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H809: Activity 3.5: Laurillard (1994)

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Edited by Lynn Hunt, Sunday, 20 Feb 2011, 12:08


How Can Learning Technologies Improve Learning?

Diana Laurillard, Open University

This paper was presented at the Higher Education 1998: Transformed by Learning Technology, Swedish-British Workshop 14-17 May 1993, University of Lund, Sweden.


  1. What is the main argument?

Funding bodies are asking whether learning technologies improve learning but current studies only demonstrate that they have the potential to do so.

  1. The title to the Laurillard paper poses the question 'How can learning technologies improve learning?' She could also have written a paper about how learning technologies can 'support' or 'change' learning. What does the use of the word 'improve' imply for how elearning technologies are evaluated?

'Improve' suggests that learning is a process that is set and that technologies are an add-on to learning. In this way the evaluation is often carried out as a comparison to using the same methods without the technology that is being evaluated. This may not be the most appropriate or best use of the technology. For example, using online conferencing to deliver the same lecture as delivered to a F2F audience of university students achieves the objective of transmitting the information but is a poor use of the tool which can be much better utilised for more interactive learning. Different teaching methodologies are required. The implications for research are that assessing the learning process with and without a particular form of technology may not be the most appropriate form of research.


Following on from the previous activities, I looked at the UK elearning timeline (Conole et al., 2007). Laurillard's conference paper was presented in 1998 which equates to the end of phase three: networking technologies where they report a move towards more holistic and joined up thinking and suggest there is evidence of more linking of development to strategy and policy. The Laurillard paper shows her interest in this linkage between the research work and how it effects policy in education.

However the Laurillard paper reports on previous work that took place between 1984 and 1993 which corresponds to phase two where there was increased activity in multimedia but teaching practice was still content driven and focused on the interactive tutorial paradigm. This can be seen in the way that Laurillard reports on technologies with comments such as 'computer based learning', 'improve learning' and 'materials should be implemented' with their implications of technology as an add-on to 'normal' teaching.

I was concerned to see that six of the nine papers cited had Laurillard as an author. This can happen naturally if the field of research is small but should not happen in a wide ranging review of educational technology assessment. It is generally considered bad practice to cite yourself to this extent and certainly biases the report. Citation rate is used to assess journals and also, to some extent, authors and so there is pressure to use this technique. Most universities discourage the use of self-citation to this extent and the use of citation clubs is generally considered academic misconduct.


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