By Laren Helfer, Sandra Kuipers, Kathy Moore, Mark Regan

Clark (1994) and Kozma (1994) see opposite sides of the issue regarding if and how media influences learning.  As a team, we were tasked with looking at what is happening in the field to see if or how media affects learning.  Here are four articles we found with our thoughts on the great debate between Clark and Kozma.

3 Ways Big Data is Changing Education Forever

Big data refers to large volumes of data bytes, which can be mined for information to provide a company with valuable, and otherwise inaccessible pieces of information about their customers. In 3 Ways Big Data is Changing Education Forever, Das (2019) describes how the affordances of big data can be applied to, and are impacting education. The nature of bytes existing as digital pieces of information, renders the impacts discussed by Das as relevant to education which has been delivered across a digital platform. Instruction delivered via traditional means would not generate bytes of information to analyze. If the digital platform (perhaps an LMS or a website) is understood to be the media of the instructional delivery, it would mean that it is the media itself, or the way by which the instruction is delivered and not the design of the instruction delivered by the media that is impacting education. That is, if the media was changed to a non-digital mode of delivery, any potential impacts of big data could not be realized. This is contrary to the Clark’s (1994) position that media does not influence learning; that it is merely a vehicle for delivering content, and that it is the design of the content that impacts learning.

Das (2019) points out that assessment and feedback are integral components of the learning process. When content is delivered via a digital media platform, big data can be used to illuminate elements about how a learner interacts with the content (e.g., how many times they return to certain pages, how long they view pages, how long it takes to answer questions, etc.). The analysis of this data can be applied to instructional design. The instructor can either provide the analysis as feedback to the student, modify subsequent instruction to better address learning needs, or even design automatic modifications into the software so that the digital course itself can modify the instruction to suit the individual learning needs it identifies. The bytes of data analyzed which enable these insights and interventions could not be obtained if the content was not delivered digitally. Therefore, digital media would be necessary to influence learning in exactly this way.

Clark (1994) challenges would-be critics of his arguments to consider; when media is being used instructionally, if there are any attributes of that “media that are not replaceable by a different set of media and attributes to achieve similar learning results for any given student and learning task” (p. 22). The potential of big data to afford enhanced assessment and feedback opportunities, relies on the attribute of digital media that it has the capacity to generate bytes of data. While this does not require only one specific type of software or platform be used to deliver content, it does implicate the choice of media as being an integral component as to whether or not the learning opportunities afforded by big data could be realized.

The Influences of Technology and Media on Learning Process

In this article, the author seeks to explain the general concepts behind the pros and cons of media usages on learning. The article begins through reflection by explaining that technology is omni-present in many facets of learning and that the modern technology we see today, including computers and tablets, are changing the roles of both teachers and learners (Mufarroahah, 2016, para. 1). The article does justice to the dichotomy presented by Clark and Kozma. Kozma (1994) has made the case that media and learning are in a positive relationship, giving more opportunities for not only the learning environment itself, but the teaching process as well. Clark (1994) has taken a position that “there are no learning advantages from using technology and media in the learning process” (Mufarrohah, 2016, para. 3). The article in its conclusion is telling, in terms of what side the author leans in the great media debate. The author has sought to show the positive learning effects media in general can give the education community. Examples were presented such as Reeves’ (1998) cognitive tools reflection and beyond traditional teaching norms reflection, both of which point to the positive effects to which Kozma makes a case in his arguments. The author overall has presented both sides in an appropriate and fair manner, but leans to the side of Kozma  that media enhances the learning process and that there exists a positive relationship between them.

Make personalized learning a reality for your students

In this article, Microsoft presents a vision of personalized learning through collaboration tools, artificial intelligence, and immersive mixed reality. Images of touch-screen devices and colourful overlays of educational content embellish this message. Microsoft suggests that, for students to learn and thrive, they need the latest technologies: that these technologies “can transform a classroom” (Microsoft, 2019, para. 12) and “stimulate learning” (para. 10). The message conveyed is that personalization requires technology. Microsoft suggests that personalization “can be challenging for a teacher” (para. 8): why not solve these problems with artificial intelligence and machine learning? The article’s argument is backed with a glossy PDF of research by Microsoft and McKinsey, presenting data and infographics about the importance of social-emotional skills and critical thinking in future workplaces. Yet, this argument breaks down when critiqued against Clark’s (1994) argument of media vs. method. Do social-emotional skills and critical thinking require OneNote and Microsoft PowerPoint? Clark cautions that “we continue to invest heavily in expensive media in the hope that they will produce gains in learning” (para. 18). However, at the heart of learning is the method of instruction, and the method should not be confounded with the medium. Clark (1994) argues that “all methods required for learning can be delivered by a variety of media and media attributes” (para. 16). With Clark’s argument in mind, one shouldn’t discount educational technology either, yet it should be approached with a critical eye. McLuhan (1964) famously suggested that “the medium is the message,” which Kozma (1994) maintains and Clark disputes. As educators and technologists decide where they align in The Great Media Debate, it’s also important to ask: When does the message itself become lost behind the shiny touch-screen wifi-enabled augmented-reality medium?

Université de Montréal Opens Quebec’s First Virtual Reality Optometry Lab in Partnership with FYidoctors | Visique

This article introduces a new technology that the University of Montreal and FYidoctors | Visique are using to better the education of optometrists.  The media behind the technology is a simulation lab that provides students with experience in a virtual reality environment. The media allows students to work with real patient scenarios, but in the security of a simulated environment, where there is no risk to patient care.  Working in the lab provides students with the learning opportunity to experience everything from common to rare pathologies, allowing them to gain enough experience to be prepared to work on live patients. 

The concept behind the lab goes against Clark’s (1994) position that media does not enhance learning.   Clark states “…computer simulation was used to teach students some skills required to fly a plane…people learned to fly planes before computers were developed and therefore the media attributes required to learn were obviously neither exclusive to computers nor necessary for learning to fly” (Clark, 1994, p. 11); however, just because learning once occurred without media does not mean that it cannot occur.  The media discussed in this article provides students with a learning experience that was not otherwise available, meaning that without this media their education would be missing a vital practical component. While optometrists did always receive the required education for the job, this media advances their learning, resulting in better optometrists. If the use of media enhances learning, then there is a strong relationship between the two.  As Kozma states, “[media will] advance the development of our field and contribute to the restructuring of schools and the improvement of education and training” (Kozma, 1994, p. 23), this concept makes media more than a learning tool, but a method critical to learning, which is applied by the simulation lab by the University of Montreal and FYidoctors | Visique.


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

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

Microsoft. (2019, May 2). Make personalized learning a reality for your students. Retrieved from

Mufarrohah, St. (2016, December 09). The influences of technology and media on learning processes [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

Reeves, T.C. (1998). The impact of media and technology in schools. The Journal of Art and Design Education, 4, 58-63. Retrieved from

Université de Montréal Opens Quebec’s First Virtual Reality Optometry Lab in Partnership with FYidoctors | Visique. (2019, October 3). Cision. Retrieved from