Measuring the Effectiveness of Educational Technology: what are we Attempting to Measure?


  • Jodie Jenkinson


science, e-learning, educational technology, evaluation, multimedia


In many academic areas, students' success depends upon their ability to envision and manipulate complex multidimensional information spaces. Fields in which students struggle with mastering these types of representations include (but are by no means limited to) mathematics, science, medicine, and engineering. There has been some educational research examining the impact of incorporating multiple media modalities into curriculum specific to these disciplines. For example, both Richard Mayer (multimedia learning) and John Sweller (cognitive load) have contributed greatly to establishing theories describing the basic mechanisms of learning in a multimedia environment. However when we attempt to apply these theories to the evaluation of e‑ learning in a more dynamic "real world" context the information processing model that forms the basis of this research fails to capture the complex interactions that occur between the learner and the knowledge object. It is not surprising that studies examining the effectiveness of e‑learning technology, particularly in the area of basic science, have reported mixed results. In part this may be due to the quality of the stimuli being assessed. This may also be explained by the context in which interactivity is being utilized and the model that is used to evaluate its effectiveness. Educational researchers have begun to identify a need for more fine‑grained research studies that capture the subtleties of learners' interactions with dynamic and interactive learning objects. In undergraduate medical and life science education, interactive technology has been integrated into the curriculum at many levels. This paper reviews experimental studies drawn from personal experience where an attempt has been made to measure the efficacy of educational technology. In examining the shortcomings of these more traditional experiments, we can then apply this understanding to characterizing a more flexible approach to evaluation and its potential in measuring the effectiveness of educational technology. Understanding the nature of technology‑mediated learning interactions and the way in which they foster depth of understanding is a great challenge for both educational researchers and developers of e‑learning technologies. By adopting an evaluative framework that takes a more flexible approach to measuring the emergent nature of understanding, we can examine the capacity of educational technology to support more complex understanding of curricular subject matter.



1 Dec 2009