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Educational technology

For a list of articles on learning theory, see Learning theory (disambiguation). For the statistical modeling methodology for online data, see Online machine learning.

Educational technology is the effective use of technological tools in learning. As a concept, it concerns an array of tools, such as media, machines and networking hardware, as well as considering underlying theoretical perspectives for their effective application.[1][2]

Educational technology is not restricted to high technology.[3] Nonetheless, electronic educational technology, also called e-learning, has become an important part of society today, comprising an extensive array of digitization approaches, components and delivery methods.[4] For example, m-learning emphasizes mobility, but is otherwise indistinguishable in principle from educational technology.[5]

Educational technology includes numerous types of media that deliver text, audio, images, animation, and streaming video, and includes technology applications and processes such as audio or video tape, satellite TV, CD-ROM, and computer-based learning, as well as local intranet/extranet and web-based learning. Information and communication systems, whether free-standing or based on either local networks or the Internet in networked learning, underlie many e-learning processes.[6]

Theoretical perspectives and scientific testing influence instructional design. The application of theories of human behavior to educational technology derives input from instructional theory, learning theory, educational psychology, media psychology and human performance technology.

Educational technology and e-learning can occur in or out of the classroom. It can be self-paced, asynchronous learning or may be instructor-led, synchronous learning. It is suited to distance learning and in conjunction with face-to-face teaching, which is termed blended learning. Educational technology is used by learners and educators in homes, schools (both K-12 and higher education), businesses, and other settings.


Richey defined educational technology as "the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources".[1] The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) denoted instructional technology as "the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning."[2][7][8] As such, educational technology refers to all valid and reliable applied education science, such as equipment, as well as processes and procedures, that are derived from scientific research, and in a given context may refer to theoretical, algorithmic or heuristic processes: it does not necessarily imply physical technology.


Educational technology refers to the use of both physical hardware and educational theoretics. It encompasses several domains, including learning theory, computer-based training, online learning, and, where mobile technologies are used, m-learning. Accordingly, there are several discrete aspects to describing the intellectual and technical development of educational technology:

Related terms

Early 19th century abacus used in a Danish elementary school.

Educational technology is an inclusive term for the tools and the theoretical foundations for supporting learning and teaching. Educational technology is not restricted to high technology.[3]

However, modern electronic educational technology is an important part of society today.[4] Educational technology encompasses e-learning, instructional technology, information and communication technology (ICT) in education, EdTech, learning technology, multimedia learning, technology-enhanced learning (TEL), computer-based instruction (CBI), computer managed instruction, computer-based training (CBT), computer-assisted instruction or computer-aided instruction (CAI),[9] internet-based training (IBT), flexible learning, web-based training (WBT), online education, digital educational collaboration, distributed learning, computer-mediated communication, cyber-learning, and multi-modal instruction, virtual education, personal learning environments, networked learning, virtual learning environments (VLE) (which are also called learning platforms), m-learning, and digital education.

Each of these numerous terms has had its advocates, who point up particular potential distinctions. However, these descriptive terms individually emphasize a particular digitization approach, component or delivery method.[5] For example, m-learning emphasizes mobility, but is otherwise indistinguishable in principle from educational technology. In practice, as technology has advanced, the particular "narrowly defined" aspect that was initially emphasized by name has blended into the general field of educational technology.[5] For example, "virtual learning" in a narrowly defined semantic sense implies entering the environmental simulation within a virtual world,[10][11] for example in treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[12][13] In practice, a "virtual education course" refers to any instructional course in which all, or at least a significant portion, is delivered by the Internet. "Virtual" is used in that broader way to describe a course that is not taught in a classroom face-to-face but through a substitute mode that can conceptually be associated "virtually" with classroom teaching, which means that people do not have to go to the physical classroom to learn. Accordingly, virtual education refers to a form of distance learning in which course content is delivered by various methods such as course management applications, multimedia resources, and videoconferencing.[14]

Bernard Luskin, an educational technology pioneer, advocated that the "e" of e-learning should be interpreted to mean "exciting, energetic, enthusiastic, emotional, extended, excellent, and educational" in addition to "electronic."[15] Parks suggested that the "e" should refer to "everything, everyone, engaging, easy".[16] These broad interpretations focus on new applications and developments, as well as learning theory and media psychology.[15]


Main article: Educational software
File:19th century classroom, Auckland - 0795.jpg
19th century classroom, Auckland

Helping people learn in ways that are easier, faster, surer, or less expensive can be traced back to the emergence of very early tools, such as paintings on cave walls.[17][18] Various types of abacus have been used. Writing slates and blackboards have been used for at least a millennium.[19] From their introduction, books and pamphlets have held a prominent role in education. From the early twentieth century, duplicating machines such as the mimeograph and Gestetner stencil devices were used to produce short copy runs (typically 10–50 copies) for classroom or home use. The use of media for instructional purposes is generally traced back to the first decade of the 20th century[20] with the introduction of educational films (1900s) and Sidney Pressey's mechanical teaching machines (1920s). The first all multiple choice, large scale assessment was the Army Alpha, used to assess the intelligence and more specifically the aptitudes of World War I military recruits. Further large-scale use of technologies was employed in training soldiers during and after WWII using films and other mediated materials, such as overhead projectors. The concept of hypertext is traced to Bush's description of memex in 1945.

Slide projectors were widely used during the 1950s in educational institutional settings. Cuisenaire rods were devised in the 1920s and saw widespread use from the late 1950s.

In 1960, the University of Illinois initiated a classroom system based in linked computer terminals where students could access informational resources on a particular course while listening to the lectures that were recorded via some form of remotely linked device like a television or audio device.[21]

In the early 1960s, Stanford University psychology professors Patrick Suppes and Richard C. Atkinson experimented with using computers to teach math and reading to young children in elementary schools in East Palo Alto, California. Stanford's Education Program for Gifted Youth is descended from those early experiments. In 1963, Bernard Luskin installed the first computer in a community college for instruction. Working with Stanford and others he helped develop computer-assisted instruction. Working with the Rand Corporation, Luskin's landmark UCLA dissertation in 1970 analyzed obstacles to computer-assisted instruction.

