Sunday, September 30, 2007

IMPACT Framework for Media and Technology Choice

Choice of media and technology for distance education delivery has always been a matter of great interest and concern for policy-makers and scholars of distance education. This is so from two angle: one that is purely from the viewpoint of learning effectiveness through specific media use, and the other from the pragmatic viewpoint to manage learning environments. Though there are enough studies showing on "no significant difference", this is also a debatable issue on account of the methods utilized and the data on which the conclusions are based. Some recent works in this field also demonstrate that there exists some "significant difference" in learning from different technologies and media. In distance education, "use of technical media" is a basic component of the whole delivery system. Because of this, often decision-makers jump on to use technology without thinking of the contexts of the use of technology. In such a situation, technology use policies are ad hoc, and any generic policy without taking into the context only adds to poor implementation and high level of dissatisfaction and criticisms. We can see many examples of it in India.

For sometime now, the Bates's criteria for decision-making on use of media and technology have been in use in many institutions. The A(ccess), C(ost), T(eaching function), I(nteractivity), O(rganizational issues), N(ovelty), S(peed) framework (called as ACTIONS) is highly useful. I propose a similar media and technology choice framework (called IMPACT) for insitutions to take course-wise/ programme-wise decision on deployment of technology.

Interaction: Does the technology/medium provide interactions of different kinds (asynchrnonous/synchronous; learner-learner/learner-content/learner-teacher, etc)?

Motivation: How does the technology/medium motivate the users (students, teachers, administrators)?

Pedagogy: How does the technology/medium amenable to different pedagogical designs (case study, collaboration, learning by doing, self study and discovery learning, etc.)?

Access: Is the technology/medium accessible to the target group of learners?

Cost: How cost-effective is the technology/medium? Is it affordable to the learners?

Training: How much training does the technology/medium require for the students and teachers to use it effectively? How steep is the 'learning curve'?

The IMPACT model analysis will help us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a technology/medium, based on which we can take appropriate decisions. In each of the category of the IMPACT, we can add additional questions to make it more robust. This model is just an idea and definitely needs research to prove its utility.