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What should we consider?


As we design and create learning experiences that involve digital technologies, we need to be mindful of the many issues that may affect their success and effectiveness. In this chapter, an overview of key ‘issues’ in learning design and learning technology are covered, along with a few further references to explore.

Learning Objectives

After working through this chapter, you’ll be able to:

  • Understand major issues that arise when teaching with technology (digital divide, etc.)
  • Identify ways in which these issues can be addressed to support learners
  • Identify context-specific considerations that impact teaching and learning with technology

Why is this important?

When designing and facilitating technology-enabled or online learning experiences, not everything will be perfect, so we need to be aware of the common issues that may come up with we’re working with our students, other instructors and when engaging with the wider world. Many issues in the area of learning technology mirror those encountered in the wider world, so the strategies in adapting to them and mitigating them will be similar.

Guiding Questions

As you’re reading through these materials, please consider the following questions, and take notes to ensure you understand their answers as you go.

  • When creating lessons, learning materials or assignments, what do you need to be mindful of?
  • In your educational setting, what challenges, barriers, or other issues do you already know about, and how do you manage or mitigate them?
  • When thinking about the creation of learning materials and experiences, do you tend to think in complicated terms or more simple terms? How do you think this would affect your learners?

Key Readings

Bennett, S., Maton, K. and Kervin, L. (2008), The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39: 775-786.

Rose, D. (2000). Universal design for learning. Journal of Special Education Technology15(3), 45-49.

There are many considerations related to learning technologies that we need to keep in mind. Pick the ones you’re interested in below and feel free to search for more.

Becker, K., Newton, C., & Sawang, S. (2013). A learner perspective on barriers to e-learning. Australian Journal of Adult Learning53(2), 211-233. 

Ifenthaler, D., & Schumacher, C. (2016). Student perceptions of privacy principles for learning analytics. Educational Technology Research and Development64(5), 923–938.

Parrish, P., & Linder-VanBerschot, J. (2010). Cultural dimensions of learning: Addressing the challenges of multicultural instructionThe International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning11(2), 1-19.

McLoughlin, C., & Luca, J. (2002). A learner–centred approach to developing team skills through web–based learning and assessment. British Journal of Educational Technology33(5), 571-582.

Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance education26(1), 29-48.

Is a specific technology the right choice?

When teaching with technology, it’s all about the fit between technology and the goals you have for your learners. For example, let’s say we’re teaching a group of year 3 children and we want them to learn about rainforest ecosystems. One technology I could choose is Virtual Reality – we buy $1000 VR headsets, strap the children in and see how it goes. It does not go well – the technology doesn’t turn on for many students, the headsets are built for adults, half the children get motion sickeness and have to go home, and the other half haven’t used VR before and fall down. This is not a good match between technology and pedagogy, so it’s important that we look to research on the tool or type of tool we want to use, to ensure it’s appropriate for our students and our unit of learning.

TLDR; If you can’t find any research studies that demonstrate how a technology can support learning, it may not be the right fit…yet.

Digital and Information Literacy

In 2001, Prensky proposed the idea that people born around 1980 to 1994 were digital natives – people who grew up with technology and therefore innately understood how it worked, like no other generation before them. Though it entered the vernacular and is still talked about today, a review of the topic by Bennett and colleagues (2008) suggested that lumping groups of people into categories like this might not be the best approach – that the reality of the situation is much more nuanced. While it’s true that some people grew up with digital technologies and some didn’t, there’s not much evidence that broad categorisation of people like this is an accurate way to describe these different groups, as access and proficiency vary widely – some young people have lower digital literacy than that of their grandparents.

Fast forward, and what most have come to understand is that there is diversity amongst students who use technology, and this is primarily based on their experiences with and and access to technology. This is usually called ‘The Digital Divide’ and there has been a lot of research on this in the last 20 years, leading to the formulation of concepts around digital and information literacy, inclusion, equity and wellbeing in the use of learning technology.

  • Digital Literacy refers to the knowldge skills and abilities related to the use of different technologies (e.g., hardware, software, online tools, etc.)
  • Information Literacy refers to knowledge, skills and abilities related to information itself, including the search for, evaluation and critique of information. Much of the recent debates around misinformation online have direct implications for information literacy.


When considering the use of learning technologies, access to technology is usually required, and plays a role in how we can design learning experiences that use it. It’s important then to consider what technologies are available to our learners and what barriers may exist in their use, as well as their ability to use them.