File:Ivan Illich artwork 1.jpg
Artistic portrait of Ivan Illich by Amano1.

In 1971, Ivan Illich published a hugely influential book called, Deschooling Society, in which he envisioned "learning webs" as a model for people to network the learning they needed. The 1970s and 1980s saw notable contributions in computer-based learning by Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hiltz at the New Jersey Institute of Technology[22] as well as developments at the University of Guelph in Canada.[23] In 1976, Bernard Luskin launched Coastline Community College as a "college without walls" using television station KOCE-TV as a vehicle. In the UK the Council for Educational Technology supported the use of educational technology, in particular administering the government's National Development Programme in Computer Aided Learning[24] (1973–77) and the Microelectronics Education Programme (1980–86).

By the mid-1980s, accessing course content become possible at many college libraries. In computer-based training (CBT) or computer-based learning (CBL), the learning interaction was between the student and computer drills or micro-world simulations.

Digitized communication and networking in education started in the mid-1980s. Educational institutions began to take advantage of the new medium by offering distance learning courses using computer networking for information. Early e-learning systems, based on computer-based learning/training often replicated autocratic teaching styles whereby the role of the e-learning system was assumed to be for transferring knowledge, as opposed to systems developed later based on computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL), which encouraged the shared development of knowledge.

Videoconferencing was an important forerunner to the educational technologies known today. This work was especially popular with Museum Education. Even in recent years, videoconferencing has risen in popularity to reach over 20,000 students across the United States and Canada in 2008-2009. Disadvantages of this form of educational technology are readily apparent: image and sound quality is often grainy or pixilated; videoconferencing requires setting up a type of mini-television studio within the museum for broadcast, space becomes an issue; and specialised equipment is required for both the provider and the participant.[25]

The Open University in Britain[23] and the University of British Columbia (where Web CT, now incorporated into Blackboard Inc., was first developed) began a revolution of using the Internet to deliver learning,[26] making heavy use of web-based training, online distance learning and online discussion between students.[27] Practitioners such as Harasim (1995)[28] put heavy emphasis on the use of learning networks.

With the advent of World Wide Web in the 1990s, teachers embarked on the method using emerging technologies to employ multi-object oriented sites, which are text-based online virtual reality systems, to create course websites along with simple sets of instructions for its students.

By 1994, the first online high school had been founded. In 1997, Graziadei described criteria for evaluating products and developing technology-based courses include being portable, replicable, scalable, affordable, and having a high probability of long-term cost-effectiveness.[29]

Improved Internet functionality enabled new schemes of communication with multimedia or webcams. The National Center for Education Statistics estimate the number of K-12 students enrolled in online distance learning programs increased by 65 percent from 2002 to 2005, with greater flexibility, ease of communication between teacher and student, and quick lecture and assignment feedback.

According to a 2008 study conducted by the U.S Department of Education, during the 2006-2007 academic year about 66% of postsecondary public and private schools participating in student financial aid programs offered some distance learning courses; records show 77% of enrollment in for-credit courses with an online component.[30] In 2008, the Council of Europe passed a statement endorsing e-learning's potential to drive equality and education improvements across the EU.[31]

Today, the prevailing paradigm is computer-mediated communication (CMC), where the primary interaction is between learners and instructors, mediated by the computer. CBT/CBL usually means individualized (self-study) learning, while CMC involves educator/tutor facilitation and requires scenarization of flexible learning activities. In addition, modern ICT provides education with tools for sustaining learning communities and associated knowledge management tasks.

Students growing up in this digital age have extensive exposure to a variety of media.[32][33] Major high-tech companies such as Google, Verizon, Microsoft are funding schools to provide them the ability to teach their students through technology, which may lead to improved student performance. [6]


Various pedagogical perspectives or learning theories may be considered in designing and interacting with educational technology. E-learning theory examines these approaches. These theoretical perspectives are grouped into three main theoretical schools or philosophical frameworks: behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism.


This theoretical framework was developed in the early 20th century based on animal learning experiments by Ivan Pavlov, Edward Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Clark L. Hull, and B.F. Skinner. Many psychologists used these results to develop theories of human learning, but modern educators generally see behaviorism as one aspect of a holistic synthesis.

B.F. Skinner wrote extensively on improvements of teaching based on his functional analysis of verbal behavior[34][35] and wrote "The Technology of Teaching",[36][37] an attempt to dispel the myths underlying contemporary education as well as promote his system he called programmed instruction. Ogden Lindsley developed a learning system, named Celeration, that was based on behavior analysis but that substantially differed from Keller's and Skinner's models.


Cognitive science underwent significant change in the 1960s and 1970s. While retaining the empirical framework of behaviorism, cognitive psychology theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning by considering how human memory works to promote learning. The Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's working memory model were established as theoretical frameworks. Computer Science and Information Technology have had a major influence on Cognitive Science theory. The Cognitive concepts of working memory (formerly known as short term memory) and long term memory have been facilitated by research and technology from the field of Computer Science. Another major influence on the field of Cognitive Science is Noam Chomsky. Today researchers are concentrating on topics like cognitive load, information processing and media psychology. These theoretical perspectives influence instructional design.[38]


Educational psychologists distinguish between several types of constructivism: individual (or psychological) constructivism, such as Piaget's theory of cognitive development, and social constructivism. This form of constructivism has a primary focus on how learners construct their own meaning from new information, as they interact with reality and with other learners who bring different perspectives. Constructivist learning environments require students to use their prior knowledge and experiences to formulate new, related, and/or adaptive concepts in learning (Termos, 2012[39]). Under this framework the role of the teacher becomes that of a facilitator, providing guidance so that learners can construct their own knowledge. Constructivist educators must make sure that the prior learning experiences are appropriate and related to the concepts being taught. Jonassen (1997) suggests "well-structured" learning environments are useful for novice learners and that "ill-structured" environments are only useful for more advanced learners. Educators utilizing a constructivist perspective may emphasize an active learning environment that may incorporate learner centered problem based learning, project-based learning, and inquiry-based learning, ideally involving real-world scenarios, in which students are actively engaged in critical thinking activities.


