What is Instructional Technology?

Posted: February 1, 2007 in Education, Educational Technology, Instructional Technology

What is instructional technology? Read on and find out what instructional technology is and where the field is headed in the future.

In 1977, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) defined educational technology. However, this paper is defining instructional technology; so, what is the connection? The AECT states:

Instructional technology is a sub-set of educational technology, based on the concept that instruction is a sub-set of education. Instructional technology is a complex, integrated process involving people, procedures, ideas, devices, and organization, for analyzing problems, and devising, implementing, evaluating and managing solutions to those problems, in situations in which learning is purposive and controlled. In instructional technology, the solutions to problems take the form of Instructional System Components which are prestructured in design or selection, and in utilization, and are combined into complete instructional systems; these components are identified as Messages, People, Materials, Devices, Techniques, and Settings. The processes for analyzing problems and devising, implementing, and evaluating solutions are identified by the Instructional Development Functions of Research-Theory, Design, Production, Evaluation-Selection, Utilization, and Utilization-Dissemination. The process of directing or coordinating one or more of these functions are identified by the Instructional Management Functions of Organization Management and Personnel Management. (Ely & Plomp, 1996, p. 4)

Technology broken down into its root words techne—the Greek word for art and logos—Greek for word, technology is the art of applied science (Hatcher, 2002, p. 28). Based on this definition Hatcher states:

Art implies human creativity and skills with an aesthetic and even spiritual basis, yet our contemporary concept of technology is aligned more with scientific problem solving, communications, and the cold dissemination of information in support of rational economics than with some inspirational goal….Technology is an activity that applies the principles of science and mechanics to the solution of problems. It includes tools, resources, processes, people, and systems. Its goal is to accomplish tasks and provide an advantage to humans within a specific social, economic, or environmental context. (p. 29)

The Master of Science in Instructional Technology program at the University of Wyoming states:

The purposes of the master’s program in instructional technology are to help students to acquire the competence to design and develop effective learning systems and environments and to manage information and learning resources. Specific competencies in the program include (a) application of principles of human learning and psychology, (b) use of research and evaluation techniques, (c) application of principles of effective communications, (d) use of instructional design for delivery systems, (e) use of print and non-print media and technologies for instructional product development, and (f) information management and retrieval. (http://www.uwyo.edu/alt/master.asp, 2005)

With these definitions and explanations of educational and instructional technology, technology per se, and an example of a master’s program statement of purpose one sees the complexity of what an instructional technologist is and what they do. Instructional technologists are specialists that follow systematic processes and methods to facilitate and improve learning. Furthermore, instructional technologists draw upon educational learning theories, system design processes, diffusion of innovation and change, principles of ethical human resource development, research and development, and work to achieve, create, and disseminate best practice materials and skills in varied learning situations.


Ely, D. & Plomp, T. (1996). Classic Writings on Instructional Technology. Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.

Hatcher, T. (2002). Ethics and HRD. USA: Perseus Publishing.

University of Wyoming, Laramie, Department of Adult Learning & Technology. (2005). Masters Program: Description of Degrees. Retrieved May 31, 2005, from the College of Education Department of Adult Learning & Technology Web site: http://www.uwyo.edu/alt/master.asp


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