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According to the Association for Educational Communication and Technology, institutional technology is the theory and practice of design, development, utilization, management, and evaluation of processes and resources for learning. According to this definition, it involves ways of making learning effective by incorporating, not only scientific theories, but also other information that provides enough knowledge. Accordingly, the definition is grounded on the concept of instructional technology, which is divided into five interconnected domains. These domains include development, utilization, design, management, and evaluation. Under each domain, there are subdomains, which help in bringing out a clearer meaning of the term in structural technology. Design refers to the process of specifying conditions for learning, development refers to the process of translating design specifications into a physical form, utilization refers to the use of processes and resources for learning, management refers to processes of controlling instructional technology, and evaluation is the process of determining the adequacy of instruction.
Many institutions of higher learning have used instructional technology in their efforts to attract more learners. It offers a better and interactive platform for learners and gives them the ability to carry out their day-to-day activities and access educational materials from different areas where they are located. Competition for students among institutions of learning has also driven the need for development and use of instructional technology. As the demand for education increases, institutions are moving with speed to try to address students’ needs by making sure that they are aware of the student’s personal need. This competitive drive has driven the need for instructional technology high, as it has proved to be a better way of addressing students’ educational needs.
Instructional technology can be used in many ways. Where student population is located in different locations, there is a need for institutions offering learning to consider these characteristics of learners. Due to location, instructional technology such as online learning became more appropriate and effective than traditional in-class teaching. Many learning institutions have embraced this technology, as they aim at taking their services to not only those who attend their campuses, but also those outside their areas of operation.
Instructional technology is also used where there is a need to identify motivated students. Motivated students are easier to identify, as they interact with the instructors easily and develop special interest in learning activities that are delivered using instructional technologies. It is also used where there is a need to encourage active participation of students. In some case studies, students are encouraged to actively interact with their fellow students online and develop materials that they can share with each other over the internet. This not only encourages students to actively participate in the curriculum and resource development, but also motivates them to learn from one another. This has been found to actively encourage easier interaction and absorption of concepts.
Although ideas and processes of instructional development have been found to be of great help when it comes to instruction giving, there are areas where they are not applicable and, when applied, they do not give the intended results. According to a Pew Research Center survey, although the idea of instructional technology has gained momentum in most US schools, its effects on students from their teachers’ perspective are rather negative. According to them, 60 percent of teachers and instructors believe that incorporation of instructional technologies in class and in the curriculum has greatly reduced the ability of learners to write and communicate face-to-face. They also indicate that the technology has also affected the critical thinking capability of students with over 70 percent, indicating that the technology also encourages students to find quick answers, instead of deeply understanding the concept being taught. Although there was a great leap, instructional technologies were not advised to be applied in certain circumstances. He argued that when dealing with learners with special needs, instructional technologies might be discouraged, as there was a need to actively engage learners with their instructors.
Instructional technology was effective, some of the contents of such practical courses as medicine and nursing required traditional perspective where instructors and learners had to interact and instructors were supposed to guide the students systematically. They also indicated that although much emphasis had been put on trying to solve learners’ problems, instructional technologies did not in every case hold the solution to these problems. They argued that instructional technology sometimes only solved those problems that were instructional-based, ignoring non-instructional based problems. According to them, instructional technology is not supposed to be used when the learners’ problems are non-instructional.
It is important to consider the processes of choosing instructional materials. This process offers clear guidelines to the process of development of instructional media. Another similarity involves advocating for students’ and learners’ participation in the process. This is in line with what the AECT offers as guidelines that clearly address the process. They also point out that for technological integration to occur, teachers should play a key role in identifying which technology to use, which technology a student can use, and which technology effectively addresses learners’ needs.
The media selection process proposes that there is a need for consideration of four points, in order to make sure that the media used bring forth the best outcome for both learners and instructors. The first point includes learning objectives, which are important aspects, as they dictate what tools are to be used. Accordingly, the second step involves determination of category of learning which those objectives belong to. This is important because different learning categories require different conditions that determine what tools and media are to be used. The third one is determination of the instructional setting. Instructional setting is also divided into different categories, which are important, as they also dictate what media are to be used. These categories include remote broadcasting, individual instruction, and lastly a teacher or instructor. The last step in the process involves determination of whether learners are able to read.
The following are the guidelines for media selection:
- Consider the cost of the media from both the instructor’s and learner’s perspective and the infrastructure needed among other cost-related aspects.
- Consider the accessibility of the media to learners and the instructors, its usability, and convenience.
- Consider the media interactivity: does the media promote the relationship aspect of learners to fellow learners and to their instructors? In addition, consider whether the tool used gives a clear avenue for quick and quality feedback.
- There is also a need to consider its motivational value to both learners and teachers.
- Consider the flexibility of the media and openness. Consider whether they offer alternatives for other media to be used.
Instructional technology has employed different media tools in the effort to offer interactive, effective, and better instructional deliveries to learners. In almost every institution of higher learning, online courses have seen an increased uptake over the last couple of years. Some of the tools used include computers and computer-based systems. Learners, both in class and outside class settings, have used computers. Instructors have designed, developed, and disseminated to their students learning materials over the internet. This includes strategies such as video conferencing when instructors engage learners in real time discussions. The same strategy has been used in business meetings and transactions. These tools are advantageous, as they offer opportunities to discuss learning issues with instructors even when there is no physical proximity with instructors. In addition, the tools are cost effective as one is able to take courses when far away from the instructors. However, the tools have their own demerits; the process of learning can be easily disrupted when there are weak signals. In addition, they can only be used where infrastructural support is available, which can sometimes be costly.
Another tool is video tapes. This involves instructors’ designing and recording instruction materials and then using video players to disseminate the information to students. This tool has merits as it is cheaper to prepare, compared to others such as video conferencing. In addition, the tool may offer students chances to first listen to materials and interact with the instructor later. However, the tool has its shortcomings. It limits the interactivity with learners. It also reduces learners’ participation in resource development. The third tool for instructional development is satellite television. This tool is up-to-date and offers real time telecommunication and interaction with learners. The tool is able to offer real time interaction where learners are able to ask questions and clarifications. Nevertheless, this tool is only limited as it is available when there are satellite signals and cannot be used through normal television.