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“Here’s the Thing” or “Here’s the Problem”? A Reexamination of the Focus of E-Learning Research

, University of Georgia, United States


There has been a virtual explosion of e-learning research over the past two decades with thousands of papers published in refereed journals and/or presented at professional conferences. Much of this research has been focused on “things” that others create rather than the real world educational and performance “problems” that should matter to all of us. Instead of confronting the complexities of real world practice, many e-learning researchers conduct one-off quasi-experimental studies or sterile qualitative investigations targeted on things such as tablet computers, smart phones, 3D printers, virtual reality, and the like. A particularly common approach to “thing-oriented” e-learning research involves developing something new such as a smartphone app or an educational game, providing students with access to the new thing, and then asking them to respond to a survey about how much they liked it. E-learning research would have much more value if researchers, rather than starting with some new thing, focused their research on significant problems in education such as the lack of student motivation to learn or the growing perception that higher education is not worth the costs. The future will be replete with technological innovations and there will always be new things on which to focus our e-learning research. But this is not the best use of our research skills. This session will provide guidance for reorienting e-learning research to addressing head-on the important educational issues faced by practitioners and society at large.


Reeves, T. (2015). “Here’s the Thing” or “Here’s the Problem”? A Reexamination of the Focus of E-Learning Research. Presented at E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning 2015. Retrieved December 12, 2019 from .