Practical Guidelines for Selecting Media: An International Perspective 

Peter J. Patsula's The Usableword Monitor, February 1, 2002

Web Usability and Information Design Issues

Overview ~ Cost Accessibility ~ Social-Political Suitability ~ Cultural Friendliness 
Interactivity ~ Motivation Value ~ Effectiveness 
Other Models ~ Conclusion ~ Appendix ~ References 


The following paper describes eight practical guidelines distance educators and online instructional designers can use to help select media to improve the quality of their programs. These guidelines take into consideration international problems and perspectives.

  1. Cost 

  2. Accessibility 

  3. Social-Political Suitability 

  4. Cultural Friendliness 

  5. Openness/Flexibility 

  6. Interactivity

  7. Motivational Value

  8. Effectiveness 

By Peter J. Patsula, Sookmyung Women's University, Seoul. 1999, Dec. 17.  

Overview - The "Clark Media Debate"


For more than a decade, the “Clark Media Debate” (1983, 1994) has sent everyone looking for the perfect medium - a telephone pole in a forest. As a result, we have forgotten about the forest. The ongoing debate, centering around the truism that “media will never influence learning,” has helped us recognize the importance of instructional methodology, but has done little to provide us with strategies we can use to reach our instructional objectives.

To help remedy this, and give us more practical tools for solving distance and online education problems, CASCOIME (pronounced cas-coy-mi) outlines eight practical guidelines, compiled in descending order of importance, for evaluating and selecting new media or technology for distance and online education. In particular, these guidelines are targeted towards distance educators wishing to meets the needs of minority groups and developing regions. However, these guidelines are useful for media selection for most any educational situation. These eight guidelines are summarized as follows:



Practical Guidelines for Selecting Media

In an international setting, media can be selected and evaluated based on the following CASCOIME criteria: 

Cost - Is the medium cost effective? Can it reach a wide enough audience? What technology infrastructure is currently available? 

Accessibility – Is the medium accessible? Does it facilitate distribution? Is it convenient to use? Is it user-friendly?

Social-Political Suitability – Is the medium socially and politically suitable? Does its use coincide with social and political agendas of governing bodies?

Cultural Friendliness – Is the medium culturally appropriate? Does it coincide with the culture’s traditional way of learning?

Openness/Flexibility – Is the medium flexible? Does it foster collaboration? Does it foster different ways of teaching? 

Interactivity - Is the medium interactive? Does it promote learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction? Does it facilitate timely and quality feedback from instructors and tutors?

Motivational Value - Is the medium motivating? Does it encourage learners to study harder and longer?

Effectiveness - Is the medium effective? Does it help students learn content faster (i.e., more efficiently)?

What is a minority group? 

Thomas & McDonell (1995) define a minority group as “a section of society whose identity is determined by cultural properties not shared by all members of the society and whose needs are not necessarily served when the needs of the society as a whole are being served” (p. 185). By definition, they add, “minority markets are too small to be self-sustaining for traditional learning and often too small to warrant the use of industrial process and economies of scale inherent to, for example, delivery by correspondence”(p. 186). Hence, “minority groups throughout the world must battle constantly in order to receive the same level of education services as is offered to the majority” (p. 187).

Minority groups in Canada, for example, include the French community in Ontario (see Paquette-Frenette & Larocque 1995), and aboriginal communities distributed in the territories and northern parts of Canada’s provinces (see Spronk 1995).   

What is a developing region? 

A developing region can be defined as a nation or group of nations requiring “major changes in social structure[s], populate attitudes and national institutions, as well as, the acceleration of economic growth, the reduction of inequality, and the eradication of absolute poverty” (Todaro 1989 p. 88). 

Developing regions include parts of South and Southeast Asia, Africa, the South Pacific region, the Middle East region, Latin America, and the Caribbean.   

What is media?

A medium can be defined as “a channel of communication, information, or entertainment” (Mish 1989, 455). In this paper, media and technology are used interchangeably. Media includes technology such as print, radio, audio-cassettes, video-cassettes, broadcast TV, satellite TV, cable TV, multimedia CDs, computer-based learning, and online instruction over the Internet.

What is quality media? 

Juran (1989) defines quality as “fitness for use,” or as McIlroy and Walker (1993, 42) interpret, “fitness for purpose.” Fahy explains (1999, September 24):

This definition has the advantage of brevity, while recognizing the essential relativity of the term. In other words, what one source may regard as ‘fit’ may not suit the purposes of another; similarly, fitness standards may vary over time, and thus standards of what constitutes quality may change.

