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The educational context

‘The challenge for … educators is to be aware of the new changes and to consider how the latest technology can be used to enhance learning’ (Sandars and Haythornthwaite, 2007).


Technological innovations appear tempting, particularly when students are learning at a distance and when there is such an array of possibilities available. However if we are going to talk about e-learning in an educationally useful way we need to start by talking first about learning and teaching. Taking an approach that first identifies and looks for answers to educational challenges will be more likely to result in the appropriate use of technologies (Laurillard, 2008).  Technology must take second place to good practice in education, hovering ‘shyly in the wings, ready to lend its power, but only as needed’ (Ahmed, 2003).


SAMR Model


The SAMR model was developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura (Puentedura, 2006) to support educators in the integration of technology for teaching and learning. The model can also be applied as a framework to assess and evaluate the implementation of technology and its impact on learner outcomes.


The SAMR model is a continuum of four stages of technological integration. Educators should aim to progress through these stages, in order to transform learning experiences and student achievement.


Original activity: Learners are provided with a printed handout which outlines a clinical case study of a patient with diabetes, associated patient documentation (such as blood test results, social and medical history) and a series of questions to answer, related to that case study.


Activity: The same handout is distributed online, which can be downloaded and edited in word processing software.

Explanation: At this stage technology is being used as a substitution for the printed handout, without any functional change in the activity or enhancement of student engagement. However, technology is not being used for its own sake, as learners can utilise functional tools such as spellchecking and formatting and it can be more easily shared for feedback.


Activity: The clinical case study is delivered online, and includes videos, other digital artefacts (such as blood test results) and an online quiz.

Explanation: The task is the same, but there is some functional improvement as the learners are able to receive instantaneous feedback on their responses. Student activity can be tracked and monitored to assess performance. The transformation of text-based resources into a range of multimedia objects may also contribute to improvements in student engagement.


Activity: The learners are required to complete the group activity with learners from other disciplines and professional practitioners. They are required to feed back to other members of their cohort the process and outcomes of their activity.

Explanation: The task has been redefined to transform student learning by facilitating authentic multidisciplinary learning and co-construction of knowledge. The learners will also benefit from learning additional skills required to produce and deliver the presentation.

Thinking points

Recall your response to the previous question in section 1, regarding your prior experience of e-learning activities. Consider the following.

  • Which technologies or tools were used?
  • What types of learning activities were you engaged with (e.g. collaboration, information retrieval, direct instruction)?
  • Was the technology essential to the activity, and do you feel it enhanced or transformed your learning experience?

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