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While location may dictate bandwidth, location can also present challenges in terms of simple things, like time zone, limitations on specific access to tools on the internet, or even access to the internet itself. Some nations have enacted legislation or other rules governing the availability of certain resources online, so ensuring resources shared with students in different geographic locations is important to think about.


Is the technology we’re using ‘bandwidth heavy’? In other words does it require fast and consistent internet? Students in areas without fast internet may not have the same experience that other learners may have, so its important to think about pedagogy and technology terms of this type of access.

In this instance, we need to think about providing alternate learning materials – instead of a 4K ultra high definition video of our instructor talking, perhaps a smaller video or a transcription of an online lecture might be better. Making things downloadable is also a good option, so they can watch items offline if they want to

Technology Availability

Depending on the educational context, some technologies simply may not be available ‘in house’. For example many school districts may use Microsoft products while others use Google online tools, so planning our learning experiences using specific tools can sometimes lead to challenges. In situations like this, if we know who we’re going to be teaching, we can make certain assumptions about what they have access to. In some circumstances that may not be the case – we don’t want to make assumptions – so we can survey students or use technologies that are more ubiquitous.

Cultural, Linguistic and Ability Diversity

Ensuring that celebration of diversity is a really important consideration for technology-enabled and online learning. When designing learning experiences, we need to consider how to ensure that all learners have an equitable experience. As time has passed, educational settings have moved from using words like ‘Tolerance’ to ‘Acceptance’ and finally ‘Celebration’ of diversity in our educational settings.

It is important then to be able to look at our own learning experiences – the ones that we design and teach – with a critical eye, putting ourselves into the shoes of all possible learners we may wish to reach, so that we can anticipate issues and ensure that all learners can take full advantage of what we’ve created.

There is no deficit. Only Diversity.

It’s important to realise that no human has perfect ability, and that whenever we select a technology to use for educational purposes, and embed it into a lesson, assignment or activity, all students are going to experience and interact with this technology in different ways. Simply being mindful of this is a good start, however designer FOR diversity is one thing that takes time and practice. Here are just three examples. What are some others?

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Different Abilities – Basic examples like colourblindness and different visual abilities are easy to deal with by choosing technologies that are designed well and allow for customisation by the user.

Neurodiverse students – Learners who interpret the world and the stimuli within it differently such as those with autism spectrum disorder or those who have experience brain injuries may simply require different means of interacting with learning materials and with other, and this is where there many technologies can support (e.g., video vs text, games vs group work, etc.)

Speakers of Multiple languages – While there are thousands of dialects of English, with some unable to understand others, our students who can speak multiple languages should be considered – this might mean using more standard vocabulary or using platforms that have language packs for easy customisation by the user.

Body diversity – More and more technologies now allow us to use them using our hands and bodies, and as every human is different, how can we design learning experiences to ensure that all learners have the same experiences?

Culture around Education – Depending on where we work, where we grew up, or even where we studied, we may have different understandings of what it means to be a student, how we interact with our teachers and how we even behave as a learner. As a result, its important that what we create and the experiences we design for our learners take this into account, by setting clear expectations, by not making assumptions and by ensuring our students have a means to share feedback and ask questions.


As more technologies are used to support learning, more data is collected on its use, so we need to be mindful about how our students’ information might be collected, shared and used, not just by our own organisations but by external parties.

It’s not just the decision to use these technologies we need to think about though, it’s after that decision has been made. How can we teach our students about privacy issues while also asking them to use it. this brings in literacy issues around information privacy and any practices that go with it. These practices can include allowing students to use alternative technologies they may be more comfortable with, or allowing them to use pseudonyms so that their personal information is protected.

When it comes to teaching in schools, three is a growing body of research around how children are ‘datafied’ from early childhood, meaning the apps they use and the technologies they engage with are constantly collecting data about their activities. This raises questions around ethics and consent when using technologies with children (see Pangrazio & Mavoa, 2023). With this in mind, many contexts have specific approved technologies in place to ensure privacy of learners is protected, and while this may limit our options sometimes, this limitation is in place to protect our students.


An emerging area of research, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic has been an interest in how to support student wellbeing in online learning environments. As students shifted to learning online, their connections with peers as well as those with friends and family were A quick google scholar search shows there are few seminal studies in this area, but many existing studies based in wellbeing can be adapted to suit. Take this Wellbeing Activity Guide from the Queensland Dept. of Education – many of these activities would be easy to to implement online simply by asking our students to participate.

