Lessons from the Past

I) Background on my role

As some of you know, I work as a content development lead in a management and consultancy firm. My primary responsibility is to oversee the development of commercial L&D products and services.

II) Germane Lessons

a) Formative and Summative Evaluation

Reiser (2001b) describes a systematic approach to solving educational problems called Programmed Instruction (PI), a term which was likely coined in a 1954 paper by B.F. Skinner entitled “The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching” (Lockee, Moore, & Burton, 2004). Programmed Instruction is a process that involves an assessment of the educational materials’ effectiveness, the identification of any deficiencies, and the revision of the materials to correct identified deficiencies either prior to or during design (Reiser, 2001b); a process referred to today as formative evaluation. The term formative evaluation comes from work by Michael Scriven in 1967 that highlights the need for instructional materials to be tested with learners while still in draft form (i.e. formative), rather than after they are in final form (i.e. summative) (Reiser, 2001b).

In my experience, formative evaluation is common in the management consulting sector, where timelines are tight and “agile” management practices dominate. Indeed, a cursory examination of recent research suggests that formative evaluation continues to be an oft-used and impactful form of evaluation, and has a proven positive impact on summative evaluation results (Alsalhanie, Das, & Abdus-Samad, 2017).

  1. b) Rapid Prototyping

In his discussion of 1990’s trends in instructional design, Reiser mentions the rise of rapid prototyping, a cycle of trial and error that continues until a minimum viable product is produced (2001b).

This approach to developing instructional materials is one we use often at ITRG, as it is believed to be both more efficient and more effective. Indeed, it gives us the opportunity to identify deficiencies early, before time and/or the opportunity for correction/optimization are lost (often due to an impending, immovable deadline).

  1. c) New Tools + Old Practices

In his keynote speeches “The History of the Future of Ed-Tech” (2014a) and “Un-fathomable: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech” (2014b), Watters describes a tension between new tools and old practices. This tension is illustrated by the all-too-common inclination to put course materials designed for in-person instruction online and view it as an online course, which Watters rebukes Khan Academy for doing in their video “The History of Education” (2014b, p.3). Watters also offers the following simple illustration of the tension: “It’s simple to introduce iPads into the classroom, for example. It’s much more difficult to use them to do entirely new things, particularly things that run counter to how classrooms have operated in the past” (2014, p.3).

This tension is all too familiar, as many individuals not acquainted with Ed-Tech research assume that materials developed for in-person instruction should be equally effective, without modification, in a digital environment. It continues to be a part of my job to discuss the drawbacks of this repurposing with both internal and external stakeholders.

Reiser’s Relevance

At the start of the 21st century, Reiser (2001a; 2001b) advocated a change from the term “instructional technology” to “instructional design and technology” (IDT) as a result of the growth of new practices (instructional design and media employed for instructional purposes) and the associations individuals have with the term technology, namely that it is commonly associated with hardware, software, or physical systems (e.g. computers, overheads) alone. Since 2001, both instructional design and the use of media for instructional purposes have continued to grow, and the myopic view of the term technology has continued (at least outside of the IDT field), offering support to Reiser’s contention that the term IDT more aptly communicates the character of the field.

Reiser also offers insight into the human tendency to take an unjustifiably rosy view of the future when he highlights that people have historically predicted that “new” (at any given time) media will have a dramatic effect on instructional practices; actual effects have been reliably less remarkable than anticipated (2001a). He goes on to make a similar prediction with regard to digital media: “over the next decade, computers, the Internet, and other digital media will bring about greater changes in instructional practices than the media that preceded them” (2001a, p.62). It seems that this bore out, as over a decade later, Bates (2014) states “what distinguished the digital age from all previous ages is the rapid pace of technology development and our immersion in technology-based activities in our daily lives. Thus it is fair to describe the impact of the Internet on education as a paradigm shift…” (2014, p.5).



Alsalhanie1, K.M., Das, S., Abdus-Samad, S. (2017). Formative evaluation impacting the results of summative evaluation – a feedback based cross-sectional study carried out among instructors of an international medical school. International Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 5(7), 2865-2869. http://www.msjonline.org/index.php/ijrms/article/viewFile/3350/3061

Lockee, B., Moore, D., & Burton, J. (2004). Foundations of Programmed Instruction. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 545–569). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. http://www.aect.org/edtech/20.pdf

Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part I: A history of instructional media. Educational Technology Research and Development49(1), 53-64.

