Creating a New World of Learning Possibilities Through Instructional Technology

Dr. Dorothy A. Frayer

Lynda Barner West

Duquesne University

Recent technological advances have created the possibility of new ways of teaching and learning. However, taking full advantage of this potential requires faculty to think about the teaching/learning process in new ways as well as to master the technology itself. This article presents a conceptualization of the ways technology might enhance student learning, reviews what is known about the adoption of educational uses of information technology by faculty, and provides a list of World Wide Web (WWW) sites and bibliographical references for further exploration of the instructional uses of technology.

During the past seven years, Dorothy Frayer, the Director of Duquesne University's Center for Teaching Excellence, and Lynda Barner West, Executive Director of Duquesne's Center for Communications and Information Technology (CCIT), have worked together to conceptualize the ways in which technology might enhance teaching and learning. This article grows out of this partnership.

As an educational psychologist, Dorothy Frayer has spent the past 30 years studying the way students learn and what motivates them to learn. Eight years ago she founded the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) at Duquesne University. CTE strives to enhance the quality of teaching and student learning at Duquesne. When CTE opened its doors in 1989, Duquesne had a strong tradition of excellent teaching, but had few technology resources.

By happy coincidence, soon after CTE was founded, Lynda Barner West was hired as Director of Duquesne's computer center, the Center for Communications and Information Technology (CCIT). Lynda brought to her position not only an exceptional knowledge of technology, but also a concern for teaching. She introduced Dorothy to those pioneers who were exploring the educational uses of technology. In turn, CTE helped our faculty explore ways in which they might use technology in their teaching.

In recent years, Duquesne University recognized the potential of technology to revolutionize the teaching and learning process and has invested in state-of-the-art infrastructure as well as extensive faculty development to enable faculty to capitalize on this infrastructure. Throughout this period, CTE looked for ways to help Duquesne faculty envision ways in which technology might make a significant difference in the way their students learn. At the same time, both CCIT and CTE looked for ways to support faculty in actually implementing the changes they envisioned.

Over this time period, we've identified ways of thinking about the pedagogical uses of technology that seem to be helpful to Duquesne faculty. What follows are resources to help faculty at other institutions explore the new world of learning possibilities created by recent advances in technology. These resources include a conceptualization of pedagogical uses of technology, a summary of factors that have been shown to influence faculty use of technology, as well as a list of WWW sites and readings to enable further exploration of these ideas.

Pedagogical Uses of Technology

Instructional technology creates a whole new world of possibilities for teaching and learning. As William Geoghegan pointed out in 1994, however, only a very small proportion of faculty are actively using instructional technology, and these tend to be "innovators" or "early adopters" rather than "mainstream" faculty.

Although there has been an increase in the percentage of faculty using technology since 1994, Kenneth Green in his report of the 1996 National Survey of Information Technology in Higher Education notes that the percentages of college courses using various kinds of information technology resources remains relatively low:

Table 1. Percentage of College Courses Using Information Technology





Presentation handouts


Commercial courseware


CD ROM materials


Computer simulations


Computer lab/classroom


WWW-based resources


SOURCE: Green (1996)

As the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Center for Communications and Information Technology have sought to assist Duquesne faculty to envision ways to use technology to enhance their teaching and student learning, we've have found that mainstream faculty are most likely to use instructional technology if they see it as a solution to a particular problem they face in their teaching, rather than a "gimmick."

Kozma and Johnston (1991) conceptualized seven ways in which instructional technology can support learning:

We have found that our faculty find this type of conceptualization helpful in seeing why technology might be a powerful tool in enhancing learning and have identified a few examples of each of these uses of instructional technology to help our faculty understand the meaning of these categories and the rich possibilities they represent.

Enabling Active Engagement in Construction of Knowledge

Making Available Real-World Situations

Providing Representations in Multiple Modalities

Drilling Students on Basic Concepts to Reach Mastery

Facilitating Collaborative Activity among Students

Seeing Interconnections among Concepts

Learning to Use the Tools of Scholarship

Simulating Laboratory Work

Factors Influencing Faculty Use of Instructional Technology

Although shortage of equipment, facilities, and institutional support may play a role in inhibiting use of technology, Geoghegan (1994) argues that the most important reason for limited use is in the human realm. He puts forth a model of innovation and change which indicates an approximately normal distribution when number of new adopters are plotted against time. Along this continuum, he identifies five categories of adopter: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. There can be a "chasm" between early adopters and the early majority, such that the innovation is never adopted by the mainstream.

In the case of faculty and use of instructional technology, Geoghegan contrasts early adopters, who are risk takers, more willing to experiment, generally self-sufficient, and interested in the technology itself with early majority faculty who are more concerned about the teaching/learning problem being addressed than the technology used to address it, view ease of use as critical, and want proven applications with low risk of failure. Thus, university support groups should include staff with good pedagogical understanding and basic knowledge of a wide range of academic and professional disciplines.

