Technology-Mediated Individual Learning


Educational Technology


Integrating emergent technologies into individuals’ formal educations

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … rapidly expanding space of the possible
  • Knowing is … scope of personal competence
  • Learner is … a technology-enhanced agent
  • Learning is … expanding possibilities
  • Teaching is … facilitating; supporting




Technology-Mediated Individual Learning encompasses all activities associated with the principled use of technologies to enhance education. Typically, in discussions of Technology-Mediated Individual Learning,  emergent technologies are positioned as integral aspects of current existence – that is, not as tools that one might use, but as elements of one’s being. These discourses are thus focused on seamlessly incorporating such technologies into formal learning experiences, and associated discourses thus tend to perceive themselves as blending hardware, software, and educational theory. This a goal can entail profound challenges to traditional curriculum content and pedagogical strategies. Many new notions have emerged because of advances in Technology-Mediated Individual Learning, including:
  • Asynchronous Learning – a descriptive term, applied to formal educational events in which the teaching and the learning don’t happen in the same place or at the same time (contrast: Synchronous Learning, see below)
  • Correspondence Education – a precursor to Distance Learning, by which students used the technologies of print text, handwriting, and mail service to access lessons, submit assignments, and receive feedback
  • Distance Learning (Distance Education; Remote Education; Remote Learning) – as the title suggests, a means of accessing educational services at a location remote from the teaching. It thus encompasses Correspondence Learning (see above) and many modes of Technology-Mediated Individual Learning.
  • Synchronous Learning (Sync Teaching) – a general term that can be applied to any type of formal education through which learning is intended to happen at the same time, but not in the same place (contrast: Asynchronous Learning, see below)
A number of phrases have been used to refer to Technology-Mediated Individual Learning, including:
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction – a term introduced in the 1970s to refer to a self-learning technique, but that has since been applied to virtually every use of digital technologies to support learning through varied types of engagement (e.g., drill-and-practice, one-on-one tutorials, online lectures, complex simulations) and administrative supports (e.g., online resources, record keeping). Approximate synonyms (or discourses focused more narrowly on some aspect or nuance of Computer-Assisted Instruction) include:
    • Computer-Aided Instruction
    • Computer-Assisted Learning
    • Computer-Based Education
    • Computer-Based Instruction
    • Computer-Enriched Instruction
    • Computer-Managed Instruction
    • Web-Based Instruction
    • Web-Based Learning
    • Web-Based Training
  • Tele-Learning (TelElearning; Tele-Education) – a generic term that can be applied to any use of digital and other communication technologies for purposes related to formal learning
Constructs associated with Technology-Mediated Individual Learning, include: 
  • Adaptive Technology – any type of Assistive Technology that is specifically designed to improve or extend the actions and activities of persons with identified impairments or limitations
  • Assistive Technology – any technology that can be used to improve or extend the actions and activities of persons with identified impairments or limitations
  • Audiovisual Learning (Bi-Sensory Learning; Media Learning; Multimedia Learning)– a notion that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century, with the proliferation of overhead projectors, television monitors, video recordings, slide shows, and other means to engage multiple senses simultaneously
  • Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) – a computer-based system that’s designed to provide immediate, tailored, and responsive instructional support to learners, typically without the presence or assistance of a human teacher
  • Virtual Reality Learning Environments (Interactive Virtual Reality Learning Environments) (various, 2000s) – the use of virtual reality – that is, interactive, computer-generated simulations that create an illusion of being immersed in a viable alternative world – to structure learning experiences. While still evolving, major advantages of Virtual Reality Learning Environments are posited to include minimization of distracting information, ease of tailoring experiences to individuals, and engagement with/in otherwise impossible situations.
Subdiscourses that have emerged to describe and inform the incorporation of new technologies (listed chronologically) include the following:
  • Diffusion of Innovation Theory (E.M. Rogers, 1960s) – descriptive model of how perceived innovations – including ideas, actions, or artefacts – are adopted by and diffuse through a population. It distinguishes types of adoptors, stages of innovation, and principal factors that influence adoption.
  • Resource-Based Learning (RBL) (Nuffield Foundation, 1960s) – an approach to teaching that places particular attention on how learners interact with available resources – in the process, incorporating considerations of learner diversities, inviting collaborations among educators and resource providers, and turning attentions to effective use of information technologies
  • Technology Adoption Lifecycle (E.M. Rogers, 1960s) – an element of Diffusion of Innovation Theory, this model offers profiles of different sorts of adoptors of an innovation. It distinguishes among innovators, early adoptors, early majority adoptors, late majority adoptors, and laggards/phobics, asserting a normal distribution across types and offering demographic and psychological characteristics that are prevalent across groups.
  • Theory of Reasoned Action - (Martin Fishbein, Icek Ajzen, 1960s) – a theory of human action the focuses on the relationship between pre-existing attitudes and behavioral intentions.
  • Learning Management System (Course Management System; E-Learning Platform; Pedagogical Platform) (1970s) – an online software system that provides both of the following:
  • Courseware – computer-based software that typically supports both teaching activities (e.g., posting lesson materials and managing grades) and learning activities (e.g., allowing for self-teaching and/or self-paced learning)
  • E-Tutoring (Online Tutoring) – enabling a student to learn effectively in an online environment, typically spanning some levels of technical, managerial, social, and pedagogical support
  • Technology Integration (1970s) – an umbrella term applicable to any effort to incorporate digital technologies into educational processes
  • Collaboratory (William Wulf, 1980s) – originally coined to name a virtual (vs. actual) center, in which geographically dispersed researchers could work together – sharing data, instruments, and other resources digitally. The term has more recently been taken up to refer to any space – actual or virtual – designed to support collaboration on complex problems.
  • Theory of Planned Behavior - (Icek Ajzen, 1980s) – based on the Theory of Reasoned Action, this theory interprets one’s actions by looking across attitude, subjective norms, intentions, and perceived behavioral control.
  • Transactional Distance Theory (Michael G. Moore, 1980s) – a model to guide and assess course designs for Distance Learning, based on three sets of elements: the structure of what is to be learned; the dialog between teacher and learners; the traits of and variations among learners
  • Domestication Theory (Roger Silverstone, 1990s) – a four-step model describing the appropriation of technology by users, involving (1) adaptation of new technology everyday practices; (2) adaptation of user and environment to technology; (3) iterative loops of development, prompted by feedback of those adaptations; and (4) conversion, involving both integration of technology and transformation of previous habits. 
  • Educational Data Mining (1990s) – both the techniques and the field of study designed to tap the increasingly vast repositories of data derived from (or related to) people’s educational activities, with the intention of affecting learning and/or the experience of learning in some positive way.
  • Information Design (Information Architecture) (1990s) – a discipline concerned with representing information in manners that render it early to access, understand, and use
  • Materials-Based Learning (Derek Rowntree, 1990s) – an umbrella term intended to collect most of the modes of engagement presented above and below on this page – with particular emphasis on technologies and resources that seem to support more focused and intensive engagements than are typically afforded in face-to-face settings
  • Technology Acceptance Model (Fred Davis, 1990s) – models how users come to embrace a new technology by assessing the influence of relevant factors, such as: behavioral intention, attitude, perceived usefulness, perceived ease-of-use, and social influence.
  • Critical Digital Literacy (Digital Literacy; Critical Media Literacy) (2000s) – the skills and understandings deemed necessary for a competent user and/or creator of digital media tools
  • Lazy User Model (Franck Tetart & Mikael Collan, 2000s) – closely related to the Technology Acceptance Model, this model seeks to explain how one chooses a solution from a set of alternatives by managing the trade-offs of effort (aiming for the least) and effect (aiming for the greatest). 
  • SAMR Model (Ruben Puentedura, 2000s) – interprets the adoption of educational technology as a four-step progression, involving Substitution (new technology replaces previous one with no functional change), Augmentation (still no functional change, but benefits and possibilities of new technology are noticed and exploited), Modification (new technology is utilized to enhance and transform learning experiences), and Redefinition (previously unthinkable learning tasks are designed and engaged).
  • Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (Viswanath Venkatesh, 2000s) – an effort to combine most of the above models, The UTAUT focuses of four core elements: (1) performance expectancy, (2) effort expectancy, (3) social influence, and (4) facilitating conditions.


