ETT 529 Theories of Computer-Based Education

Northern Illinois University
Instructor: Professor Lisa Yamagata-Lynch
Office Hours: Wednesday 1:30pm-2:30pm, Thursday 4:30pm-5:30pm
Severe Weather Closing: 815-752-6736 (local) or 1-888-648-9847
*Upon discussion with students, the instructor reserves the right to make revisions to the course syllabus

Catalog Description

This is a course on emerging theories and models relating to computer-assisted instruction (CAI), computer based training, computer literacy, and other uses of computers as instructional media. Topics include intelligent CAI, implementation models, and simulation and gaming.

The intent of this course is to confront students already knowledgeable in some aspects of computer-based learning and applications use in education and training with theories, concepts and/or practices that are beyond the scope of ETT 429, 439, and 539. This is the place to explore things that just do not fit into other courses.

  1. Identify prominent theorists in the field and the theories and ideas associated with them.
  2. Analyze and evaluate theories and concepts advocated in the literature.
  3. Apply theories to the design of computer-based learning materials.
  4. Develop and defend a position on issues relating to computer technology in education.
  5. Use information resources (traditional print, Internet/World Wide Web, people) to gather data about a topic in computer-based education.
  6. Organize resources located into a literature review, paper, and/or electronic presentation on the selected topic.
  7. Synthesize applications of the technologies explored in a personally relevant context.
Course Goals
The purpose of this course is to explore emerging computing technologies that can be incorporated to exemplify the theories of learning and instruction. Broadly defined, these computing technologies are tools that instructional designers, educators, and many others can use to make their endeavors more productive and useful. This course will introduce and illustrate the possible pedagogical capability of these tools in providing insights into defining and solving problems in the process of designing learning environments and/or systems. The emphasis will always be on the use of these tools to solve realistic and relevant problems drawn either from your experiences or from provided case studies. It is only when you have experienced applying these tools to actual problems that you can really see their strengths and weaknesses.

This course is also an investigation of education-related development aspects of computing technology, including its roots, its definition, its design application, and its process of system creation. The study of these aspects will allow you to appreciate how the technical functionalities are incorporated and delivered. You will then be able to understand better and perhaps manage more efficiently the design of computer-related learning environments and systems.

Course Format
As you are graduate student, I am going to assume you are a professional and treat you as such. That means I am not going to tell you what you need to know, check attendance or try to motivate you. I assume that you are going to take responsibility for your own learning in this course. What I will do is to organize fourteen weeks of lectures, discussions, workshops, seminars, tutorials, etc. and invite you to attend and participate.

Online D&R Journal Entry 20 pts |View Guide and Rubric|

You have to complete a D&R journal entry and post it online. D&R journal entries are your description and reflection (D&R) on the assigned course readings, discussions that take place during class/online, and the progress you are making on your understanding of computer-based education. Your journal entry should not exceed more than 8 pages double-spaced (2000 words) using 12-point Time New Roman font. After you post your D&R entry you have to respond to at least 2 of your peer entries in a manner that will further the group reflection process.

If you need insights on reflective journal entries refer to:
Schon, D. A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Seminar Project 30 pts |View Rubric||Peer Evaluation|
In pairs or in a group of 3 members, you will be responsible for leading a class session on a course related topic that your team agrees on. You need to provide the instructor the following materials to gain approval for your seminar project: (a) topic description, (b) 2 articles selected as readings, (c) summaries of each article, (d) rationales for selecting the articles, and (e) description of the library search method your team used to find the articles. After the instructor approves your topic and readings, you need to provide the class with the readings at least 1 week prior to your seminar project date.

On your seminar project date your team will be responsible for leading discussions and activities related to the readings you assigned the class.

One-week after your seminar project date you are responsible for submitting a 1 page single spaced individual reflection paper that captures the following topics: (a) What went well about your seminar project? (b) What did not go well about your seminar project? and (d) What would you do differently the next time lead a class session?

Research Paper 25+5 pts |View Rubric|
The research paper is a test of your ability to tackle a topic in the field of computer-based education in a cohesive and in-depth fashion. You will be expected to write in the form that is typical of published article. Two basic types of paper are acceptable - either a thorough examination of an issue relevant to the field or an empirical study. In either case, you are expected to demonstrate relevance of your work to computer-based education, review and synthesize the appropriate literature, display your own contribution, and present the result in a readable and fully-referenced form using APA style 5th edition. Those who choose to do an empirical study must also clearly outline the methods of data collection and analysis performed.

Once you submit your draft, you will be automatically awarded 5 points. The final 25 points for the paper will be assessed based on the quality of your final paper.

Your paper should not exceed 25 pages double-spaced using 12-point Times New Roman font.