Main article: Instructional design

The extent to which e-learning assists or replaces other learning and teaching approaches is variable, ranging on a continuum from none to fully online distance learning.[40][41] A variety of descriptive terms have been employed (somewhat inconsistently) to categorize the extent to which technology is used. For example, 'hybrid learning' or 'blended learning' may refer to classroom aids and laptops, or may refer to approaches in which traditional classroom time is reduced but not eliminated, and is replaced with some online learning.[42][43][44] 'Distributed learning' may describe either the e-learning component of a hybrid approach, or fully online distance learning environments.[40]

Synchronous and asynchronous

E-learning may either be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous learning occurs in real-time, with all participants interacting at the same time, while asynchronous learning is self-paced and allows participants to engage in the exchange of ideas or information without the dependency of other participants′ involvement at the same time.

Synchronous learning refers to the exchange of ideas and information with one or more participants during the same period. Examples are face-to-face discussion, online real-time live teacher instruction and feedback, Skype conversations, and chat rooms or virtual classrooms where everyone is online and working collaboratively at the same time. Since students are working collaboratively, synchronized learning helps students create an open mind because they have to listen and learn from their peers. Synchronized learning fosters online awareness and improves many students' writing skills.[45]

Asynchronous learning may use technologies such as email, blogs, wikis, and discussion boards, as well as web-supported textbooks,[46] hypertext documents, audio[47] video courses, and social networking using web 2.0. At the professional educational level, training may include virtual operating rooms. Asynchronous learning is beneficial for students who have health problems or who have child care responsibilities. They have the opportunity to complete their work in a low stress environment and within a more flexible time frame.[27] In asynchronous online courses, students proceed at their own pace. If they need to listen to a lecture a second time, or think about a question for a while, they may do so without fearing that they will hold back the rest of the class. Through online courses, students can earn their diplomas more quickly, or repeat failed courses without the embarrassment of being in a class with younger students. Students have access to an incredible variety of enrichment courses in online learning, and can participate in college courses, internships, sports, or work and still graduate with their class.

Linear learning

Computer-based training (CBT) refers to self-paced learning activities delivered on a computer or handheld device such as a tablet or smartphone. CBT initially delivered content via CD-ROM, and typically presented content linearly, much like reading an online book or manual. For this reason, CBT is often used to teach static processes, such as using software or completing mathematical equations. Computer-based training is conceptually similar to web-based training (WBT) which are delivered via Internet using a web browser.

Assessing learning in a CBT is often by assessments that can be easily scored by a computer such as multiple choice questions, drag-and-drop, radio button, simulation or other interactive means. Assessments are easily scored and recorded via online software, providing immediate end-user feedback and completion status. Users are often able to print completion records in the form of certificates.

CBTs provide learning stimulus beyond traditional learning methodology from textbook, manual, or classroom-based instruction. CBTs can be a good alternative to printed learning materials since rich media, including videos or animations, can be embedded to enhance the learning.

However, CBTs pose some learning challenges. Typically, the creation of effective CBTs requires enormous resources. The software for developing CBTs (such as Flash or Adobe Director) is often more complex than a subject matter expert or teacher is able to use. The lack of human interaction can limit both the type of content that can be presented and the type of assessment that can be performed, and may need supplementation with online discussion or other interactive elements.

Collaborative learning

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) uses instructional methods designed to encourage or require students to work together on learning tasks. CSCL is similar in concept to the terminology, "e-learning 2.0" and "networked collaborative learning" (NCL).[48]

Collaborative learning is distinguishable from the traditional approach to instruction in which the instructor is the principal source of knowledge and skills. For example, the neologism "e-learning 1.0" refers to the direct transfer method in computer-based learning and training systems (CBL). In contrast to the linear delivery of content, often directly from the instructor's material, CSCL uses blogs, wikis, and cloud-based document portals (such as Google Docs and Dropbox). With technological Web 2.0 advances, sharing information between multiple people in a network has become much easier and use has increased.[49]:1 One of the main reasons for its usage states that it is "a breeding ground for creative and engaging educational endeavors."[49]:2

Using Web 2.0 social tools in the classroom allows for students and teachers to work collaboratively, discuss ideas, and promote information. According to Sendall (2008),[50] blogs, wikis, and social networking skills are found to be significantly useful in the classroom. After initial instruction on using the tools, students reported an increase in knowledge and comfort level for using Web 2.0 tools. The collaborative tools prepare students with technology skills necessary in today's workforce.

Locus of control remains an important consideration in successful engagement of e-learners. According to the work of Cassandra B. Whyte, the continuing attention to aspects of motivation and success in regard to e-learning should be kept in context and concert with other educational efforts. Information about motivational tendencies can help educators, psychologists, and technologists develop insights to help students perform better academically.[51]

Classroom 2.0

Classroom 2.0 refers to online multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) that connect schools across geographical frontiers. Known as "eTwinning", computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) allows learners in one school to communicate with learners in another that they would not get to know otherwise,[52][53][54] enhancing educational outcomes[citation needed] and cultural integration. Examples of classroom 2.0 applications are Blogger and Skype.[55]

E-learning 2.0

E-learning 2.0 is a type of computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) system that developed with the emergence of Web 2.0.[56][57] From an e-learning 2.0 perspective, conventional e-learning systems were based on instructional packets, which were delivered to students using assignments. Assignments were evaluated by the teacher. In contrast, the new e-learning places increased emphasis on social learning and use of social software such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and virtual worlds such as Second Life.[58] This phenomenon has been referred to as Long Tail Learning[59]

