Go to Critical Reviews
Go to previous version


Continuing Professional Education (CPE) is currently inundated with suggestions for change including the increased use of new communication technologies and/or more flexible delivery methods. Both concepts appear regularly in the literature as fundamental elements of effective current and future educational and training practice.

Factors encouraging a shift toward technology and flexible delivery

Significant changes to both the structure and financial resourcing of higher education institutions has impacted significantly on the dollars available through government funding and forced many in senior management to look to generating substantial amounts of income through the development of new educational and training markets.

The growth of strategic alliances, the increased use of ‘just in time’ training and the need to be able to compete in the global marketplace have all caused many organisations to re-examine their existing practices and look to other, non-traditional ways of meeting their educational and training needs.

Furthermore, the deregulation of telecommunications and persistent attempts by hardware and software manufacturers promoting the advantages of the new communication technologies for education and training purposes, have influenced providers of CPE and other formal and informal education suppliers.

Impact of these factors on changing recent practice?

CPE practice in recent years has seen the following trends emerge:

A disturbing trend in the current literature is a change in emphasis from the creation of an appropriate learning environment to one of wider delivery of courses in a more cost-effective manner and the acceptance of perceptions and assumptions about technology and flexible delivery as ‘facts’ by those advocating change.

Typical of the perceptions of technology and flexible delivery is that:

Behind such perceptions are inherent assumptions that:

These perceptions and assumptions are not true. While certain technologies may make particular courses ‘available’ to a wider audience, this does not necessarily increase learners’ ‘access’ to education or training due to financial resources or access to equipment. Technologies use should create learning environments that improve both access to CPE and interactivity between facilitators and learners.

This is not a criticism of attempts to introduce new communication technologies or increase the options for flexible delivery of CPE programs. The message regarding technology selection is one of caution rather than of prohibition. CPE programs can be improved by technology and flexible delivery if properly integrated but they are not solutions to problems in themselves.

Current use of technologies in CPE programs?

According to Lundin (1997, p 269-274), the major utilisation of technologies for flexible learning to date has been for ‘distributive’ purposes— to facilitate the broadcasting of content material to participants or for ‘interactive purposes’— to enhance the teacher-learner relationship through interactivity. See Table 1–1.


Distributive purposes Interactive purposes
  • satellite broadcasts
  • audioconferencing
  • radio
  • videoconferencing
  • television
  • audiographics
  • postal services
  • computer-based interactive multimedia packages
  • computer-mediated communication
    (ie, bulletin boards and email)

Though the two groups of technologies are not mutually exclusive in that they may be combined quite effectively, many seem to use technology for one of these purposes only.

Presently, the focus appears to be on the one-way transmission of material rather than promoting increased interactivity between learner and facilitator; increasing the broadcasting range as opposed to providing better support and feedback to learners, and on increasing the number of participants undertaking a program rather than attempting to improve the quality of learning experiences. If this is the case, it is important to develop a more contextual decision-making model that keeps decisions about the selective use of technology and the adoption of more flexible delivery methods within more appropriate parameters.

Lundin’s conceptual framework for the development of effective models for technology use in educational settings centres on four main areas of educational theory:

Based on this framework the following decision-making model, designed to improve the quality of professional adult learning, is offered to guide the use of technologies in CPE programs.

A decision-making model for the use of technologies in CPE programs

The introduction of technologies in CPE programs should:

To achieve these outcomes the following issues should be considered.

1. Program dimensions

2. Nature of the content

3. Learner needs

4. Facilitator requirements

5. Feasibility of options

wpe1.jpg (34552 bytes)

Responses to questions such as those listed above will guide the development of learning environments, however all issues must be taken into account before any decisions regarding particular technologies are made. A decision-making model such as this enables program planners to implement appropriate technologies into CPE programs in a more methodical and objective way. Such a model also facilitates the evaluation of existing programs

Perceptions and assumptions surrounding technology and flexible learning should not be accepted as factual or inevitable. Moreover, technologies should not be selected first then CPE programs designed around them. Keep an open mind to ideas that may improve the existing learning environment and the learning experience through the use of technology.



