Co-authored by: Leigha Nevay, Tala MamiCaroline MonsellKerry Sharples, and Owen Lloyd

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Summary of the points of view in Clark and Kozma’s Papers

Richard E. Clark and Robert B. Kozma are considered by many as the founding fathers of the Great Media debate. This debate focuses on media’s role in teaching and learning with Clark claiming that media is a delivery means of information while Kozma’s contrasting view is that media WILL influence learning when applied correctly.

Clark provides a simple and to the point article on why media will never influence learning. “Many researchers have argued that media have differential economic benefits but no learning benefits” (Clark, 1994, p. 21). Clark states that media is simply a method in which learning is delivered but does not influence the achievement for students taking in the information (Clark, 1994, p. 21). This leads to the hypothesis that, “instructional methods had been confounded with media and that it is methods which influence learning” (Clark, 1994, p. 21). The definition of method is the shaping of information that activates the cognitive process necessary for achievement (Clark, 1994, p. 22). The definition of medium is how that information is provided, for example, face-to-face or online. A study was completed by Suppes that demonstrates that it was not the medium, but the drill or method of information that influenced achievement within the learners (Clark, 1994, p. 23).

The article expresses many claims to the lack of media influence on learning, but the main focus behind Clark’s claim is due to the confusion around the definition of method and medium. The use of media within instruction was found to have the same cognitive results or replicate similar cognitive functions for learners without the use of media in instruction (Clark, 1994, p. 22). Clark states that instructional design science requires the least expensive alternative for education, as long as the efficiency is the same (Clark, 1994, p. 21). This means that if the cognitive functions are the same, the cost of using media in instruction is higher than a traditional instructional design, therefore, the traditional design would be chosen. Clark summarizes his theory by stating, “media and their attributes have important influences on the cost or speed of learning but only the use of adequate instructional methods will influence learning (Clark, 1994, p. 27).

While Kozma believes that under the correct condition media will influence learning by implementing the media’s defining attributes correctly. Kozma draws a distinction between media attributes and capabilities, expressing that “The attributes of a medium are its capabilities; the capabilities of a medium are always present” (Kozma, 1994, pg. 13) and that it’s through the careful consideration of the unique context for students, tasks, or situations how to best use these capabilities to influence learning.

To clarify the point, he continues by identifying that causes that were effective and facilitated learning in one situation may have an entirely different effect in a different situation or context despite the fact they were used in a similar manner. For that reason, a media theory must consider both the media’s specific capabilities and the uniqueness of individual social situations which they are being used. Kozma continues to suggest that we should not be separating medium and method and that these two should have a more integral relationship when instructional design is being considered.

It is Kozma’s belief that we shouldn’t be debating if or if not, the media has an influence on learning but more importantly how can we use media capabilities to facilitate learning for individual students, tasks and situations. So not When, or If but HOW.

Together the five of us from the 2019 Royal Roads MALAT program searched the internet for examples of media’s use and the effect it had on learning hoping to find some clarity for these contrasting points of view.


How Immersive Learning Empowers Students and Teachers Alike.

Dave Dolan’s blog post How Immersive Learning Empowers Students and Teacher Alike is an excellent example of Kozma’s statement in his article, Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, of how important it is to use a medium’s defining capabilities to enable learning. Immersive Virtual Learning’s defining capability is its ability to immerse students into a world framed by the learning subject matter at hand promoting focused, distraction free learning. Additionally, Kozma attests that media theories should reflect the capabilities of media and the situations with which they are used. VR (Virtual Reality) immersion allows learners to both interact with the learning material and optionally with each other with-in the virtual world. This creates a unique learning environment specific to the situation with which its being used.

Dave states, in his post, that Immersive Learning enables students to “experience” the subject matter allowing them to construct new knowledge and meanings supporting the idea that the learning came from the attributes of the medium and not a by product of it. Citing results from a student poll conducted in 2017 he also points out the connection to VR’s distraction free learning environment and a resultant increase in connection between the student and the subject as a means of increased retention of information.

Clark states in his rebuttal to Kozma that that in order for the media to be considered as having affected learning, it’s attributes must be solely responsible for the learning and not a by product of the delivery mode. To that end, I would suggest that Immersive learning’s unique delivery method is an exclusive attribute and as such provides a unique cognitive effect for the learning task. Reflecting upon Kozma idea of subjecting media to a “replicability test” I find it hard to envision another means of delivering information that would provide the same exposure and immersion as Virtual Learning. Certainly, video and television can both provide dynamic symbology elements but neither can eliminate distractions or elicit the same focused attention. An audio or aural delivery using headphones would certainly isolate the learner from audio distractions but not visual ones. I think Virtual Immersive Learning would pass a “replicability test” and qualify as possessing exclusive attributes that affect learning.


The Influences of Technology and Media on Learning Process.

In Mufarrohah’s article “The Influences of Technology and Media on Learning Process”, multiple sources and authors are used to display how and why media influences the learning process. Mufarrohah uses both Kozma and Clark within her article as a way of explaining that the learning process can and is open for personal interpretation. When Clark wrote “Media will never influence learning” (Clark, 1994), we were four years away from Google making an appearance and Wikipedia was a distant thought. Technology was at the beginning of a technological paradigm change with Clark’s thought process, where both students and teachers had yet been influenced by the modern technologies and software to come (Mufarrohah, 2016). Though Clark made an extremely compelling argument regarding instructional methods in regards to students preferring a face-to-face method, we see a stark contrast was provided by Mufarrohah’s research which states: “online enrollments in higher education was growing up 21%, whereas the growth for traditional way just only 2% since 2002” (Mufarrohah, 2016). The question should not necessarily be whether or not Media influences learning, but if the influence is positive or negative.

