A literature review focused on Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) and e-Learning in the context of Te Reo Māori and Kaupapa Māori education

Publication Details

The Ministry of Education has identified the need to further explore the use of Virtual Learning Environments particularly in the context of te reo Māori and kaupapa Māori education. This literature review was sought to provide further understanding for the Ministry of Education in this area.

Author(s): Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai and Hans Tiakiwai, Kiore Enterprises Limited. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: March 2010

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.

Section 1: Introduction


Over the last ten years there has been an increased emphasis on conceptualising, developing and implementing e-Learning initiatives across the New Zealand education sector. Andrews and Haythornthwaite (2007), in their introduction to e-Learning research, state that e-Learning is an emergent process which is viewed by some as a delivery mechanism and by others as a new pedagogical challenge. They suggest that "what that delivery looks like and what frames the pedagogical challenge emerges from the interplay between new educational strategies, new teaching approaches, new technologies and new participants in this endeavour" (p. 41).

The key questions underpinning this literature review reflect Andrews and Haythornthwaite's (2007) statement above. Specifically, the questions informing this literature review seek to understand the interplay between these new technologies and teaching and learning approaches for kaupapa Māori education settings. The key questions guiding this literature review are:

  1. What are the key understandings that emerge from an integration of the literature that has explored kaupapa Māori education (including te reo education) with the literature that focuses on e-Learning principles and practices within indigenous education contexts? 
  2. What are the key understandings that emerge from the literature on the emerging teaching and learning practices associated with Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)?
    And, drawing on the two preceding review sections -
  3. What are the teaching and learning practices that appear most likely to contribute to enhanced learning outcomes for students in kura kaupapa Māori?

Approach to the literature review: utilising a kaupapa Māori framework

According to Pihama and Penehira (2005), a kaupapa Māori approach ensures "a 'home grown' theoretical and research approach that interrogates and investigates issues as they are contextualised within Aotearoa" (p. 10). From this perspective, and given the scope of the literature review proposed by the Ministry of Education, it was felt that a kaupapa Māori approach was an appropriate framework from which to structure the literature review, in spite of criticisms as to the robustness and relevance of kaupapa Māori as a research theory and methodology (see for example, Rata, 2004).

The engagement of kaupapa Māori with e-Learning is a relatively new phenomenon. However Māori have had a long history of engagement with new technologies (ITPNZ, undated, p. 3). As Monte Ohia noted in his introduction as a member of the ITPNZ Project Māori Reference Group, kaupapa Māori "has both unchangeable and changeable elements that allow us to remain authentic to ahuatanga and tikanga Māori as well as participate in the modern world" (ITPNZ, undated, p. 3). From this position it is important to understand how e-Learning fits within the contextual and philosophical (or unchangeable elements as suggested by Monte Ohia) underpinnings from which kaupapa Māori as theory, methodology and pedagogy emerged. This ensures that the analysis of the literature is appropriately grounded and located. The rationale for this positioning has emerged from critiques of educational research by kaupapa Māori researchers such as Linda Smith (1999), Graham Smith (1997) and Russell Bishop (1996), who have argued that educational research often ignores the reality of Māori educational experiences and fails to recognize the validity of Māori ways of knowing and doing. By establishing kaupapa Māori as the primary lens for the literature review, the literature pertaining to e-Learning was examined against how and in what ways literature pertaining to e-Learning may be appropriately or otherwise applied in kaupapa Māori learning environments.

A note on terminology

The literature used to inform this review referred to e-Learning in a number of ways:

  • e-Learning;
  • digital technology;
  • virtual learning environments; and
  • ICT.

Andrews and Haythornthwaite (2007), in their introduction to e-Learning research, note that there are a myriad of terms and understandings that both encapsulate and distinguish different types of e-Learning practices. These terms and understandings have evolved from early notions of e-Learning technologies which were portrayed primarily as delivery mechanisms to incorporate learning management systems, computer-assisted technologies and the increasing "co-evolutionary nature of technology and its use" (Andrews & Haythornthwaite, 2007, p. 2). It should be noted that little literature was found which explicitly spoke about or referred to virtual learning environments, hence the literature search was broadened to include these other concepts of e-Learning. Recognising that e-Learning technologies are constantly evolving, the terms above have largely been used as they appeared in the literature to ensure the context in which they were discussed remains visible.

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