Formal education has not demonstrated itself to be especially flexible and adaptive. For that reason, discussions of Technology-Mediated Individual Learning often come across more as criticisms of schooling than the possibility-seeking discourses they are intended to be. It’s impossible to engage with them meaningfully without being open to the possibility that current versions of schooling might be entirely out of synch with a rapidly changing world.


  • Adaptive Technology
  • Assistive Technology
  • Asynchronous Learning
  • Audiovisual Learning (Bi-Sensory Learning; Media Learning)
  • Collaboratory
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction (Computer-Aided Instruction; Computer-Assisted Learning; Computer-Based Education; Computer-Based Instruction; Computer-Enriched Instruction; Computer-Managed Instruction; Web-Based Training; Web-Based Learning; Web-Based Instruction)
  • Correspondence Education
  • Critical Digital Literacy (Digital Literacy; Critical Media Literacy)
  • Courseware
  • Diffusion of Innovation Theory
  • Digital Learning
  • Distance Learning (Distance Education; Remote Education; Remote Learning)
  • Domestication Theory
  • E-Tivity
  • E-Tutoring (Online Tutoring)
  • Educational Data Mining
  • Information Design
  • Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS)
  • Lazy User Model
  • Learning Management System (Course Management System; E-Learning Platform; Pedagogical Platform)
  • Materials-Based Learning
  • Resource-Based Learning
  • SAMR Model
  • Synchronous Learning (Sync Teaching)
  • Technology Acceptance Model
  • Technology Adoption Lifecycle
  • Technology Integration
  • Tele-Learning (TelElearning; Tele-Education)
  • Theory of Planned Behavior
  • Theory of Reasoned Action
  • Transactional Distance Theory
  • Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology
  • Virtual Reality Learning Environments (Interactive Virtual Reality Learning Environments)

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Technology-Mediated Individual Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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