Applying Historical Events and Theoretical Foundations


EDUC 631


How Historical Events Impact Educational Technology & Online Learning Today

In the context of the coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021, distance learning has become a household name. The term seemingly popped up overnight in the midst of government lockdowns to promote safe health practices. Schools were forced to figure out how education could continue remotely, with students and teachers working from home. Teachers around the globe struggled to find ways to meet with their students, deliver lessons, and nurture educational and personal growth. Teachers worked quickly to restructure their curriculums into this “new” idea of remote, or distance, learning.

In reality, distance learning has been around for more than a century. In the mid nineteenth century, American universities and the United States Postal Service began working together (Casey, 2008, as cited in Vincenzes et al., 2019). The first correspondence course allowed individuals to receive coursework through the mail. The students would complete the work in their own time, and then mail the completed work back to the institution. That first correspondence program was offered through the Phonographic Institute of Cincinnati and graduates would “receive a certificate of expertise of shorthand skills in stenography” (Casey, 2008, as cited in Vincenzes et al., 2019, p. 61).

Through the years, as methods of communication have changed and new technologies have emerged, distance learning has expanded. Charles A. Wedemeyer spent much of his life as an innovator in the area of distance learning (Moore & Diehl, 2018). Wedemeyer showed the world how the newest technologies could be used to distribute education to the traditional classrooms and to the outside world. By first implementing the use of the radio, television, and satellite technologies, Wedemeyer worked with educational institutions to develop distance learning programs (Moore & Diehl, 2018). In 1960s, the University of Wisconsin worked with Wedemeyer on the Articulated Instructional Media (AIM) Project to study the integration of technology into education (Vincenzes et al, 2019). The project proved that technology enhanced the educational material and improved learning for students (Vincenzes et al, 2019).

The early correspondence courses and the implementation of multimedia into education laid the groundwork for today’s online learning. These new technologies have increased the availability of education to people all over the world. What was once a mail-order concept, has developed in synchronous and asynchronous audio and video connections around the world. Students are no longer limited to attend schools that they can physically locate to. As long as they have the technological devices and the Internet capabilities to sustain them, students of all ages can attend classes from anywhere in the world (Skinner, 2019).

How Theoretical Foundations Impact Educational Technology and Online Learning Today

When distance learning first began, it was entirely focused on students working independently (Moore & Diehl, 2018). Students would apply for courses, receive their materials, complete the assignments and then return the materials to the institutions. Students had to bring their own independence to the table to successfully complete the work. Very little communication was available beyond the sending and receiving of materials. As educational technology has increased so has the level of connectivity between the students and their teachers.

In 2020, Garrison, Anderson, and Archer began to look at online learning through what they called the Community of Inquiry (CoI) theoretical framework (Moore & Diehl, 2018). The idea was that online learning should be based in social connections that lead to a more enriching educational experience. The framework is made up of three “essential elements (social, cognitive, and teaching)” (Moore & Diehl, 2018) that work together to create an effective online learning environment. The first element, social presence, is based on the idea that each individual person brings their “presence” or ideas to the table and that the framework is a place where open discussion and personal expression are welcome within the learning process (Choo et al., 2020).

The second element, cognitive presence, focuses on how the student is able to understand the material, think critically, and reflect on their learning process (Moore & Diehl, 2018). The third element, teaching presence, is fundamentally, the piece that drives the learning into a purposeful direction (Moore & Diehl, 2018). In essence, the teacher is the facilitator that has developed and implemented the plan to guide the student learning and the students work together through open discussions and critical thinking (Choo et al., 2020). The CoI has provided online learning with a framework, rooted in social interaction between students, teachers, and the content. Studies have shown that the social interaction provided by the CoI increases academic achievement (Guo et al., 2021). The framework fosters critical thinking through the social interaction. This leads to students who are learning more effectively when they are socially engaged within the online learning environment.

Principles of Learning from Cognitive Science

In the process of effective learning, students need access to the same material through multiple approaches. When students approach the same content through more than one method, they will learn the material on a deeper level (Nilson & Goodson, 2017). Studies have shown that bringing in multiple senses stimulates the brain and increases the brain’s learning capacity (Junker et al., 2021). Education has used multisensory techniques in the classroom for generations. Now, through the development of online learning, the question remains, how do you integrate multisensory activities into the online environment.

Online courses should be designed to provide students with opportunities to gain and apply information using different modalities (Purinton & Burke, 2020). Just as in the classroom, online students can be provided with multiple tasks for a given topic. Activities can include reading materials, writing a summary, creating a video or audio segment, creating a digital presentation, drawing a picture, or even doing a hands-on learning activity (Nilson & Goodson, 2017). Through the online environment, even hand-drawn pictures or hands-on activities can easily be captured and submitted using a camera.

When developing an online lesson for the topic of multiplying by fives, the teacher would provide students with several different activities to enhance the learning task. One task would be to listen and sing along with a multiplication by five song or video. Then, students would be asked to develop a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation showing two different ways to visually display the multiples of five (arrays, groups of five, repeated addition, etc.) for factors 0-10. The students would be tasked with finding or creating images and then arrange them so that they will accurately display the multiples. A third activity would be an online math facts quiz that will time the students on their ability to accurately recall the facts. Additionally, students would be asked to write out the facts by hand and then submit a picture of their work. Students with access to physical manipulatives could arrange items in groups of five and then submit a picture of their groupings.

Teachers can assign the students to specific types of tasks, or in some cases could give students an option of which tasks would be most beneficial to their own learning. The key is to bring in two or three modalities for each topic. These opportunities allow the student to integrate multiple senses during the learning process, which will increase their overall learning of the material (Purinton & Burke, 2020).




Choo, J., Bakir, N., Scagnoli, N. I., Ju, B., & Tong, X. (2020). Using the community of inquiry framework to understand students’ learning experience in online undergraduate business courses. Techtrends, 64(1), 172-181.

Guo, P., Saab, N., Wu, L., & Admiraal, W. (2021). The community of inquiry perspective on students' social presence, cognitive presence, and academic performance in online project-based learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 37(5), 1479-1493.

Junker, F. B., Schlaffke, L., Axmacher, N., & Schmidt- Wilcke, T. (2021). Impact of multisensory learning on perceptual and lexical processing of unisensory morse code. Brain Research, 1755, 147259-147259.

Moore, M.G., & Diehl, W.C. (Eds.). (2018). Handbook of Distance Education (4th ed.). Routledge.

Nilson, L. B., & Goodson, L. A. (2017). Online teaching at its best: Merging instructional design with teaching and learning research. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Purinton, E. F., & Burke, M. M. (2020;2019;). engaging online students: Using a multisensory exercise for deeper, active learning. Marketing Education Review, 30(1), 29-42.

Skinner, B. T. (2019). Making the connection: Broadband access and online course enrollment at public open admissions institutions. Research in Higher Education, 60(7), 960-999.

Vincenzes, K., Cummings, B., Drew, M., & Tubo, S. (2019). Transforming the art of education: Integrating a synchronous tool. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 20(4), 61-101.


EDUC 631

Created by:  Casey Jo Burrus © 2021
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updated: October 3, 2021

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