Three Functions of Instructional Technologies

Learning technologies can deliver content, assess knowledge or – most importantly – foster engagement with the material and with other people

Learning technologies can be broken into three functional categories: content delivery, assessment, and engagement. There are ways to do each function either analog or digitally, and there are numerous digital tools each category (and some technologies span categories).  Knowing what you want to use technology for is a crucial first step to selecting a particular technology to use.

Content delivery

This is the subject matter we are trying to teach. Content can be delivered via spoken words, written words, and still or moving images. Common technologies include lecture, images, and videos.  It is crucial to recognize that content delivery is not sufficient to bring about learning.


Assessment verifies students have learned something.  Assessment strategies boil down to two basic categories – written work (tell me what you know) and performance of a task (show me that you can do something). Common technologies include online testing software and recording a live performance.


Learning happens when students engage with learning material and find a place for it in their broader understanding.  Engagement is encouraged when students compare/contrast new material with what they already know, apply what they’ve learned, and help other people understand the material.  If your students aren’t learning your content well, consider enhancing your engagement strategies first. 

Related Presentation

ADEA 2014 Three types of instructional technologies

Published by Emily

I'm an instructional designer and gardener based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Free moments find me in my garden or the forest, hugging trees and all that jazz.

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