There were a few findings within the article that could be in contrast to Kozma’s train of thought, though still not necessarily aligning with Clark. For example, it is noted that there could be psychological effects for students in an unconventional environment and “students who failed to make online connections with other learners in their group reported feeling isolated and more stressed” (Mufarrohah, 2016). This doesn’t mean that the student would choose a “traditional design” as Clark stated, however it could affect what courses the student takes and how they respond to tasks. Clark did not take what steps/solutions an institution may implement into account and what avenues are being explored to assist students. This specific group activity is a great example of a group of students being encouraged to work together and make those online connections – reaching out and guiding each other to reduce stress and build a network. Kozma was able to see the technological shift happen 25 years ago and stated, “technology and media will give more opportunities to discover the potential relationship between teaching process and learning environments (Kozma, 1994)”. We have seen exponential growth in technology and media since both Kozma and Clark wrote their articles, one can only imagine what the next 25 years will bring – something Clark appears to have underestimated.

Mufarrohah, S. (2016, December 10). The Influences of Technology and Media on Learning Process. Retrieved from


Al’s Wide Open: The Future of Higher Education.

In 1994, Richard Clarke wrote the article Media will Never Influence Learning.  He claimed that ‘instructional methods influence learning’ (para. 2) and that there are ‘no learning benefits from media’ (para. 1).  Clarke postulated that media was one of many vehicles that could be used to deliver information to students and this vehicle that delivered information did not influence student achievement.  In order to understand the impact that technology has made on the education technology sector, we have to move the clock forward 25 years to 2019. Artificial intelligence has emerged in online education and it has positively impacted and more importantly influenced student achievement through the opportunity for personalized and adaptive learning (Duijser, 2019, para. 1).

In the blog post, AI’s wide open: the future of higher education, Duijser explains that personalized learning with artificial intelligence tailors the learning experience to the needs of the learner.  This is accomplished through a concept referred to as nudging which incorporates reinforcement and support of positive patterns of behaviour by providing the students prompts in areas of the course that they may be finding difficult.  Artificial intelligence can recognize the areas of difficulty for the students and guide the student to the right answer which is in effect identifying a teaching method required to assist the student. Artificial intelligence determines the teaching method based on the needs of the learner.  Clark suggested that ‘it is not the computer, but the teaching method built into CBI that accounts for the learning gains” (para.4). In Clark’s example the teaching method was determined by the instructional designer not by the media. Twenty-five years of educational technology has produced tools to provide feedback to students incorporating their preferred learning styles.

Artificial intelligence has also provided the opportunity for adaptive learning specific to students needs.  Duijser explains that artificial intelligence can define how the student sees the course material because based on how the student answers the question, subsequent content is constructed based on their first answer.  This means that several students studying the same information could be presented with different course materials and assessments based on their strengths and areas for growth. (para. 12). On the other hand, Clark (1994) suggested that ‘learning features may affect the economics but not the learning effectiveness of instruction’. (para 13).  Artificial intelligence creates effective and efficient learning outcomes for students by adapting to the students needs. In 1994, instructional designers could have adapted learning to students needs, if these needs were identified. With artificial intelligence everything is identified immediately – in real time.

Does History repeat itself?  Educational Technology has changed how we see the world and how we learn.  Educational technology history is not repeating itself – it is ever changing, actually changing our lives forever.


Immersive Reader Takes the Spotlight in Drama Class.

In this article, the author, who is the Head of Drama, Gifted and Talented Coordinator and MIE Expert at Dubai British School, talks about the use of technology in the classroom (drama classes), specifically Microsoft Teams (MT) and Immersive Reader (IR).

(Mayhew, 2019) described the benefits of MT and IR on the learning process specifically with personalized learning, and she argues that the attributes of media in MT and IR have had implications on students’ cognitive processes. One of the examples she provided to support her claim was: “I was asking students to learn entire scripts for one of their GCSE components on a tight timeline, but I needed to further break down the task. And Immersive Reader was just the tool to help students learn their scripts for their practical unit and take the pressure off” (Mayhew,2019, para. 5). The author’s claims support Kozma’s claims that media influences learning (Kozma, 1994). On the other hand, Clark (1994) argues that many very different media attributes accomplish the same learning goal. In this article (Mayhew, 2019) claims that MT and IR attributes can support learning. However, other ed-tech attributes can also achieve the same learning goal. Despite Clark’s opinion that “If there is no single media attribute that serves a unique cognitive effect for some learning task, then the attributes must be proxies for some other variables that are instrumental in learning gains” (Clark, 1994, para.2), this article shows how MT and IR attributes have supported students’ learning.


Clark, R. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.

Dave Dolan’s blog: How Immersive Learning Empowers Students and Teachers Alike

Duijser, A. (2019, September 26).  AI’s wide open: the future of higher education.  Retrieved from

Kozma, R. (1994). Will media influence learning: Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Mayhew, L., (2019, August, 22). Immersive Reader takes the spotlight in Drama class. Retrieved from