Online Education: A Science and Technology Studies Perspective

April 6, 2013

This paper argues that research into the pedagogical value and potential of new technologies is limited by the implicit philosophical perspectives on technology that such research adopts. These perspectives either imbue technologies with inalienable qualities (essentialism) or posit technology as a neutral means for realizing goals defined by their users (instrumentalism). Such approaches reflect the reigning common sense around the relation of technology and social practice, but they have also been resoundingly critiqued from within the philosophy, history and sociology of technology. It is our argument that the development of more nuanced philosophical perspectives on technology derived from contemporary technology studies can provide fruitful new directions for online education research. After briefly outlining how essentialist and instrumentalist perspectives operate in such research, we overview the key contributions developed in technology studies, suggesting how the latter might enhance research into online education.

Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology

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