This week I reviewed articles about the history of instructional/educational technology definitions (Reiser 2018), how distance education and eLearning have evolved along with these definitions (Anderson & Rivera-Vargas, 2020), and ways that education has been researched (Reeves & Lin, 2020).
It was great to see the definitions of instructional technology move from focusing on the media in the earlier part of the 20th century, to seeing it as a more complex process as we get into the middle of the century, and even more so in the 1994 definition where we see the 5 domains of “design, development, utilization, management and evaluation” (Reiser, 2018). It shows that people aren’t seeing instructional technology as just the things used to teach, but they’re also seeing the hard work in designing, maintaining and evaluating it. As definitions evolved, so have the ways that distance education is delivered. Anderson and Rivera-Vargas (2020) cite four contexts of distance education: distance education with and without virtual environments, teaching in dual environments, and fully virtual environments (eLearning). It was fascinating to see the different ways distance education has been used, from asynchronous radio and television used for one-way communication of ideas to more synchronous collaborations between students and teachers and using learning management systems. One of the biggest takeaways from this article was that instructional technology itself is not the cure-all for education. It can certainly help share ideas and allow for more opportunities to learn information but if it doesn’t come with the understanding of how students learn effectively, it misses the point. Just because the technology is there, doesn’t mean it’s inherently effective.
This article also talked about attrition with distance education, which I have seen a lot recently with students not feeling the motivation and accountability in online classes (especially asynchronous ones) like they do if they’re physically in the classroom with their peers and teachers. This has been especially true for students who are just starting college, and may have not had to be independent learners to that level yet. Seeing these issues brought up about distance education made me think about research in education needing to focus more on the problems still in education instead of on new products (Reeves & Lin, 2020). We can have the most sophisticated technology available in education, but if we aren’t addressing issues like student motivation and accountability, inequities in access to education, and other barriers students face we aren’t providing students the best education possible. For my students taking Human Anatomy, we can give them online lab simulations and video lectures but it’s not addressing underlying issues that may prevent them from actually understanding the information they’re given.
Anderson, T., & Rivera-Vargas, P. (2020). A critical look at educational technology from a distance education perspective. Digital Education Review, 37, 208–229. https://doi.org/10.1344/der.2020.37.208-229.
Reeves, T.C., Lin, L. The research we have is not the research we need. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 1991–2001 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09811-3
Reiser, R.A. (2018). What field did you say you were in? Defining and naming our field. In R.A. Reiser & J.V. Dempsey (Eds.),Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.