Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Examining the Effects of Technology Attributes on Learning: A Contingency Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Examining the Effects of Technology Attributes on Learning: A Contingency Perspective

Article excerpt

Introduction

Today's economy is characterized by industrial change, globalization, increased intensive competition, knowledge sharing and transfer, and a revolution in information technology (Zhang & Nunamaker, 2003). In order to succeed in such an economy, one must commit to a regimen of lifelong learning. This insatiable demand for continuous knowledge has resulted in a dramatic increase in the utilization of technology as an educational tool with which to convey information to the learner, a trend that can be witnessed in both institutions of higher education as well as the corporate world.

Business schools are increasingly viewing technology-mediated educational programs as a key resource in differentiating themselves from other schools and in gaining a competitive advantage (Alavi & Gallupe, 2003). On the corporate front, organizations view learning as important as positive cash flow in order to survive in today's global market (Chen, Lee, Zhang, & Zhang, 2003) and are using technology as a critical training aid in helping employees improve their skills and knowledge. In a 2006 survey of the corporate learning market, Bersin & Associates (2007) report that the average annual budget increase for corporate learning is expected to increase by 7% and that 60% of the over 1400 respondents use virtual classroom technologies.

This demand for technology-delivered education from both higher education institutions and corporate America has sparked a great deal of interest in the design and application of technology-delivered education (Alavi & Gallupe, 2003). Prior research investigating technology-delivered education can be classified into two general categories--technology-mediated learning (TML) research and multimedia research. The first category, technology-mediated learning, has been defined as "a learning experience that is significantly moderated through the use of information and communication technology" (Alavi & Gallupe, 2003). TML research has essentially focused on comparing traditional, or non-supported, classrooms to virtual, or technology-supported, classrooms (e.g., Alavi, Wheeler, & Valacich, 1995; Piccoli, Ahmad, & Ives, 2001) or on examining the presence or absence of a technology on learning outcomes (e.g., Alavi, 1994; Leidner & Fuller, 1997; Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1993). Prior research, however, has fallen short as it has failed to examine what features or attributes of a technology will enhance the learning process or investigate the effects of information characteristics, such as task complexity, that might influence learning outcomes.

The second category of research in this area examines the use of multimedia on learning outcomes. While very similar to technology-mediated learning research, there is a subtle difference. In TML studies, the word technology usually refers to the medium through which the information is being communicated (e.g., computer, TV). Multimedia research, however, views technology as the collection of tools used to deliver information to an individual (Piccoli et al., 2001). Examples of delivery technologies in this context include text, hypertext, graphics, streaming audio and video, computer animations and simulations, embedded tests, and dynamic content (Piccoli et al., 2001). Only a handful of studies examining the impact of multimedia on learning have been conducted in the Information Systems discipline. Some of these studies found that interactive multimedia environments (i.e., control over features of the presentation) positively influenced user attitudes (e.g., Haseman, Polatoglu, & Ramamurthy, 2002; Kettanurak, Ramamurthy, & Haseman, 2001) and that information complexity interacted with the multimedia environment to influence learning outcomes (Andres, 2004). There exists very little research, however, that has been conducted with the goal of building theoretical guidance for development of effective multimedia systems (Lim, O'Connor, & Remus, 2005). …

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