Reiser, R. A. (2001). A history of instructional design and technology: Part II: A history of instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development49(2), 57-67.

Watters, A. (2014). The History of the Future of Ed-Tech, Chapter 1. In The monsters of education technology. Licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA.

Watters, A. (2014). Un-fathomable: The Hidden History of Ed-Tech, Chapter 2. In The monsters of education technology. Licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA.


Reflecting on my theoretical and pedagogical stance

I recently read an article by Ertmer & Newby entitled Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from a Design Perspective (2013), which – as one expects from the title – explains three essential perspectives of the learning process: behavioral, cognitive, and constructivist.   This article was a very helpful introduction to the three perspectives, including an explanation of their essence (e.g. how learning occurs, how transfer occurs, the role of memory), as well as a limited discussion of their application in the design of instruction.  It was through reading and reflecting upon this article that I discovered my first inclination is toward Constructivist Learning Theory.

Constructivist Learning Theory rejects the objectivist assumption (entrenched in behaviorism and constructivism) that the world is “real” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 54), independent of the learner.   In other words, constructivists reject the notion that there is an objective reality and a learner’s mind is merely “a reference tool to the real world” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 55).  Instead, constructivism sees learners as important actors in the learning process, wherein they interact with the environment to create meaning.

The notion that learners are important co-creators of meaning aligns with my experience in corporate training, as both a learner and facilitator.  Often, learners who have an objectively similar learning experience walk away with very different interpretations, knowledge, and capabilities.  Further, the notion that “what we know of the world stems from our own interpretation of our experiences” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 55) resonates with me, as I have often walked away from personal and professional interactions with very different impressions than those alongside me.

Under constructivism, the goal of instruction is for learners to construe and build upon information – not to know specific concepts or details (Ertmer & Newby, 2013).  The intent is to arm learners with the ability to “assemble prior knowledge from diverse sources appropriate to the problem at hand” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 56).  This is particularly appropriate to a key aspect of my work: the design of learning curriculum, including activity design.  Specifically, I can see immediate application for several of the principles suggested by Ertmer & Nemby, including ensuring learning is always anchored in meaningful contexts (particularly in activities); ensuring learning content is presented at different times, in different contexts, and for different purposes; and focusing on learning transfer through assessment.  Luckily, our current learning programs employ these principles; however, there are opportunities to further embed them in both learning design and delivery.

Will my affinity for constructivism continue?  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, I will focus on learning design that suits the needs of modern, technologically-savvy learners – design that is “highly contextualized, personal, and collaborative” (Herrington & Herrington, 2007, as cited in Ertmer & Newby, 2013).




Ertmer, P., & Newby, T. (2013). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly26(2), 43-71.

Herrington, A., & Herrington, J. (2007). Authentic Mobile Learning in Higher Education. Paper presented at the International Education Research Conference. Retrieved from: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/5413


The Great EdTech Debate: Do Media Affect Learning Outcomes?

by Terra A., Katie B., Darin F., Amber M., Dugg S.


This week a few members of the Royal Roads University Masters of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) cohort met virtually to debate whether media affect learning outcomes. We each read seminal works that outlined each side of the debate: Clark (1994) argued media absolutely do not affect learning outcomes while Kozma (1994) argued we have not yet found the link between media and learning, so he does not agree with the bold statement put forward by Clark (1994).

After grounding ourselves in both sides the education technology media debate, we each sought out an article published recently in the mainstream media and evaluated how each article related to the arguments put forward by Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994). Below are our findings.


Museums Test New Technology, Interactive Exhibits

Terra A.

The video “Museums Test New Technology, Interactive Exhibits” looks at the implementation of digital tools by museums across the globe.  In an effort to make the museum experience more engaging and informative, many prominent museums are implementing digital tools such as interactive displays; 3D videos; and movies accompanied by smells (e.g. gunpowder), moving sets and seats, and weather simulations (e.g. snow and wind). It is implied, though not explicitly stated, that the museums believe the use of these digital tools and accompaniments will help to increase learning in their visitors – children and adults alike.  The museums’ belief that digital tools will increase the engagement and learning of their visitors is in stark contrast with Clark’s (1983) assertion that media are “mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement”.  


