They Love It, but Do They Learn from It? Evaluating the Educational Impact of Innovations
Cathy Gunn 1999 Higher Education Research and Development 18(2), 185-99
Abstract - The SECAL (Situated Evaluation of Computer-Assisted Learning) framework offers a broadly based method for evaluating learning with technology in its many forms and implementations. Central to the framework are detailed and discipline-specific definitions of learning and corresponding descriptions of innovative study environments designed to exploit the potential of technology to support achievement of high quality learning goals. The objectives are to collect evidence of how these environments may or may not lead to effective learning and to identify what, if anything, might be done to improve the prospects. The concept of situation implies the need to evaluate contextual influences as well as how students and lecturers actually use technology. This is achieved through rich description generated from multidimensional, qualitative methods which are theoretically grounded in interpretive, critical and postmodern paradigms. The ubiquitous student evaluation of teaching systems are over-reliant on subjective data and offer little insight into pedagogical issues. The case-specific SECAL method uses objective and subjective data to assess how technology impacts on learning processes and outcomes. Broader objectives include grounded-theory development and identification of institutional influences on teaching and learning innovations. This type of evaluation is not particularly easy to conduct, but is a prerequisite to gaining academic credibility, maximizing the benefits of investment and justifying it in terms acceptable to economic-rationalist administrators. A description of the method in this article is followed by a case study illustrating its practical applications.