E-learning 2.0, in contrast to e-learning systems not based on CSCL, assumes that knowledge (as meaning and understanding) is socially constructed. Learning takes place through conversations about content and grounded interaction about problems and actions. Advocates of social learning claim that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to others.[59]

In addition to virtual classroom environments, social networks have become an important part of E-learning 2.0. Social networks have been used to foster online learning communities around subjects as diverse as test preparation and language education.[60] Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) is the use of handheld computers or cell phones to assist in language learning. Traditional educators may not promote social networking unless they are communicating with their own colleagues.[61]


File:Teaching sliderule comparison.jpg
A 2.5m teaching slide rule compared to a normal sized model

Educational media and tools can be used for:

  • task structuring support: help with how to do a task (procedures and processes),
  • access to knowledge bases (help user find information needed)
  • alternate forms of knowledge representation (multiple representations of knowledge, e.g. video, audio, text, image, data)

Numerous types of physical technology are currently used:[62][63] digital cameras, video cameras, interactive whiteboard tools, document cameras, electronic media, and LCD projectors. Combinations of these techniques include blogs, collaborative software, ePortfolios, and virtual classrooms.

Audio and video

Radio offers a synchronous educational vehicle, while streaming audio over the internet with webcasts and podcasts can be asynchronous. Classroom microphones, often wireless, can enable learners and educators to interact more clearly.

Video technology[64] has included VHS tapes and DVDs, as well as on-demand and synchronous methods with digital video via server or web-based options such as streamed video from YouTube, Teacher Tube, Skype, Adobe Connect, and webcams. Telecommuting can connect with speakers and other experts. Interactive digital video games are being used at K-12 and higher education institutions.[65]

Computers, tablets and mobile devices

Computers and tablets enable learners and educators to access websites as well as programs such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, PDF files, and images. Many mobile devices support m-learning.

Mobile devices such as clickers and smartphones can be used for interactive feedback.[66] Mobile learning can provide performance support for checking the time, setting reminders, retrieving worksheets, and instruction manuals.[67][68]

OpenCourseWare (OCW) gives free public access to information used in undergraduate and graduate programs. Participating institutions are MIT[69][70] and Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Michigan.[71]

Social networks

Group webpages, blogs, wikis, and Twitter allow learners and educators to post thoughts, ideas, and comments on a website in an interactive learning environment.[72][73][74] Social networking sites are virtual communities for people interested in a particular subject to communicate by voice, chat, instant message, video conference, or blogs.[75] The National School Boards Association found that 96% of students with online access have used social networking technologies, and more than 50% talk online about schoolwork. Social networking encourages collaboration and engagement[76] and can be a motivational tool for self-efficacy amongst students.[77][78] Every student has his or her own learning requirements, and a Web 2.0  educational  framework  provides  enough resources, learning styles, communication tools and flexibility to accommodate this diversity.[77]


Webcams and webcasting have enabled creation of virtual classrooms and virtual learning environment.[79]


Whiteboards predate tablets and other technological tools, but current interactive whiteboards and smartboards allow learners and instructors to write on the touch screen. The screen markup can be on either a blank whiteboard or any computer screen content. Depending on permission settings, this visual learning can be interactive and participatory, including writing and manipulating images on the interactive whiteboard.


Screencasting allows users to share their screens directly from their browser and make the video available online so that other viewers can stream the video directly.[80] The presenter thus has the ability to show their ideas and flow of thoughts rather than simply explain them as simple text content. In combination with audio and video, the educator can mimic the one-on-one experience of the classroom and deliver clear, complete instructions. Learners have an ability to pause and rewind, to review at their own pace, something a classroom cannot always offer.

Virtual classroom

A virtual learning environment (VLE), also known as a learning platform, simulates a virtual classroom or meetings by simultaneously mixing several communication technologies. For example, web conferencing software such as GoToTraining, WebEx Training or Adobe Connect enables students and instructors to communicate with each other via webcam, microphone, and real-time chatting in a group setting. Participants can raise hands, answer polls or take tests. Students are able to whiteboard and screencast when given rights by the instructor, who sets permission levels for text notes, microphone rights and mouse control. Also in Adobe Connect the teacher can use sermonettes, this is a lecture where the professor uses a green screen that shows what he/she is teaching, with notes or PowerPoint.[81]

A virtual classroom provides the opportunity for students to receive direct instruction from a qualified teacher in an interactive environment. Learners can have direct and immediate access to their instructor for instant feedback and direction. The virtual classroom provides a structured schedule of classes, which can be helpful for students who may find the freedom of asynchronous learning to be overwhelming. In addition, the virtual classroom provides a social learning environment that replicates the traditional "brick and mortar" classroom. Most virtual classroom applications provide a recording feature. Each class is recorded and stored on a server, which allows for instant playback of any class over the course of the school year. This can be extremely useful for students to retrieve missed material or review concepts for an upcoming exam. Parents and auditors have the conceptual ability to monitor any classroom to ensure that they are satisfied with the education the learner is receiving.

In higher education especially, a virtual learning environment (VLE) is sometimes combined with a management information system (MIS) to create a managed learning environment) in which all aspects of a course are handled through a consistent user interface throughout the institution. Physical universities and newer online-only colleges offer select academic degrees and certificate programs via the Internet. Some programs require students to attend some campus classes or orientations, but many are delivered completely online. Several universities offer online student support services, such as online advising and registration, e-counseling, online textbook purchases, student governments and student newspapers.

Augmented reality (AR) provides students and teachers the opportunity to create layers of digital information, that includes both virtual world and real world elements, to interact with in real time. There are already a variety of apps which offer a lot of variations and possibilities.