Clark, R. (1983). Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445–459.

Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Wall Street Journal. (2015, Oct 15). General format. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32pqI1dod8A


How Americans Get Science Information

Katie B.

In the article “How Americans Get Science Information”, social media would be considered the medium to delivering the content of science information with the intention to educate the public on such issues like climate change or engineered food. This article claims that social media or “the media” for the sake of the argument we are debating, plays a modest role in actually educating people. The article depicts the usage and delivery methods of the content, stating that the medium is used by people to check in or be updated on what’s going on (with regards to science in this article particularly). This supports the claims made by Clarke (1983) when he says that the media is simply a “vehicle that delivers instruction” or in this case information. If learning occurs, it is not the media in this case that has caused a cognitive change in the brain, the information itself is not specific to the vehicle used to deliver it. In other words, if the information about science could be delivered in different ways (books, TV, newspapers, etc) then it can not be declared that the social media was, in fact, the result of a person learning (Clark, 1983). It could be argued that the means for social media use, in this case, was a cost-effective medium to deliver the information, therefore supporting Clark’s claim that delivery technologies influence the cost and access of instruction and information.


Funk, C., Gottfried, J., & Mitchell, A. (2017, September 20). Science news and information today. Paw Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org



Darin F.

zyBooks is a company that creates and sells interactive digital books for pedagogical purposes. The subject material of zyBooks, a new media format, focusses on material that deals with STEM education. Drew (2011) outlines that STEM education is an initiative to stimulate the learning of students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. The purpose of zyBooks is to replace traditional textbooks and static ePub/PDF digital volumes with a more richer, intuitive, and interactive educational experience that are “proven to better prepare students” (Why zyBooks section, para. 5).

The information provided on the website for zyBooks illustrates the confidence that the creators have in their dynamic educational book series. This level of confidence is showcased on the company’s website page listed under Research. According to zyBooks (n.d.), “zyBooks improved student performance by 16%” (Research section, para. 1) and ”letter grades up to ⅔” (Research section, para. 2). The company continued to show that “students learned 118% more in a single-lesson with minimal text” (Research section, para. 3) with “fewer than 3% of students ‘cheat the system’” (Research section, para. 4). These statements indicate that the company zyBooks perceives that their new media has influenced learning. This assumption by zyBooks directly challenges the theory set out by Clark. Clark (1994) iterates that the influence of education is based on the method of delivery and not the media. To reinforce the company’s claim, zyBooks has supplied non-peer reviewed articles which are written by employees of zyBooks.


Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Drew, D. (2011). STEM the tide. Retrieved from https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/chapter/35261

Funk, C., Gottfried, J., & Mitchell, A. (2017, September 20). Science news and information today. Paw Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299087.

zyBooks. (n.d.). zyBooks. Retrieved October 7, 2017, from http://www.zybooks.com/research/


This Play Dough Will Teach Your Kids All About Electricity

Amber M.

This article explains how using conductive play dough as the medium for learning can help children understand how electricity works. The article says, “Children can grasp technical concepts, but they need the right tools” (para. 1). If “tools” is a synonym for “media,” the statement directly contradicts Clark (1994), who argues media do not affect learning outcomes. But if “tools” is a synonym for “methods,” the statement aligns with Clark’s position (1994), who states media and methods are different. The article provides clarification on its position, stating, “It’s allowing children to solve problems through self-motivated learning” (para. 6). Here, the article explicitly aligns itself with Clark (1994) by indicating learning theories such as a problem-solving orientation and motivation are what drives learning outcomes, implying the media used is a secondary consideration.


Stinson, E. (2017). This play dough will teach your kids all about electricity. Retrieved October 6, 2017, from https://www.wired.com/2017/06/play-dough-will-teach-kids-electricity/


8 Important Reasons Why YouTube Should Be Part Of Your eLearning Course

Dugg S.

In the article “8 Important Reasons Why YouTube Should Be Part Of Your eLearning Course”, the author Christoforos Pappas (2015) explores how YouTube can benefit eLearning students through a focus on integration, community development, promotion of discussion, mobile learning potentials, note-taking skill development, comprehension of complex concepts and contribution through creativity.