This definition can be extended by stating that quality is a set of standards that can be used to evaluate a product or project. In support of this, Fahy (1999) advises that in defining quality, “there must be goals, or targets, and there must be measurement of the degree to which these are being met” (p. 104).

In selecting media for distance education in an international setting, quality media can be defined as media that is rated the highest using the CASCOIME guideline criteria (see CASCOIME “Media Evaluation Chart” in appendix).

1) Cost - CASCOIME


Is the medium cost effective? 

As educators, we hope that our decisions regarding the adoption of a medium are based upon altruistic values, but reality often suggests otherwise. From the use of video to the persistence of print, the most important factor in the adoption of any new medium is cost irrespective of how effective or ineffective the medium truly is. 

There are three main costs associated with distance education: 

  • fixed costs (including start-up costs, capital costs and administration costs) 

  • variable costs per student (which include student support services & course delivery costs) 

  • course materials costs (which include course design and production costs). 

All of these costs are affected by the choice of media. For example, if a print medium is chosen for course delivery one has to determine how this choice will impact the capital costs of printing, storing and shipping printed materials; the variable costs per student of postage and handling; and the design and production costs of writing, editing, and purchasing ink and paper. 

To determine the cost-effectiveness of a medium one needs to compare the relative costs of the learning achieved by examining: (a) the average cost per student to the institution i.e., What is the cost-efficiency of the distance university relative to conventional universities?; and (b) the average cost to the student i.e., Are the tuition costs affordable? 

Despite the fact that distance education usually has higher development and start-up costs, “both large and small scale projects have found that it may be possible to produce graduates at cost of between half and two-thirds of the costs for a student at a conventional institutions” (Commonwealth Secretariat January 1985, 7, R.304). Murphy (as cited in Eastmond 1994, 88) reports that the Turkish Open Education facility was able to provide distance learners with a university education, judged at roughly one-sixth of the cost of providing a conventional university education.  

However, Threlkeld and Brzoska (1994, 61) report that “marketing distance learning as a way to cut educational costs is risky, at best. In the short run, there is little evidence in the United States that distance education reduces costs over traditional instruction.” Keegan (1996, 213-214) warns us that “in spite of the long association of the field with the use of technological media, there is as yet little grounded theory on the cost-effectiveness and the educational effectiveness of the use of media in distance systems.” We therefore should be somewhat skeptical of any new medium, which promises to reduce educational costs and increase learning especially if this claim is unsubstantiated, as well as, any approach that claims to truly measure cost effectiveness. Because of the inherent difficulties in accurately measuring the quality of learning that takes place as a result of a new medium, for the most part, we as distance educators, when judging the cost effectiveness of a medium, resort to concentrating on only that which is easily measurable, and that is dollar cost. Specifically, we tend to concentrate on the affect the medium has on fixed start-up and maintenance costs, as well as, course design and production costs. 

Two examples which clearly illustrate the importance of cost as a deciding factor in the success or demise of a medium are print and video. “Traditional print-based correspondence study endures in spite of more than sixty years of technological innovation in mass communications and continued declarations of its obsolescence” (Pittman 1987, 33). As Pittman argues, “convenience and economy” are key factors contributing to its continued use. Video, on the other hand, has virtually replaced film overnight as an educational medium of choice for one very simple reason – it’s much cheaper: 

Film has become an expensive medium, both the software (films themselves) and the hardware (film projectors). The video version to a title is generally a fraction of the costs of the film version, and the combination of a video player and video monitor costs less than a film projector. There are major reasons why institutions are willing to write off their considerable capital investment in films and projectors and adopt videocassettes as the format of choice for moving images (Heinich et al., 1996, 207).

When determining the cost-effectiveness of a medium, evaluators must also consider the cost to the student. Depending on the media being used, the cost to the student can vary considerably. Online instruction materials may lower printing and distribution costs to the host organization, but to the student who has to purchase a computer, the cost of access may be prohibitive. On one hand, to a typical American, buying a computer might be cost-effective. However, for a typical Ethiopian, it is more likely an unattainable dream. 

Can it reach a wide enough audience?

Guy (1991) reports that distance education in developing countries is “predominantly a government financed activity and its expansion owes much to the willingness of governments to support distance education” (p. 160). However, Rumble (1989) maintains that “the high costs of setting up a system and developing courses means that there can be little justification for the investment, in economic terms, unless there is a large enough market to bring average costs down below those found in traditional education systems” (p. 101). Peñalver (1990) supports this, arguing that whether distance education becomes cheaper depends on several factors, among others, on the degree in which variable direct costs per students are kept below the level of that cost in traditional education, “and naturally, on the number of students” (p. 28). A selected medium must help achieve economies of scale. This is especially important for developing nations looking for less expensive ways to educate its people.

