The role of theory in learning technology evaluation research


  • Rob Phillips Murdoch University
  • Gregor Kennedy The University of Melbourne
  • Carmel McNaught The Chinese University of Hong Kong



This paper attempts a fundamental analysis of the nature of research into e-learning and the role that theory plays in this. We examine 'research' in broad terms, and the nature of phenomena in general. We identify that e-learning is an artificial phenomenon, and that research approaches need to be cognisant of the design elements in e-learning, and the cyclical nature of e-learning development. We identify various desired research outcomes which are appropriate at each stage of the e-learning lifecycle, and argue that studies of e-learning involve a mixture of evaluation and research.

We discuss e-learning evaluation research in the context of different disciplinary and interdisciplinary research approaches, recognising that there is no one 'right' way to do e-learning evaluation research. However, we recognise that there is a varying mixture of a 'search for fundamental understanding' and 'consideration of use' in e-learning evaluation research. We use these considerations to discuss the role of theory in educational research, and, in particular, in e-learning evaluation research, before applying the preceding arguments to the e-learning lifecycle, identifying five different forms of evaluation research.


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Author Biographies

Rob Phillips, Murdoch University

Associate Professor, Educational Development Unit
Murdoch University

Gregor Kennedy, The University of Melbourne

Associate Professor, Director of eLearning Centre for the Study of Higher Education, The University of Melbourne

Carmel McNaught, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Professor, Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong




How to Cite

Phillips, R., Kennedy, G., & McNaught, C. (2012). The role of theory in learning technology evaluation research. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28(7).

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