Information Technology in Education: A Call for Assessment

Two recent Technology Source articles highlight the most important challenge for educators to meet if they are to reap the benefits of the burgeoning growth in information technology. K.C. Green's (in Morrison, 1999) observation that "we do not yet have clear, compelling evidence about the impact of information technology on student learning and educational outcomes" and Gary Brown and Mary Wack's (1999) cogent analysis of the inadequacies of the research in this field illuminate the need to assess the success of our investments in instructional technology. Barbara Yentzer, director of the National Education Association's Center for Education Technology, echoes call for more rigorous research: "For now, we are going on gut and observation" (1997).

Despite this lack of in-depth analysis, higher education professionals were recently encouraged to accelerate the distance learning movement. The Kellogg Commission urged colleges to use technology to promote lifelong learning without any call for assessing their experience to date (Kellogg Commission, 1999). Descriptions of distance learning applications abound in hundreds of conference presentations, journal articles, and Internet discussions groups such as the influential DOE and IFETS sites. Assessment of these experiences, however, is usually relegated to summaries such as: "the students really enjoyed the experience." Despite weak justification, education administrators continue to wire classrooms, hire academic computing specialists, and implore faculty to employ this new infrastructure. Faculty, in turn, struggle with understanding the appropriate role of technology in their discipline and become increasingly suspicious of the anticipated "productivity" gains from teaching "anytime, anywhere."

I suggest a call for research and article submissions to the journals and other resources that focus on the important issue of assessing efforts to integrate technology and education. To initiate this process, the following is a cross-section of summaries of journals, articles, and studies on educational information technology resources.

Dirk Rodenburg (1999) points out the complexity of this challenge: "The problem for the designers of a technology-based learning strategy is defining an instructional paradigm that is contextually appropriate and instructionally sound from this myriad of conceptual frameworks." Many researchers have tackled this problem successfully. Their contributions are described below (naturally this is a guide for further studies, not an exhaustive survey):


The first framework can be found in McGrath's work in task classification (1984). His eight categories of tasks [specify type of tasks or give other specific summarizing information] provide a valuable overlay in selecting research areas from a wide range of educational objectives. More importantly, McGrath's subsequent work (1994) focuses on the design issues of adding information technology to the accomplishment of these tasks.

Leidner and Jarvenpaa (1995) describe a second framework. Their mapping of technology to learning models "identifies sets of technologies in which management schools should invest in order to informate up and down and ultimately transform the educational environment and processes."

A seminal article by DeSanctis (1987) provides a third appropriate construct [indicate briefly the main point of the article]. This article has influenced much of the empirical research to date on group support systems in educational environments. These studies have been summarized by Koop (1994).

Model Research

Kuehner (1999) and Martinez (1999) have published exemplary work in this complex field. Kuehner has compared the effectiveness of computer-based and text-based instruction on remedial community college readers, and Martinez has investigated how individuals learn successfully on the Web. Such rigorous studies are rare, however, and illustrate the depth required to provide first-class assessment. In contrast, while the promise of instructional technology may appear obvious to most, Clifford Stoll's new book, High Tech Heretic (1999), continues to ask the tough questions about the appropriate role of computers in the education process.

It is appropriate that our profession respond to these arguments based on sound research. As section editor I welcome your input.

References [Please put all references in APA format.  See]

Brown, Gary and Mary Wack (1999) The Difference Frenzy and Matching Buckshot with Buckshot, Technology Source, May/June. (link)

DeSanctis, G and R.B. Gallupe (1987), "A Framework for the Study of Group Decision Support Systems," Management Science, 33 (3).

Koop, Rebecca B. (1994) Group Support Systems: A Meta Analysis of Experimental Research. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. University of Cincinnati.

Kuehner, Alison V. (1999) "The effects of computer-based vs. text-based instruction on remedial college readers", Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy; Newark; October.

Leidner, Dorothy E. and S.L. Jarvenpaa (1995) "The Use of Information Technology to Enhance Management School Education: A Theoretical View", MIS Quarterly, 19 (3).

Martinez, Margaret (1999) "Using learning orientation to investigate how individuals learn successfully on the Web", Technical Communication, Washington: November.

McGrath, J. (1984) Groups: Interaction and performance. Englewood Cliffs, NJ. Prentice-Hall.

McGrath, J and A.B. Hollingshead (1994) Groups Interacting with Technology. Thousand Oaks, CA. Sage.

Morrison, James (1999) ?????? Technology Source (interview K.C. Green-need help documenting this one

Rodenburg, Dirk (1999) Web-Based Learning; Extending the Paradigm. Technology Source. 11/12.

Stoll, Clifford. (1999) High Tech Heretic. New York: Doubleday.

Wade, William (1999) Assessment in distance learning: What do students know and how do we know that they know it?, T.H.E. Journal; Tustin; October.

Yantzer, Barbara (1997) in "Will more IT really improve our kids' education?" Business Communication Review, Hinsdale, February.

Web discussion groups

DEOS-L is a service of the American Center for the Study of Distance Learning located at Penn State University. (

IFETS is a service of the International Forum of Educational Technology and Society. (


The Kellogg Commission report can be found at


The American Association of Higher Education has a large scale effort, the Flashlight Project, under the direction of Steve Ehrmann which is an invaluable resource for those contemplating assessment programs. (

Journals and Web resources

Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, a journal based in Bath, England and the Millenium project at can provide further perspective on the assessment issue.