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 Education, 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) – 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
Constructs and subdiscourses that have emerged to describe and inform the incorporation of new technologies include the following:
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.


  • Asynchronous 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)
  • 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)
  • SAMR Model
  • Synchronous Learning (Sync Teaching)
  • Technology Acceptance Model
  • Technology Adoption Lifecycle
  • Technology Integration
  • Theory of Planned Behavior
  • Theory of Reasoned Action
  • Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology

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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