Learning management system

A learning management system[82] (LMS) is software used for delivering, tracking and managing training and education. For example, an LMS tracks attendance, time on task, and student progress. Educators can post announcements, grade assignments, check on course activity, and participate in class discussions. Students can submit their work, read and respond to discussion questions, and take quizzes.[72] An LMS may allow teachers, administrators, students, and permitted additional parties (such as parents if appropriate) to track various metrics. LMSs range from systems for managing training/educational records to software for distributing courses over the Internet and offering features for online collaboration. The creation and maintenance of comprehensive learning content requires substantial initial and ongoing investments of human labor. Effective translation into other languages and cultural contexts requires even more investment by knowledgeable personnel.[83]

Internet-based learning management systems include Canvas, Blackboard Inc. and Moodle. These types of LMS allow educators to run a learning system partially or fully online, asynchronously or synchronously. Blackboard can be used for K-12 education, Higher Education, Business, and Government collaboration.[84] Moodle is a free-to-download Open Source Course Management System that provides blended learning opportunities as well as platforms for distance learning courses.[85] Eliademy is a free cloud based Course Management System that provides blended learning opportunities as well as platforms for distance learning courses.[86]

Learning content management system

A learning content management system (LCMS) is software for author content (courses, reusable content objects). An LCMS may be solely dedicated to producing and publishing content that is hosted on an LMS, or it can host the content itself. The Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC) specification provides support for content that is hosted separately from the LMS.

A recent trend in LCMSs is to address this issue through crowdsourcing (cf.SlideWiki[87]).

Computer-aided assessment

Computer-aided assessment (e-assessment) ranges from automated multiple-choice tests to more sophisticated systems. With some systems, feedback can be geared towards a student's specific mistakes or the computer can navigate the student through a series of questions adapting to what the student appears to have learned or not learned.

The best examples follow a formative assessment structure and are called "Online Formative Assessment". This involves making an initial formative assessment by sifting out the incorrect answers. The author of the assessment/teacher will then explain what the pupil should have done with each question. It will then give the pupil at least one practice at each slight variation of sifted out questions. This is the formative learning stage. The next stage is to make a summative assessment by a new set of questions only covering the topics previously taught.

Learning design is the type of activity enabled by software that supports sequences of activities that can be both adaptive and collaborative.

Electronic performance support system

An electronic performance support system (EPSS) is, according to Barry Raybould, "a computer-based system that improves worker productivity by providing on-the-job access to integrated information, advice, and learning experiences".[88] Gloria Gery defines it as "an integrated electronic environment that is available to and easily accessible by each employee and is structured to provide immediate, individualized on-line access to the full range of information, software, guidance, advice and assistance, data, images, tools, and assessment and monitoring systems to permit job performance with minimal support and intervention by others."[89][90]

Learning objects

Main article: Learning object


Content and design architecture issues include pedagogy and learning object re-use. One approach looks at five aspects:[91]

  • Fact - unique data (e.g. symbols for Excel formula, or the parts that make up a learning objective)
  • Concept - a category that includes multiple examples (e.g. Excel formulas, or the various types/theories of Instructional Design)
  • Process - a flow of events or activities (e.g. how a spreadsheet works, or the five phases in ADDIE)
  • Procedure - step-by-step task (e.g. entering a formula into a spreadsheet, or the steps that should be followed within a phase in ADDIE)
  • Strategic principle - task performed by adapting guidelines (e.g. doing a financial projection in a spreadsheet, or using a framework for designing learning environments)

Pedagogical elements

Pedagogical elements are defined as structures or units of educational material. They are the educational content that is to be delivered. These units are independent of format, meaning that although the unit may be delivered in various ways, the pedagogical structures themselves are not the textbook, web page, video conference, Podcast, lesson, assignment, multiple choice question, quiz, discussion group or a case study, all of which are possible methods of delivery.

Learning objects standards

Much effort has been put into the technical reuse of electronically based teaching materials and in particular creating or re-using learning objects. These are self-contained units that are properly tagged with keywords, or other metadata, and often stored in an XML file format. Creating a course requires putting together a sequence of learning objects. There are both proprietary and open, non-commercial and commercial, peer-reviewed repositories of learning objects such as the Merlot repository. Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications that applies to certain web-based e-learning. Other specifications such as Schools Framework[dead link] allow for the transporting of learning objects, or for categorizing metadata (LOM).



Various forms of electronic media are a feature of preschool life.[92] Although parents report a positive experience, the impact of such use has not been systematically assessed.[92]

The age when a given child might start using a particular technology such as a cellphone or computer might depend on matching a technological resource to the recipient's developmental capabilities, such as the age-anticipated stages labeled by Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget.[93] Parameters, such as age-appropriateness, coherence with sought-after values, and concurrent entertainment and educational aspects, have been suggested for choosing media.[94]


File:03212012Matitec entrega dispositivos santafe083.jpg
Teacher showing primary school students how to work a program at a primary school in Santa Fe, Mexico City.

E-learning is utilized by public K–12 schools in the United States as well as private schools. Some e-learning environments take place in a traditional classroom, others allow students to attend classes from home or other locations. There are several states that are utilizing virtual school platforms for e-learning across the country that continue to increase. Virtual school enables students to log into synchronous learning or asynchronous learning courses anywhere there is an internet connection.

E-learning is increasingly being utilized by students who may not want to go to traditional brick and mortar schools due to severe allergies or other medical issues, fear of school violence and school bullying and students whose parents would like to homeschool but do not feel qualified.[95] Online high school create a haven for students to receive a quality education while almost completely avoiding these common problems. Online charter schools also often are not limited by location, income level or class size in the way brick and mortar charter schools are.[96]

E-learning also has been rising as a supplement to the traditional classroom. Students with special talents or interests outside of the available curricula use e-learning to advance their skills or exceed grade restrictions.[97] Some online institutions connect students with instructors via web conference technology to form a digital classroom.