What technology infrastructure is currently available?

Hall (1987, as cited in Guy 1991) outlines the paradox of technology for the developing world. Although, “the increasing demand for education in the developing world lends itself to telecommunications . . . the very infrastructure to support such technology cannot be afforded by those developing countries” (p. 162). Thus, it is possible, as Peñalver (1990) reports, that “many of the third world countries will not be able to make use of the technology related educational advances presently being made in industrialized countries” (p. 23). Peñalver supports this assertion with the fact that “the economic crisis and the burden of foreign debts . . . are depleting the resources of third world countries and thereby restricting their ability to increase and improve educational opportunities” (p. 23).  

Granger (1988) reports that individual courses at OU “may cost a million pounds or more to develop, drawing on the best talent available” (p. 81). Clearly, this is not possible for developing nations. 

“This suggests the wisdom of assessing each situation in relation to the needs of the population, the availability of facilities and resources, and the cost-effectiveness of developing and implementing new structure as opposed to expanding those that are already in place” (Peñalver 1990, 28). In other words, cost-effective solutions for developing nations mean utilizing existing resources as much as possible. Being able to share resources with conventional educational institutions is also critical to keeping media costs affordable. 

2) Accessibility - CASCOIME


Is the medium accessible? 

Accessibility can be defined by factors such as:  

  • availability – Can everyone afford it or have access to it (e.g., computer for CMC or VCRs for video-cassettes? Is the necessary infrastructure available to facilitate distribution (e.g., postal services for print, telephone networks for tele-conferencing)? 

  • convenience – Does it allow learners to study where they want and when they want? Is it easy to get fixed? 

  • user-friendliness – Is it easy to use? Does everyone know how to use it? Is it an established standard used around the world?

According to Bates, “cost and accessibility” (as cited in Fahy 1999, 126) are the two most important criteria in the selection of new media or technology. 

Does it facilitate distribution? 

Forster (1992, as cited in Oliver 1998) comments that “the speed of arrival, the time it takes to get feedback, the feeling of isolation, and the ability to interact with other learners are all affected by the distribution system” (p. 168). Threlkeld & Brzoska (1994) contend that “a delivery system which permits wide distribution of a course . . . can be shown to significantly reduce costs” (p. 60) and hence increase accessibility (i.e., more people can afford it).  

However, Haque (1998) reminds us that in contrast to the developed world, where “the postal systems (including courier) are so reliable and fault-free that distance education institutions do not find it an important point for consideration during developing course materials” (p. 64), in developing countries, this is not necessarily the case. Kenworthy and Russell (1998) in examining the distance education problems of Mongolia report that “the establishment of any form of distance education system is problematic because of the lack of appropriate communication systems in rural areas and limitations in access to print based materials. Mail and telephone systems are not available to many rural communities” (p. 244). What does exist however “is a very comprehensive radio network covering 90% of Mongolia” (p. 245). They therefore conclude that in Mongolia, radio is the most suitable medium to provide distance education access.

Is it convenient to use?

Pittman (1993), in supporting the remarkable staying power of print-based correspondence study, argues that “the more sophisticated the medium, the more constraints students must accept” (p. 34). He says that:

college courses that use technologically advanced media usually put students on a fixed schedule, and often in a specified location, which many find inconvenient and undesirable. Such restraints apply to television, for example, whether via open broadcast, cable, or sophisticated microwave systems (p. 33).  

The importance of convenience is also illustrated by the increasing popularity of the Internet. The Internet is giving students quick and convenient access to information that before was unavailable to them. They no longer have to trek to the library to research material in an encyclopedia. Instead they can visit sites like Microsoft’s Encarta Online at and download info for free.   

Is it user-friendly?

New technology is often met with stiff resistance. This resistance is greater in developing nations because they have less experience with advanced technology and are more likely to perceive even simple solutions as complex. Casas-Armengol & Stojanovich (1990) note that “generally speaking, one notices the lack of a solid technological culture in many underdeveloped societies, affecting their understanding of the true potentials and limitations of modern technology” (p. 131). This unfamiliarity extends not only to students, but teachers and administrators as well (Threlkeld & Brzoska 1994). 

