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How Critical is Leading-Edge Technology to E-Learning?

Using leading-edge technology is important but not critical.

The bottom line is the soundness of the instructional design. Students can learn from a simple presentation if it’s instructionally sound. Students don’t learn from a jazzy-looking multimedia experience if it’s NOT instructionally sound.

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Using leading-edge technology is important but not critical. Sometimes it’s only eye candy. Let me put it this way: Some of today’s movies have spectacular special effects. But the best movies are not always the ones that use the most special effects. A good film is built first and foremost on the story. If the special effects support the story, then they can magnify the quality of a film. But if the special effects work against the story, or if they are just added on as extras, they will reduce the quality of the film. In the same way that it’s the story for film, it’s the instructional design for e-learning that is important. With a strong instruction design, you can make an e-mail- based correspondence course work effectively (I know this for a fact because I’ve done it.)

With a weak instructional design, you will be hard-pressed to make the jazziest virtual classroom work effectively.

Furthermore, in e-learning and in everything else, fancier things usually cost more than simple things. Yet, sometimes you do in fact need the fancier thing. In What Are the Different E-Learning Styles? and What Are the E-Learning Building Blocks?, you’ll see that there are a number of different styles and building blocks for e-learning. Some of them are plain and simple. And some of them are pretty fancy technologically. But just because it’s fancier doesn’t always mean it’ll get you better instructional impact.

Let me say it again. The bottom line is the soundness of the instructional design.

  • Students can learn from a simple presentation if it’s instructionally sound.
  • Students don’t learn from a jazzy-looking multimedia event if it’s NOT instructionally sound.