National private schools are also available online. These provide the benefits of e-learning to students in states where charter online schools are not available. They also may allow students greater flexibility and exemption from state testing.

Virtual education in K-12 schooling often refers to virtual schools, and in higher education to virtual universities. Virtual schools are “cybercharter schools"[98] with innovative administrative models and course delivery technology.[98]

Higher education

Online college course enrollment has seen a 29% increase in enrollment with nearly one third of all college students, or an estimated 6.7 million students are currently enrolled in online classes.[99] In 2009, 44 percent of post-secondary students in the USA were taking some or all of their courses online, which was projected to rise to 81 percent by 2014.[100]

Although a large proportion of for-profit higher education institutions now offer online classes, only about half of private, non-profit schools do so. Private institutions may become more involved with on-line presentations as the costs decrease. Properly trained staff must also be hired to work with students online.[101] These staff members need to understand the content area, and also be highly trained in the use of the computer and Internet. Online education is rapidly increasing, and online doctoral programs have even developed at leading research universities.[102]

Although massive open online courses (MOOCs) may have limitations that preclude them from fully replacing college education,[103] such programs have significantly expanded. MIT, Stanford and Princeton University offer classes to a global audience, but not for college credit.[104] University-level programs, like edX founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, offer wide range of disciplines at no charge. MOOCs have not had a significant impact on higher education and declined after the initial expansion, but are expected to remain in some form.[105]

Private organizations also offer classes, such as Udacity, with free computer science classes, and Khan Academy, with over 3,900 free micro-lectures available via YouTube. Distributed open collaborative course (DOCC) sees itself as a counter-movement to MOOC, emphasizing decentralized teaching.[106] University of the People is a non-profit accredited online university. Coursera offers online courses. According to Fortune magazine, over a million people worldwide have enrolled in free online courses.[107]

Corporate and professional

Companies with large and spread out distribution chains use e-learning to educate sales staff and customers about the latest product developments. Continuing professional development (CPD) can deliver regulatory compliance updates and staff development of valuable workplace skills.

Public health

There is an important need for recent, reliable, and high-quality health information to be made available to the public as well as in summarized form for public health providers.[108] Providers have indicated the need for automatic notification of the latest research, a single searchable portal of information, and access to Grey literature.[109] The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Library is funded by the U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau to screen the latest research and develop automatic notifications to providers through the MCH Alert. Another application in public health is the development of MHealth (use of mobile telecommunication and multimedia into global public health). MHealth has been used to promote prenatal and newborn services, with positive outcomes. In addition, “Health systems have implemented mHealth programs to facilitate emergency medical responses, point-of-care support, health promotion and data collection.” [110] In low and middle income countries, MHealth is most frequently used as one-way text messages or phone reminders to promote treatment adherence and gather data.[111]


There has also been a growing interest in e-learning as a beneficial educational method for students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). With the growing popularity in e-learning among K-12 and higher education, the opportunity to take online classes is becoming increasingly important for students of all ages.[112] However, students with ADHD and special needs face different learning demands compared to the typical developing learner. This is especially significant considering the dramatic rise in ADHD diagnoses in the last decade among both children and adults.[113] Compared to the traditional face-to-face classroom, e-learning and virtual classrooms require a higher level of executive functions, which is the primary deficit associated with ADHD.[114]

Lorraine Wolf [115] lists 12 executive function skills necessary for students to succeed in postsecondary education: plan, set goals, organize, initiate, sustain attention/effort, flexibility, monitor, use feedback, structure, manage time, manage materials, and follow through. These skills, along with strong independent and self-regulated learning, are especially pronounced in the online environment and as many ADHD students suffer from a deficit in one or more of these executive functions, this presents a significant challenge and accessibility barrier to the current e-learning approach.[116][117]

Some have noted that current e-learning models are moving towards applying a constructivism learning theory [118] that emphasizes a learner-centered environment [119] and postulates that everyone has the ability to construct their own knowledge and meaning through a process of problem solving and discovery.[120] However, some principles of constructivism may not be appropriate for ADHD learners; these principles include active learning, self-monitoring, motivation, and strong focus.[118]

Despite the limitations, students with special needs, including ADHD, have expressed an overall enthusiasm for e-learning and have identified a number e-learning benefits, including: availability of online course notes, materials and additional resources; the ability to work at an independent pace and spend extra time spent formulating thoughtful responses in class discussions; help in understanding course lecture/content; ability to review lectures multiple times; and enhanced access to and communication with the course instructor.[116][121]


Design of e-learning platforms to enable access has received attention from several directions, including the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WAI provides universal formatting standards for websites so they can remain accessible to people with disabilities. For example, developing or adopting e-learning material can enable accessibility for people with visual impairment.[122][123] The Perkins School for the Blind offers learning resources tailored for the visually impaired, including webcasts, webinars, downloadable science activities, and an online library that has access to over 40,000 resource materials on blindness and deaf blindness.[7]

Anonymity, pseudonymity, or real identity

Educational technology, particularly in online learning environments, can allow students to use a pseudonym or anonymous identity during classroom communication. Advantages in anonymizing race, age, and gender are increased student participation[124] and increased cross-cultural communication.[125] Risks include increased cyberbullying, and aggressive or hostile language.[125][126][127]


Benefits of incorporating technology into learning may include:

