities, one almost feels that each step should be followed and additional activities/assignments would be inefficient or unproductive. I do not think this outline would be appropriate for every single course. As always, each topic is unique and should be approached as such. I do believe that this creates a nice guideline for instruction, if there is a question on how it should be compiled.


Merrill, M. D. (2008). What Makes e3 (effective, efficient, engaging) Instruction?


  1. I like the point you've made that the approach works with every single type of instruction. I feel it may work for Blended Learning because in BL you can combine face-to-face facilitation with computer-mediated instruction and/or discovery learning opportunities, so all of the instructor, peers, and technology can be involved together. If it's just self-paced learning, seems to me there's no need to have peer interaction?

  2. Mikah (and Yi) --

    The conflict between self-paced versus peer-interactive strategies suggested by this article was problematic for me as well. Here's what I think Merrill could add to his article (from my own blog post on this article):

    What’s missing for me is a discussion of a less holistic and more pick-and-choose use of peer interaction. Granted Merrill is focused on university courses in which peer learning is the convention. In many other learning scenarios, academic as well as corporate, learners are having a solo experience and the result of their learning may be integrated into some type of non-collaborative problem-solving. I’d be interested in some strategies for using peer interaction to support solo learning when the course is not directed to a cohort of learners in the same time period.


  3. Great summary, Mikah, and I agree completely about the restrictiveness of Merrill's argument for convergence to form an integrated approach. As Yi pointed out, this does not necessarily work for the variety of modes of courses (f2f, blended, wholly online, for example). Jan, too, points to the fact that there are a wide variety of learning scenarios wherein non-collaborative work would be required as it would apply to the learner's context.

    Your point about Merrill's clarity is important and I think the consistency of his principles and viewpoints are part of the reason why his name is omnipresent in this field :). What is heartening to me is that several of us are questioning the uniformity and standardization elements of his arguments. I think that, 10-15 years ago, his emphasis on problem-centered instruction and peer-to-peer learning would be novel and a bit of a challenge to IST students who may not have had a chance to experience, let alone study the theory and principles behind these approaches. It's a healthy sign of the progress in this field. As someone from more of a 'core' education background, specifically linguistics and language acquisition, these ideas are still not implemented on a large scale in learning environments, especially overseas.

  4. Mikah, as you and our classmates have posted, I agree that this article does not take into account multiple types of instruction options nor the many subjects that BYU Hawaii must have tried to post online. Not all content lends itself to collaboration. For example, if we look at a speech class, you must be able to deliver a speech as an individual, although there are certainly times where team presentations are useful as well. Of course, collaboration would only work toward the content of the team speech, but individuals still must be able to deliver the content effectively.

    In another scenario, the E3 article does not apply to an asynchronous learning environment. The enrolled students must be on a similar timeline (for example, a semester) working toward the same goals at a consistent pace.

    I would like to see how the implementation at BYU Hawaii turned out, since the paper was published in 2008. Surely they have additional results to report :)