Brennan, B. (1997). Dealing with the enemy. Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education, 37 (1).

Lundin, R. (1997). Flexible delivery of continuing professional education: models, issues and trends. In Open, flexible and distance learning: education and training in the 21st century, Proceedings of the 13th Biennial Forum of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia. Launceston: University of Tasmania.

Taylor, P., Lopez, L., & Quadrelli, C. (1996). Flexibility, technology and academics’ practices: tantilizing tales and muddy maps. Canberra: Higher Education Division, Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs.


Critical Reviews


Yes, I think he has addressed the issues I raised in my critique. He is no longer stating opinion as fact and I think his decision model would be helpful to our readers.


Having read this article several times, it seems to me that it is talking about the ED BIZ, and thus is missing the entire peer-to-peer andragogy made possible by the new tech tools in combination altogether. In other words, from my learner and learning centered perspective, this is no more than a rehash of the SOS that has been repeatedly argued.

The whole point of the combined learning tools is the shift to learning, and the repeated reemphasis (expressed in the impersonal authoritative voice) upon didactocentrism is worse than counter productive --- I am sure many want to keep the vertical nature of teaching in place. I am not one of them, and find this argument in this article super-passe.

I would not read past the first paragraph, since it explores no new ground that I can see.


I think that this article is acceptable.

I thought the list of suggestions was the most helpful part of the article. The introductory sections are rather simplistic but do lead (finally) to the core of the article. Publish as is.


I have read the new version of this manuscript and believe that the author raises some important concerns with respect to "continuing professional development."

The author could cite some additional sources that discuss the difference between professional training and education. This distinction is not clearly made in this article, but I believe it's a crucial distinction. Those who argue in favor of online/long distance education (e.g., Harasim (1987), Freenberg (1998)), have often discussed the fact that education is about encouraging learner autonomy whereas training is about giving up that autonomy. A comparison is often made between the type of training a fireman must receive in order to pass a criterion-referenced test v. the type of education that encourages critical thinking and problem solving. Not all types of professional education are best served via the new technologies.

The charts he incorporates are helpful but could include more information to clarify some general concepts.

If it is not too much to ask, I would like to see more bibliographic references addressing this important issue (continuing professional education/training practices).


I believe the author still needs to think about what specific message is desired. Readers will be confused by the article in its present form.

  1. I would suggest that the author focus on the decision model and remove/reduce the attempt to both answer the question posed in the title and lay out the decision-making model. Why not cut the introductory stuff and just title the piece...Decision-making model for use of technologies in CPE programs...?
  2. The sentence, "A disturbing trend in the current literature..." requires substantiation. Is this true? If so, what literature was reviewed? Without counting articles, I sense that there seems to be more frequent articles about accreditation issues, guidelines for developing quality distance delivery, etc. The sentence also is confusing due to combination of two ideas/arguments
  3. I am unclear about the author's distinction between "perceptions" and "assumptions". Aren't the perceptions assumptions and vice versa?
  4. A minor point...why have "larger" as the first word in the third bullet under Perceptions? Wouldn't it be perceived that ALL organizations benefit from "appropriate partnerships"? Maybe smaller organizations will reap greater potential benefits than larger organizations?
  5. I still have a problem with continued use of the sentence, "These perceptions and assumptions are not true." Use of this statement seems to demand evidence. I will argue that removing the sentence doesn't alter the basic intent/message of the article if you focus on the decision-making model.
  6. As in (e), I would suggest removing or rewording the first sentence in the next paragraph..."This is not a criticism of..." Just say that use of a decision-making model can likely improve chances that technology will used appropriately and effectively.
  7. I also have a problem with "Presently, the focus appears to be on the one-way transmission of material..." As "M" noted in the initial review, this doesn't seem to match reality. Many articles seem to focus on ways to increase and manage interactivity.