  • Improved open access to education, including access to full degree programs[128]
  • Better integration for non-full-time students, particularly in continuing education,[128]
  • Improved interactions between students and instructors,[129]
  • Provision of tools to enable students to independently solve problems,[129]
  • Acquisition of technological skills through practice with tools and computers.[citation needed]
  • No age-based restrictions on difficulty level, i.e. students can go at their own pace.
  • Defray travel costs.
  • Easy-to-access course materials.[130]
  • Student motivation. According to James Kulik, who studies the effectiveness of computers used for instruction, students usually learn more in less time when receiving computer-based instruction and they like classes more and develop more positive attitudes toward computers in computer-based classes.[131]
  • In 2010, 70.3% of American family households had access to the internet.[132] In 2013, according to Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission Canada, 79% of homes have access to the internet.[133] Students can access and engage with numerous online resources at home.
  • Using online resources such as Khan Academy or TED Talks can help students spend more time on specific aspects of what they may be learning in school, but at home. Schools like MIT have made certain course materials free online.[134] Although some aspects of a classroom setting are missed by using these resources, they are helpful tools to add additional support to the educational system.
  • Wide participation. Learning material can be used for long distance learning and are accessible to a wider audience.[135]
  • Improved student writing . It is convenient for students to edit their written work on word processors, which can, in turn, improve the quality of their writing. According to some studies, the students are better at critiquing and editing written work that is exchanged over a computer network with students they know.[130]
  • Effective technologies use many evidence-based strategies (e.g. adaptive content, frequent testing, immediate feedback, etc.), as do effective teachers.[136] It is important for teachers to embrace technology in order to gain these benefits so they can address the needs of their digital natives [137]
  • The Internet has unlocked a world of opportunity for students. Information and ideas that were previously out of reach are a click away. Students of all ages can connect, share, and learn on a global scale.
  • Using computers or other forms of technology can give students practice on core content and skills while the teacher can work with others, conduct assessments, or perform other tasks.[136]
  • Studies completed in "computer intensive" settings found increases in student-centric, cooperative and higher order learning, students writing skills, problem solving, and using technology.[138] In addition, positive attitudes toward technology as a learning tool by parents, students and teachers are also improved.
  • As indicated by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM),[139] employers' perspectives of online education have enhanced in the course of the last five to 10 years. More than 50% of human resource managers SHRM surveyed for an August 2010 report said that if two candidates with the same level of experience were applying for a job, it would not have any kind of effect whether the candidate’s obtained degree was acquired through an online or a traditional school. Seventy-nine percent said they had employed a candidate with an online degree in the past 12 months. However 66% said candidates who get degrees online were not seen as positively as a job applicant with traditional degrees.[139]


Many states spend large sums of money on technology. However, no state looks at technology return on investment (ROI) to connect expenditures on technology with improved student outcomes.[140]

New technologies are frequently accompanied by unrealistic hype and promise regarding their transformative power to change education for the better or in allowing better educational opportunities to reach the masses. Examples include silent film, broadcast radio, and television, none of which have maintained much of a foothold in the daily practices of mainstream, formal education.[141] Technology, in and of itself, does not necessarily result in fundamental improvements to educational practice.[142] The focus needs to be on the learner's interaction with technology—not the technology itself. It needs to be recognized as “ecological” rather than “additive” or “subtractive”. In this ecological change, one significant change will create total change.[143]

According to Branford et al, “technology does not guarantee effective learning” and inappropriate use of technology can even hinder it [144] A University of Washington study of infant vocabulary shows that it is slipping due to educational baby DVDs. Published in the Journal of Pediatrics, a 2007 University of Washington study on the vocabulary of babies surveyed over 1,000 parents in Washington and Minnesota. The study found that for every one hour that babies 8–16 months of age watched DVDs and Videos they knew 6-8 fewer of 90 common baby words than the babies that did not watch them. Andrew Meltzoff, a surveyor in this study states that the result makes sense, that if the baby's 'alert time' is spent in front of DVDs and TV, instead of with people speaking, the babies are not going to get the same linguistic experience. Dr. Dimitri Chistakis, another surveyor reported that the evidence is mounting that baby DVDs are of no value and may be harmful.[145][146][147][148]

Adaptive instructional materials tailor questions to each student’s ability and calculate their scores, but this encourages students to work individually rather than socially or collaboratively (Kruse, 2013). Social relationships are important but high-tech environments may compromise the balance of trust, care and respect between teacher and student [149]

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), although quite popular in discussions of technology and education in developed countries (more so in US), are not a major concern in most developing or low-income countries. One of the stated goals of MOOCs is to provide less fortunate populations (i.e., in developing countries) an opportunity to experience courses with US-style content and structure. However, research shows only 3% of the registrants are from low-income countries and although many courses have thousands of registered students only 5-10% of them complete the course [150] MOOCs also implies that certain curriculum and teaching methods are superior and this could eventually wash over (or possibly washing out) local educational institutions, cultural norms and educational traditions [151]


Electronic devices such as cellphones and computers facilitate rapid access to a stream of sources, each of which may receive cursory attention. Michel Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the center on Media and Child Health in Boston, said of the digital generation, "Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task, but for jumping to the next thing. The worry is we're raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently." [152] Students have always faced distractions; computers and cellphones are a particular challenge because the stream of data can interfere with focusing and learning. Although these technologies affect adults too, young people may be more influenced by it as their developing brains can easily become habituated to switching tasks and become unaccustomed to sustaining attention.[152] Too much information, coming too rapidly, can overwhelm thinking.[153]

Technology is "rapidly and profoundly altering our brains."[154] High exposure levels stimulate brain cell alteration and release neurotransmitters, which causes the strengthening of some neural pathways and weakening of others. This leads to heightened stress levels on the brain that, at first, boost energy levels, but, over time, actually augment memory,impair cognition, lead to depression, alter the neural circuity of the hippocampus, amygdala and prefrontal cortex. These are the brain regions that control mood and thought. If unchecked, the underlying structure of the brain could be altered.[154][155] Over-stimulation due to technology may begin too young. When children are exposed before the age of seven, important developmental tasks may be delayed, and bad learning habits might develop, which "deprives children of the exploration and play that they need to develop.”[156]

Sociocultural criticism

According to Lai, “the learning environment is a complex system where the interplay and interactions of many things impact the outcome of learning.”[157] When technology is brought into an educational setting, the pedagogical setting changes in that technology-driven teaching can change the entire meaning of an activity without adequate research validation. If technology monopolizes an activity, students can begin to develop the sense that “life would scarcely be thinkable without technology."[158]