A survey carried out at Western Michigan University in 1993 (Spotts & Bowman, 1993) lends credibility to Geoghegan's ideas. Factors identified by more than half of the respondents as important in influencing the use of instructional technology were: availability of equipment, promise of improved student learning, funds to purchase materials, compatibility with subject matter, advantages over traditional methods, increased student interest, ease of use, information on materials in their discipline, compatibility with existing course materials, university training in technology use, time to learn the technology and comfort level with technology.

Why Use Instructional Technology?

WWW Sites Related to Pedagogical Uses of Information Technology
James O'Donnell, a classicist at the University of Pennsylvania, created this page to introduce, describe, and exemplify new Internet-based resources for teaching that are already available and easy to use.
The American Philosophical Association provides references for software to use in teaching philosophy, as well as pointers to Internet and World Wide Web sites with philosophical content.
The Biology Software Laboratory at the University of Oregon develops educational software tools for Macintosh computers which encourage deep concept construction and open-ended scientific inquiry. They focus on investigation of student-generated questions based on scientific and social issues, allowing students of diverse abilities to work independently or in groups, exploring all levels of concepts, investigative methods, and critical thinking skills.
Senior-level strategic management course integrating corporate-level, business-level, and international-level strategies. Students are actively involved with Internet learning experiments and use the Web to locate business resources worldwide. Syllabus, lecture notes, assignments, student work, and links to related materials.
The University of Michigan's Office of Instructional Technology provides an overview of "works in progress," projects in a wide range of disciplines which enhance learning through use of technology. Includes multimedia databases, tutorials, practice with feedback, simulations, gaming, interactive role playing, developing and testing of hypotheses, animation, and case studies.
Articles and WWW sites related to use of technology for enhancing teaching and learning in higher education.
An online magazine featuring uses of technology by faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. New issues are posted bi-weekly with each issue focused on a particular use of technology. For example, the April 7, 1997 issue dealt with use of technology for writing to learn assignments.
Contains links to pages created by faculty worldwide who are using the Web to deliver class materials such as course syllabi, assignments, lecture notes, exams, class calendars, multimedia textbooks, etc. Organized by disciplinary area, from accounting through zoology.
Staffordshire University Computers in Teaching and Learning pages, designed to cover everything related to the use of computers and information technology in teaching and learning. Includes computer-mediated communication, hypertext, subject-oriented information, collaborative and cooperative learning, using the WWW for learning and teaching, and distance learning.
Article from CAUSE/EFFECT, Winter 1996, "Reengineering Higher Education: Reinventing Teaching and Learning." The premise is that successful reengineering in higher education must begin with teaching and learning, rather than administrative processes.
Article from CAUSE/EFFECT, Winter 1996, "Teaching Via Electrons: Networked Courseware at the University of Oregon." Describes the process of creating interactive networked course material, particularly for introductory science courses, and evaluates the impact on student learning.

Readings Related to Pedagogical Uses of Information Technology

Bender, R. M. (1995). Creating communities on the Internet: Electronic discussion lists in the classroom. Computers in Libraries 15 (5), 38-43.

Berge, Z. L. & Collins, M. P. (Eds.). (1995). Computer mediated communication and the online classroom. Volume II: Higher education. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Boschmann, E. (1995). The electronic classroom: A handbook for education in the electronic environment. Medford, NJ: Learned Information.

Dolence, M. G. & Norris, D. M. (1995). Transforming higher education: A vision for learning in the 21st century. Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning.

Geoghegan, W. H. (1994). Whatever happened to instructional technology? Reaching mainstream faculty. Norwalk, CT: IBM Academic Consulting.

Green, Kenneth C. (1996, November). The 1996 national survey of information technology in higher education: Instructional integration and user support present continuing technology challenges. The Campus Computing Project. Available e-mail:

Guskin, A. E. (September/October 1994). Reducing student costs and enhancing student learning. Part II: Restructuring the role of faculty. Change 26, 16-25.

Harasim, L. Teaching online: Computer conferencing as an educational environment. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Computer Conferencing, Ohio State University, June 1991. (Contact Linda Harasim, Department of Communication, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia)

Kozma, R. B. & Johnston, J. (1991). The technological revolution comes to the classroom. Change 23 (1), 10-23.

Laurillard, D. (1993). Rethinking university teaching: A framework for the effective use of educational technology. London: Routledge.

Morris, P., et al. (1994). Valuable, viable software in education: Cases and analysis. New York: Primis Division of McGraw-Hill.

Perkins, D. N., et al. (Eds.) (1995). Software goes to school: Teaching for understanding with new technologies. New York: Oxford University Press.

Rosen, L. (1995, June 2). The way to design creative software for the humanities. Chronicle of Higher Education, A48.

Rutherford, L. H. & Grana, S. J. (1995, September). Retrofitting academe: Adapting faculty attitudes and practices to technology. T.H.E. Journal 23, 82-86.

Spotts, T. H. & Bowman, M. A. (1993). Increasing faculty use of instructional technology: Barriers and incentives. Educational Media International, 30, 199-204.

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