Class Participation 20 pts
You are expected to come to class, engage in online activities, and participate in both in a manner that provides evidence that you have read and reflected on the assigned readings and discussions.

Course Assessment
Total Possible Points

Assignments Possible Points
D&R Journal Entries 20
Seminar Project 30
Research Paper 30 (5+25)
Class Participation 20
Total Possible Points 100pts

Assignment of Final Grade
A = 100-90; B = 89-80; C = 79-70; D = 69-60; F < 59 pts.


A= outstanding competence
B= above satisfactory competence
C= satisfactory level of competence
D= marginally satisfactory competence

Borderline grades will be decided (up or down) on the basis of class contributions throughout the semester.

Students with Special Needs
Northern Illinois University abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which stipulates that no student shall be denied the benefits of an education solely by reason of a handicap. Disabilities covered by law include, but are not limited to learning disabilities and hearing, sight or mobility impairments.

Your success as a student is of utmost importance to me. If you have a disability or any other special circumstance that may have some impact on your work in this class, and for which you may require special accommodations, please contact me early in the semester so that accommodations can be made in a timely manner. The NIU Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), located on the 4th floor of the University Health Service (753-1303), is the designated office on campus to provide services and accommodations to students with diagnosed disabilities. You need to provide documentation of your disability to this office. For more information, visit the CARR website:

NIU Academic Integrity Policy
To make authoritative statements without giving credit to the author of those statements is considered plagiarism and violates the academic integrity policy of Northern Illinois University:

Good academic work must be based on honesty. The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or assignment written, in whole or part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging those sources or if they paraphrase ideas from other sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university (2003-04 Undergraduate Catalog, p.48).

Writing Center
It is imperative that ALL teacher certification candidates meet the Illinois Language Arts Standards for All Teachers. Therefore, students who would like assistance in or further developing their writing style and skills can do so through the NIU Writing Center located in Stevenson South Towers - Lower Level, 815-753-6636. Website:

Topic Assignments
Course Introduction  
What is computer-based education?  
Hot topics in computer-based education  
Research methods in computer-based education: Design Based Research

Learning with computers  
Knowledge building with computers  
Computer-based education theory: Interaction
 D&R Posting
Computer-based education theory: Activity Theory
Peer comments
Computer-based education issues: Sociotechnical issues
Seminar readings list and summary due
Student Seminar I--student selected readings
Student paper draft presentations Part I

Student Seminar II--student selected readings
Student paper draft presentations Part II

Student research time
Student research paper draft
Student research time
Online paper submission Submit revised research paper online

Stahl, G. (2006). Group Cognition: Computer Support for Building Collaborative Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Week 2 What is computer-based education?
Koschmann, T. (1996). Paradigm shifts and instructional technology: An introduction. In T. Koschmann (Ed.), CSCL: Theory and practice of An emerging paradigm (pp. 1-23). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.

Kozma, R. (2000). Reflections on the state of educational technology research and development. Educational Technology Research and Development v. 48 n1 p5-15.

Week 3 Hot topics in computer-based education
Land, S. M., & Hannafin, M. J. (2000). Student-centered learning environments. In D. H. Jonassen & S. M. Land (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments (pp. 1-23). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Squire, K., & Jenkins, H. (2003). Harnessing the power of games in education. INSIGHT, 3, 5-33.

Stinson, J. (2004). A continuing learning community for graduates of an MBA program: The experiment at Ohio University. In T. M. Duffy & J. R. Kirkley (Eds.), Learner-centered theory and practice in distance education: Cases from higher education (pp. 167-182). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Week 4 Research methods in computer-based education: Design Based Research
Barab, S. A., & Squire, K. (2004). Design-based research: Putting a stake in the ground. The Journal of The Learning Sciences, 13(1), 1-14.

Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of The Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.

Collins, A., Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. The Journal of The Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15-42.

Week 5 Learning with computers
Text Chapters: Pick 4 chapters from 1-8

Week 6 Knowledge building with computer
Text Chapters: Pick 4 chapters from 9-13

Week 7 Computer-based education theory: Interaction
Text Chapters: Pick 4 chapters from 14-21

Week 8 Computer-based education theory: Activity Theory

Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social transformation. In Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen & R.-L. Punamaki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19-38). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Kuutti, K. (1996). Activity theory as a potential framework for human-computer interaction research. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Context and Consciousness: Activity Theory and Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 17-44). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Week 9 Computer-based education issues: Sociotechnical issues

Eason, K. (1988). Information Technology and Organizational Change. New York: Taylor and Francis. Ch. 4. p44-59

Bielaczyc, K. (2006). Designing social infrastructure: Critical issues in creating learning environments with technology. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(3), 301-329.

Last Updated January 2, 2011