Media for formal learning

The new learning architect

Throughout 2011 we will be publishing extracts from The New Learning Architect. We move on to the seventh part of chapter 7:

In contrast to educational and training methods, the options in terms of learning media are growing exponentially. If methods have the main impact on the effectiveness of a learning intervention, then media have the main influence on efficiency – the way in which resources are used to deliver the learning outcomes. The possibilities for efficiencies have grown enormously with advances in technology.

Not all learning is mediated – as we have seen, much is incidental and reflective – but in the context of a formal intervention, media selections will always have to be made. The options have increased over time. All learning was, of course, originally conducted face-to-face, providing an immediacy to the interaction, a rich sensory experience (you see, you hear, you touch, you smell) and, if you’re lucky enough to be one-on-one, the ultimate in personalisation.

Books, when they arrived, provided the counterbalance, by allowing learners more independence and the ability to control the pace. The invention of the telephone provided additional connectivity for learners and tutors working at a distance. Videos, CDs and all their variants added to the diversity of offline media and made high-quality audio and video available to distance learners.

But perhaps the most significant new medium made available by technology is the networked computer, connecting learners to more than two billion other Internet users and countless billions of web pages. ‘E-learning’ is the rather inadequate name we give to the use of computer networks as a channel to facilitate learning. This channel supports a wide range of synchronous and asynchronous media, as shown below:

Synchronous (real-time) online media Asynchronous (self-paced) online media

Chat rooms

Instant messaging

Web conferencing

Multi-player virtual worlds


Web pages

Downloadable documents and media files




Social networks

Single-player virtual worlds

Coming next: A review of top-down and bottom-up formal approaches and conditions for success

Return to Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6

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About Clive Shepherd

Clive Shepherd has written 244 post in this blog.

Clive is a consultant specialising in the application of technology to learning and business communications. He was previously Director of Training and Creative Services for a multinational corporation and co-founder of a major multimedia development company. For four years he was chair of the eLearning Network.

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