Magazine article Distance Learning

The Impact of Media on Learning: A Perspective for Physical Therapists

Magazine article Distance Learning

The Impact of Media on Learning: A Perspective for Physical Therapists

Article excerpt


Media is defined by MerriamWebster as "a medium of cultivation, conveyance, or expression" (Merriam-Webster, n.d.) Various types of media have been used in education and learning from the start of human history. The first types of media likely consisted of primitive drawings, hand gestures and models (Media (communication), 2016). As our culture and technology have progressed, the media used for instruction has become more sophisticated and complex. In today's educational environment, instructional media often refers to various digital tools such as images, sounds, videos and text (Adeniregun, n.d.). Over the long history of research into the use of media in education, authors have been attempting to prove that learning can be bolstered by the use of educational media (Clark, 1983). This white paper will explore the arguments and evidence, for and against the notion that educational media can enhance learning. This white paper is targeting physical therapy professionals who are either in clinical practice or in an academic setting.


Since at least the 1960s there has been a debate about the learning effects of media (Clark, 1983). Some educators and researchers have argued that media have a direct impact on learning, while others have suggested that media are simply a delivery method for material and do not enhance the learning effect. Richard Clark had a large impact on this debate when he published a paper in 1983 titled "Reconsidering Research on Learning From Media" (Clark, 1983). In this paper he compared media to a grocery delivery truck. He contends that media increases learning to the same extent that the truck increases the nutritional value of the groceries inside.

To determine the validity of Clark's position, it is essential to take a close look at the literature examining the effects of media. Studies that provide insight into this question need to have tight controls on instructional design. If different arms of a study have variations in both instructional design components and the type of media used, it is impossible to determine what caused any differences in learning. In his 1983 article, Clark cited several studies that found that learning was not impacted by media if the same instructor delivered the content. Studies which did show changes in learning across various media tools either did not adequately control for instructional design or did not control for the novelty of the media used.

Decades have passed since Clark's original article in 1983 and researchers have continued to examine the impact of media on learning. In fact, the literature is so extensive that authors are producing metaanalyses of meta-analyses. An example of such a study is one performed by Tamim and colleagues (Tamim, 2011). This secondorder meta-analysis covered 40 years of studies and included 25 meta-analyses, which included 1,055 individual studies and more than 100,000 subjects. This metaanalysis included studies which compared instruction using computers versus instruction devoid of technology. The study reported a small positive result in favor of computer based instruction. Despite this finding, the authors felt that the large variability in effect sizes suggested that confounding factors may have played a role. As a result, they concluded that the findings of their study supported Clark's mere vehicles argument. Clark's ideas were further supported by Higgins, Xiao, and Katsipataki (2012), who stated that the evidence on media suggests that it is the "how rather than the what" that is the key element to learning.

In contrast to the views of Clark, Robert Kozma argues that media can have a direct effect on learning (Kozma, 1991). Kozma suggested a model that describes an active collaboration between learning and the media. He described an interaction between the learner and the media tool, which facilitates both cognitive processes and mental representations of information. …

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