While a range of case study literature exists which describe flexible learning innovations and the use of educational technologies in particular educational circumstances, it has been difficult to find a research and evidence base for why, when and under what circumstances flexible learning methods produce optimal learning outcomes.
This is partly explained by the complexity of the learning process, which is dependent on intersecting conditions (Cradler, 2002). A confluence of factors impact all teaching and learning activities, whether or not they involve the use of technology. According to Reynolds (2001), there are "severe methodological difficulties in proving that ICT usage improves outcomes", including the difficulty of isolating classroom and school effects from their contribution to students' outcomes.

Jones and Paolucci (1999) describe the problem as "a lack of empirically sound research to support the massive adoption of technology in education". Reporting Charp (1998), they state that with all the studies and documentation available, research on why and how the use of technology is effective in education remains minimal, and that challenges remain for accurate and meaningful research to ensure the proper use of technology in education (Jones and Paolucci, 1999).

Nevertheless, literature does exist and there is a wide range of material from which to choose. Hara and Kling (2000) identify five different kinds of literature regarding e-learning, ranging from specialised research literature, research monographs and conference papers to popular accounts of e-learning courses, written for the general public and students.

An increasing emphasis on synthesising research to provide conclusions about educational technologies perhaps recognises that the pace of change in the information and communication technologies has not been matched by an evidence-base for their use.

Evaluations have been grouped under three broad categories:
  • Evaluations of the implementation of flexible learning as an institution- or campus-wide teaching and learning approach
  • Evaluations of the use of online learning strategies across a program or course, including the use of course management software (eg WebCT / Blackboard), and
  • Evaluations of the impact of other e-learning technologies within a program or course (eg interactive multimedia tools, CD-Roms)
Where applicable, references, including websites, have been listed at the end of each section, for further reference. A complete reference list is also provided.
Research section

Institutional approaches to flexible learning

According to Cradler et al (2002), two key factors in the effective use of educational technology at the institutional level include: appropriate leadership (to align technology resources with institutional improvement goals); and adequate planning for...

Online learning environments

The evolution of the Internet has provided new opportunities for storing, sharing, discovering and interacting with information, including the development of online learning environments. According to DEST categorisation, online learning may be: ...

Other learning technologies

Technology is being used to facilitate or complement flexible learning in many ways. Key benefits of these technologies include: enhanced access to learning opportunities; provision of assessment or performance feedback techniques; and the ability of t...

Resources

References Albury, R (2001) On being head: reflections on leading an educational innovation involving computer technology, ASCILITE 2001. Alexander, S ,Mckenzie, J with Geissinger, H (2000) An evaluation of in...

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