Pappas outlines how YouTube videos can be created to introduce, explain in detail, or summarize most subjects or skills for students.  Additionally, students and educators can create or consume content as part of a closed or open community while generating discussions within the YouTube platform or within the classroom.  YouTube videos can be viewed from locations convenient to the student and at the student’s pace to help ensure engagement and retention.  Additionally, YouTube videos can be created with the intention of viewing in short segments which “ensures that complex procedures and demonstrations of specific skills are delivered in small quantities, which enhances knowledge retention” (Pappas, 2015).

Through his exploration of the eight reasons to integrate YouTube videos in eLearning, Pappas supports Kozma’s (1994) assertion that media will influence learning.  Pappas (2015) summarizes that “visual contexts help learners to easily acquire and retain knowledge, as well as develop specific skill sets, as demonstration is the most effective way to get a message across.”


Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299088

Kozma, R. B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7–19. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02299087.

Pappas, C. (2015). 8 important reasons why youtube should be part of your elearning. Course Retrieved October 6, 2017, from https://elearningindustry.com/8-important-reasons-youtube-part-elearning-course


Assignment 1: Relevant Resources

A resource I use often is Mind Tools.  Mind Tools is dedicated to providing content and tools that build user skills in areas key to career success, including leadership, team management, and learning (Mind Tools, 2017).  The site offers an impressive selection of content and tools that are relevant to students of LRNT 523 and the Masters of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) program.

In particular, the category “Learning Skills” contains a variety of interesting and helpful resources slotted into 5 subcategories:

  1. Personal Learning Skills (e.g. Mind Maps)
  2. Understanding how People Learn (e.g. Cognitive Load Theory; Bloom’s Taxonomy, The ADDIE model)
  3. Developing a Learning Environment (e.g. Engaging People in Learning)
  4. Reading More Effectively (e.g. Overcoming Information Overload)
  5. Memory Techniques (e.g. The Journey Technique)

Clearly, there is a lot of content applicable to LRNT523, including information on how people learn and on the relationship between learning and technology.  In addition, there is content that can help us become better students through a focus on virtual teamwork, time management, and writing.  When taken together, the information and tools at Mind Tools can help us become better content consumers and creators.

In addition to Mind Tools, here is a brief list of websites I consider to be of great value to students, researchers, and curious humans – in case they are of interest to you as well:

  • Brain Pickings – An Inventory of the Meaningful Life – A life resource that explores a wide variety of topics, including history, philosophy, and literature
    • Interesting content includes: everything… though a personal favourite ‘rabbit hole’ is her content on death and dying, including Cry, Heart, but Never Break; and Duck, Death, and the Tulip.
    • Other interesting, more relevant, content includes: How to Hone your Creative Routine and Master the Pace of Productivity; The Science of Stress and How our Emotions Affect Our Susceptibility to Burnout and Disease
    • Also check out Explore – a companion site to Brain Pickings
  • BusinessBalls – A general L&D resource with some learning-focused content
    • The content is solid – though the name may have been a lost bet.
    • Interesting content includes: Experiential Learning, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Kirkpatrick Evaluation Model
  • The Edge – A blog that explores a variety of topics across disciplines and engages prominent thinkers in the field (science and technology are prominent)
    • Interesting content includes: Aerodynamics for Cognition, Defining Intelligence, Learning by Thinking, How the Brain is Computing the Mind
  • Farnam Street – Another general L&D resource with some learning-focused content
    • Interesting content includes: Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance; When it Comes to Learning, Depth Beats Breadth; The Learning Paradox: Why Struggling to Learn is a Good Thing
  • You Are Not So Smart – a blog that humorously explores self-delusion
    • Interesting content includes: How search engines inflate your intellectual confidence, Revisiting how we can escape the trap of learned helplessness, Begging the Question
    • Why you should read this blog / listen to these podcasts, in the author David McRaney’s words: “I didn’t know about confirmation bias and self-enhancing fallacies, and once I did, I felt very, very stupid. I still feel that way, but now I can make you feel that way too.” (McRaney).

Are there any great ones I’ve missed? I would love to hear your suggestions.



Time management and information overload


Photo credit: https://daregreatlycoaching.com/confession-how-i-wasted-valuable-time-given-me/


In your daily life, you may have heard of the concept of information overload. It refers to having access to too much information or data. This week a colleague and I looked at what an abundance of digital content means from the perspective of teaching and learning. We first reviewed the article, “A pedagogy of abundance” by Martin Weller, which discusses a shift from content scarcity to abundance in the digital age. In Weller’s conclusion, he says, “an individual’s attention is not abundant, and is time-limited” (p.10).