Privatisation of Learning Technology

As governments around the world seem to be reducing funding for education in many areas, many organisations have no choice but to turn to private companies to meet their needs. While this has always been the case in terms of larger products like a Learning Management System (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), this is now expanding to other areas. Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon are now key players in education, and how educational organisations choose to engage with these companies and what considerations they are making is still something that’s largely unexplored.

Starting in 2020, a company that provides remote proctoring for online exams has become controversial for breaching the privacy of students, as well as suing its critics. As a result, many universities in the United States and Canada, where the majority of their business has been, are opting to drop them as a vendor.

Other Considerations (A.K.A. #ethicaledtech)

The Shiny New Toy

Often when a new technology is released, some educators may rush to adopt it without considering the question of ‘why does this benefit learning?’. This rush to adopt new technology can create challenges, both in the implementation of the technology and even for the students, if the implementation is not handled well.

An example of this is the use of VR technology. While it is an exciting prospect to strap a Head Mounted Display (HMD) in every child in the land, we still don’t know enough about the effects of this technology on our minds and bodies to ensure it’s safe and effective to support learning.

Cart Before the Horse

Similar to adopting a shiny new toy, some educational technologies can be chosen and implemented by an entire organisation without having been properly vetted or evaluated. In some situations lots of money is spent, along with human resources and time to get something off the ground, when it may not have been the best solution. While this is usually more of a learning technology management issue, it can come from individual decisions made for specific learning experiences as well.

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility

Otherwise known as ‘The Spiderman Rule’, when we are designing learning experiences that use technology, we always need to be mindful of the power we may have over other parties, including our learners and colleagues. Though we may not be aware of it, we must weigh the consequences of using certain technologies and how this use may impact student privacy and wellbeing.

For more about educational technology ethics, check out the open textbook, Ethical use of Technology in Digital Learning Environments. This was a co-design project by Masters students in Canada.


As the COVID-19 pandemic forced many instructors to become online teachers when they had no experience doing so before, the pressure to constantly create quality content became quite high. (this article does a great job of speaking to this issue)

In many technology-enabled and online learning situations, the learning designer or instructor may not have the time they’d like to devote to a project, or their organisation might not have supports or standards in place to ensure that all puzzle pieces that make a great learning experience are there, so it’s important to consider the quality of our work as learning designers, to try to get the most ‘bang for our buck’ in the technologies we choose, and to make sure we can meet deadlines and complete projects using what we have, and without taking on too much – in other words, quality over quantity should also be considered.

Key Take-Aways

  • When designing technology-enabled or online learning experiences, we must ensure we consider important issues such as access, equity, privacy and literacy.
  • Addressing these issues may involve augmenting, changing technologies chosen or revising certain pedagogical approaches to account for them
  • As educators, we need to be mindful of ethical issues now present in the use of different technologies.

Revisit Guiding Questions

Reframe question of this chapter as a statement: “Issues we need to consider when designing with learning technology are….”

Feel free to think about the following questions:

  • Now that you’ve read a bit about the issues involved in learning technology, has your perspective or approach shifted in any way?
  • What might you have not considered in your previous work, that could be re-examined based on what you learned in this chapter?

Conclusion / Next Steps

In the next chapter we’re going to look what Learning Experience Design (LxD), and all related terms mean, as well as different models and frameworks of Instructional or Learning Design that can help us to work in a more systematic way.


Pangrazio, L., & Mavoa, J. (2023). Studying the datafication of Australian childhoods: learning from a survey of digital technologies in homes with young children. Media International Australia, 0(0).

Prenksy, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 5, 1–6.

Prenksy, M. (2001b). Digital natives, digital immigrants, part II. Do they really think differently?On the Horizon, 9, 6, 1–6.

The Australian Institute for Social Research. (2006). The Digital Divide – Barriers to e-learning. University of Adelaide.

Further Reading

Ifenthaler, D., & Tracey, M. W. (2016). Exploring the relationship of ethics and privacy in learning analytics and design: implications for the field of educational technology. Educational Technology Research and Development64(5), 877-880.

Pardo, A., & Siemens, G. (2014). Ethical and privacy principles for learning analytics. British Journal of Educational Technology45(3), 438-450.

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Last Modified on February 19th, 2024 at 9:33 am by Stoo Sepp | BookSS Theme, 2021.

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