The eLearning Family Tree

Team Members:

  • Chris Smith
  • Sophia Burris
  • Elisabeth Gallagher
  • Susannah Simmons

Design Decisions


Educational technology has significantly impacted the delivery of education over the past century. The aim of our presentation is to convey how eLearning emerged from its foundation in educational technology and distance education. Our presentation follows the changes in the delivery of education from 1728 when Caleb Phillips advertised a correspondence course for shorthand in the Boston Gazette. The presentation continues through the introduction of various educational technologies and then gives an indication of how eLearning may look in the future based on current trends in technology and eLearning. To see the video click here.


We selected a family theme for our presentation. We show the relationship between distance education, educational technology and eLearning by personifying each of them. Distance Education (Dee) meets and marries Educational Technology (Ed) and they have a baby eLearning (eLle). The relationship between the three characters allowed us to present the developments in education delivery chronologically. A family tree is provided to illustrate the “parent” ideas for each character.

Evolution of education delivery reflected in the lives of the characters. Our presentation has three acts. In the first act, Dee and Ed reminisce about when they first met in 1921 at the Latter Day Saints University during the first educational radio broadcast. They talk about how they worked together through the introduction of educational radio, educational television, open universities and finally the internet at which point they marry and have baby eLle.

Act two shows Ed and Dee looking down at baby eLle, while discussing the impact she has had on universities and the corporate world. This act highlights the potential growth eLle had when she was young. Of importance is the cognitive load theory. This theory is included to highlight the impact of allowing designers and educators to filter learning content and avoid over stimulating their students and audiences. The coherence principle is mentioned as well to highlight a process of filtering content.

Act three provides a picture of  adult eLle in the future talking with her parents about the new technology she is using. Predictions of the future are made using knowledge of current trends in technology development and its educational applications. For instance, eLle speaks about attending meetings in a virtual world with a headband charged by her movements. Another example may be instantaneous translation services between school collaborations. Connectivism of the online education is also alluded to for discussion boards and video courses. eLle lives the virtual collaboration life as expressed in this act. 

Relevant theory 

Our characters make reference to many theories throughout the presentation. In act one, Chu and Schramm are referenced in regard to student achievement. In act two, Cognitive Load Theory is related in how it has impacted instructional design practice along with the Coherence Principle. In act three, the characters  refer to Surry and Ely’s research on Adoption, Diffusion, Implementation, and Institutionalization of Educational Technology in terms of the limited adoption of educational television.


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