Leo Marx considered the word “technology” itself as problematic,[159] susceptible to reification and “phantom objectivity”, which conceals its fundamental nature as something that is only valuable insofar as it benefits the human condition. Technology ultimately comes down to affecting the relations between people, but this notion is obfuscated when technology is treated as an abstract notion devoid of good and evil. Langdon Winner makes a similar point by arguing that the underdevelopment of the philosophy of technology leaves us with an overly simplistic reduction in our discourse to the supposedly dichotomous notions of the “making” versus the “uses” of new technologies, and that a narrow focus on “use” leads us to believe that all technologies are neutral in moral standing.[160] These critiques would have us ask not, “How do we maximize the role or advancement of technology in education?”, but, rather, “What are the social and human consequences of adopting any particular technology?”

Winner viewed technology as a “form of life” that not only aids human activity, but that also represents a powerful force in reshaping that activity and its meaning.[160] For example, the use of robots in the industrial workplace may increase productivity, but they also radically change the process of production itself, thereby redefining what is meant by “work” in such a setting. In education, standardized testing has arguably redefined the notions of learning and assessment. We rarely explicitly reflect on how strange a notion it is that a number between, say, 0 and 100 could accurately reflect a person’s knowledge about the world. According to Winner, the recurring patterns in everyday life tend to become an unconscious process that we learn to take for granted. Winner writes,

By far the greatest latitude of choice exists the very first time a particular instrument, system, or technique is introduced. Because choices tend to become strongly fixed in material equipment, economic investment, and social habit, the original flexibility vanishes for all practical purposes once the initial commitments are made. In that sense technological innovations are similar to legislative acts or political foundings that establish a framework for public order that will endure over many generations. (p. 29)

When adopting new technologies, there may be one best chance to “get it right.” Seymour Papert (p. 32) points out a good example of a (bad) choice that has become strongly fixed in social habit and material equipment: our “choice” to use the QWERTY keyboard.[161] The QWERTY arrangement of letters on the keyboard was originally chosen, not because it was the most efficient for typing, but because early typewriters were prone to jam when adjacent keys were struck in quick succession. Now that typing has become a digital process, this is no longer an issue, but the QWERTY arrangement lives on as a social habit, one that is very difficult to change.

Neil Postman endorsed the notion that technology impacts human cultures, including the culture of classrooms, and that this is a consideration even more important than considering the efficiency of a new technology as a tool for teaching.[162] Regarding the computer’s impact on education, Postman writes (p. 19):

What we need to consider about the computer has nothing to do with its efficiency as a teaching tool. We need to know in what ways it is altering our conception of learning, and how in conjunction with television, it undermines the old idea of school.

Digital divide

Main article: Digital divide

The concept of the digital divide is a gap between those who have access to digital technologies and those who do not.[163] Access may be associated with age, gender, socio-economic status, education, income, ethnicity, and geography.[163][164]

Teacher training

Teacher training ensures effective integration of classroom technology.[165] The current school curriculum tends to guide teachers in training students to be autonomous problem solvers.[164] This has become a significant barrier to effective training because the traditional methods of teaching have clashed with what is now expected in the present workplace. Today’s students in the workplace are increasingly being asked to work in teams, drawing on different sets of expertise, and collaborating to solve problem.[164] These experiences are not highly centered on in the traditional classroom, but are twenty-first century skills that can be attained through the incorporation and engagement with technology.[166] Changes in instruction and use of technology can also promote a higher level of learning among students with different types of intelligence.[167] Technology is not the end goal of education, but rather a means by which it can be accomplished, educators must have a good grasp of the technology being used and its advantages over more traditional methods. If there is a lack in either of these areas, technology be a hindrance rather than benefit to teaching.

The evolving nature of technology may unsettle teachers who may experience themselves as perpetual novices.[168] The ways in which teachers are taught to use technology is also outdated because the primary focus of training is on computer literacy, rather than the deeper, more essential understanding and mastery of technology for information processing, communication, and problem solving.[168] New resources have to be designed and distributed whenever the technological platform has been changed. However, finding quality materials to support classroom objectives after such changes is often difficult. Random professional development days are inadequate.[168]

Teachers may not feel the need to change the traditional education system because it has been successful in the past.[164] This does not necessarily mean it is the right way to teach for the current and future generations. However, learning styles and the methods of collecting information have evolved, and “students often feel locked out of the worlds described in their textbooks through the depersonalized and abstract prose used to describe them”.[164]


There are two distinct issues of assessment: the assessment of educational technology[164][169] and assessment with technology.[170]


The five key sectors of the e-learning industry are consulting, content, technologies, services and support.[171] Worldwide, e-learning was estimated in 2000 to be over $48 billion according to conservative estimates.[172] Commercial growth has been brisk.[173][174] In 2014, the worldwide commercial market activity was estimated at $6 billion venture capital over the past five years,[173]:38 with self-paced learning generating $35.6 billion in 2011.[173]:4 North American e-learning generated $23.3 billion in revenue in 2013, with a 9% growth rate in cloud based authoring tools and learning platforms.[173]:19


Educational technologists and psychologists apply basic educational and psychological research into an evidence-based applied science (or a technology) of learning or instruction. In research, these professions typically require a graduate degree (Master's, Doctorate, Ph.D., or D.Phil.) in a field related to educational psychology, educational media, experimental psychology, cognitive psychology or, more purely, in the fields of Educational, Instructional or Human Performance Technology or Instructional design. In industry, educational technology is utilized to train students and employees by a wide range of learning and communication practitioners, including instructional designers, technical trainers, technical communication and professional communication specialists, technical writers, and of course primary school and college teachers of all levels. The transformation of educational technology from a cottage industry to a profession is discussed by Shurville et al.[175]

See also

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Further reading

External links

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