With that thought in mind, my colleague and I set out to explore how abundant content affects us in our own lives, and how we might be able to manage our time better to adjust to the increasing demands on us as master’s students. This would allow us to absorb more digital content than we have previously been accustomed to. Below are our findings.

Amber’s Findings: Researching time management is a waste of time

My search for “time management” as a general topic of interest yielded about 72 million results from Google’s search engine. The search engine suggested other popular search phrases I might want to try as well, such as: What is good time management? What is your strategy for time management, How do I manage my time better? How do you manage your study time?

With thousands of search results already at my fingertips, I chose not to look for even more.

Instead, I chose to focus on the first page of the results. Sources I recognized were articles from Mindtools, Wikipedia, Psychology Today, Entrepreneur.com, The Guardian, and Harvard Business Review, while the few I did not were from Quartz, Top Universities, University of Kent, and Skills You Need. Many article links led to me to a web page with links to more articles (but very little actual content), leading me to a sense of quickly being overwhelmed by the information available. As a first pass I did not read the articles but skimmed the headlines, looking for information on time management that I (1) did not already know and (2) also found useful.

Most articles defined time management, explained the importance of time management skills, and provided high-level strategies to help manage time. Strategies included the need to prioritize, set goals, create task lists, delegate, and minimize distractions, among many others. Many articles reiterated the same information, most of which I already knew, and the remainder was too general to be of any practical value. After reading just a few articles, I felt like I was wasting my time.

Terra’s Findings

The essence of time management is two-part: part one, deciding what to do, and part two, doing it (Pavlina, 2006). A cursory examination of the research hinted that there is more content to be found on part two and less on part one, and this instinct was confirmed by at least one researcher (Pavlina, 2006). Often the biggest challenge is figuring out the best uses of your time (e.g., planning and prioritization), rather than on executing (e.g., time audit, calendar blocking, delegation). Perhaps the best piece of advice offered for addressing part one – “what to do” – is to begin with goals and a vision. Farrell (2017) says, “the goal setting process is the key to managing time as it is the basis for articulation of priorities, determination of action items, and personnel deployment… [and] the vision of the organization is the foundation of determining if time is being utilized to advance or manage the organization.” Although the author was clearly focused on time management in a professional context, it is easy to see how this holds true for our personal lives as well: by examining our personal goals and vision for the future, we can isolate and articulate our core priorities, and then manage our time to suit.

The notion that optimal time management is dependent on person and context cropped up frequently in my examination of the literature. One researcher cited personal workstyle preferences and organizational culture as key strategy selection drivers and suggested that individuals must test a variety of different time-saving strategies to uncover those that are most suitable for them (Farrell, 2017). In other words, there is no universal solution; the best approach to optimizing your time management is trial and error. Given the abundance of research on this topic in both open and closed domains, there is no shortage of test material with which to do so.

Final thoughts: abundant content and limited time is a recipe for disaster

The quest for optimal time management is universal; whether we are looking at personal or professional endeavours, we all seek to spend our time in the best possible way.  It is no surprise then, that content on “time management” is abundant, and both research and interest in the topic transcend disciplines. In reference to the glut of content on the topic, one researcher ironically noted: “As leaders, we lack the time to figure out all of the time saving strategies!” (Farrell, 2017, p.216).

Returning to Weller’s point, having access to abundant content definitely conflicts with having limited time to absorb it. It seems many content creators failed to recognize a key characteristic of their end user: readers looking for information about time management are short on time. Clicking through pages of links, watching videos, flipping through slideshows, reading long pages of texts, and taking quizzes may be great instructional design features for other target audiences, but not for this one. A wealth of content under pressure can easily lead to frustration and giving up.

Perhaps content curation could be an effective solution for managing an abundance of content in today’s digital society. What are your thoughts?



Farrell, M. (2017). Leadership Reflections: Time Management. Journal of Library Administration, 57(2), 215-222. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2017.1281666


Pavliva, Steve. (2006, Feb. 6). Time Management [web log comment]. Retrieved from: https://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2006/02/time-management/


Weller, M. (2011). A pedagogy of abundance. Revista Espanola de Pedagogia, 69(249), 223–236. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004