Thomas & McDonell (1995) recommend the following strategies for the successful introduction of new technologies to minority groups (196-198):

  • Humanization – To make technology more user-friendly, attach real names to student email accounts, welcome them by their name when they logon, and thank them personally for visiting when they logoff. 

  • Multilingual Design – Not all equipment can be taken off the shelf and used to serve minority groups. In many international settings, to be user-friendly, both hardware and software have to handle languages other than English. The management and development team have to be committed to this principle so that every element of input, transmission, output, and feedback can operate seamlessly in more than one language. 

  • Politicization or Empowerment – “Students on campus have many avenues to express themselves, to participate in working groups and think tanks, and to influence the process of their learning experience. An equivalent capacity has to be built in to new modes of delivery.”

  • Socialization or Group Belonging – Creating “classroom” and “lounge” environments for both structured and unstructured discussion can help reduce the dropout rate.  

  • User Support – A user-friendly system is able to offer users different levels of help depending on their literacy levels.

3) Social-Political Suitability - CASCOIME


Is the medium socially and politically suitable? 

Studies carried out by specialists and international agencies including UNESCO (1979, as cited in Da Silva & Esposito 1990) make it clear that “illiteracy and other educational disabilities are structural problems, closely associated with social, political, cultural, and economic factors” (p. 144). The problem is that “there are significant levels of physical, linguistic, cultural, political and economic diversity within developing nations. The developing world lacks the relative homogeneity which characterizes students, systems and societies found in the developed world” (Guy 1991, 162). Thus, more and more, distance educators are being asked to design distance learning systems to suit local environments in an effort to solve the social, political, and economic problems unique to each nation. 

Does its use coincide with social and political agendas of governing bodies?

Distance education initiatives must carefully work under the social, political and economic policies of existing governments. Trillo (1982, as cited in Guy 1991, 160) reports on interference in the preparation and use of distance materials by the Peruvian government. Materials had to be rewritten several times “before political regimes were happy.” On some occasions, “distance education programs were closed down because of the unacceptable ideology in the materials.”

Many nations are also eager to participate in world trade and become more prosperous. However, political and social organizations within the nations may be concerned about globalization as a threat to their way of life. They are faced with the dilemma: we access the world, but the world invades us (Evans 1998). They wonder: “How do we provide education for culture maintenance while at the same time promoting effective learning of western knowledge?” (Teasdale 1990, appendix 1.1). The potential “corrupting” influence of western ways on traditional ways of living has a powerful impact on the psyches of government decision-makers. This impact is particularly evident in the Middle East region where information going in and out of the country, including Internet access, is highly restricted.  

4) Cultural Friendliness - CASCOIME


Is the medium culturally appropriate?

“It is widely recognized that perceptions of success and failure among people in non-Western cultures may be quite different from those reported by people in Western cultures” (Murphy 1991, 27). Guy (1991) advises that “it may be more appropriate to identify the cultures of the learners prior to the development of an institutional response so that it is sensitive to those cultural forms” (p. 163). 

Does it coincide with the culture’s traditional way of learning?

Numerous researchers support the importance of understanding a culture and ways of learning, before implementing a solution:

Ong (1982, as cited in Murphy 1991) reports that Turkey’s roots in an oral tradition, along with its emphasis on rote memorization and the sacredness of text, make independent textbook learning less suitable. Ong suggests that “those who live in cultures with strong oral roots are [more] likely to express themselves in terms of practical situations rather [than] in abstract terms” (p. 44). These types of learners are doomed to failure in unstructured environments.

Maehr (1977, as cited in Murphy 1991, 27) describes the prevailing view of achievement in the US as “an individualistic and totally self-serving thing – a person achieves on his own and perhaps at the expense of someone else.” Such views, he adds however, “ignore cultural difference like co-operativeness and interdependence and group rather than individual goals of success.” Allison & Duda (1982, as cited in Murphy 1991, 27) report that the Navajos – a group-oriented culture – saw success as “helping the “People” or “when the team wins.” Spronk (1995), reporting about the learning needs of Aboriginal in Northern Manitoba and other parts of Canada, advises:

what clearly does not work with Aboriginal learners is the home study model . . . correspondence materials, no matter how sophisticated their design, are text- and prose-based, and involve the learner in – at best – a fictionalized relationship with a faceless and largely unknown author. Nothing in Aboriginal learners’ previous experience prepares them for the kind of learning these materials demand (pp. 91-92).

Spronk adds that “what does appear to work for Aboriginal learners is to emphasize face-to-face contact with instructors, tutors, counselors, supervisors, mentors or other students, and to supplement these contacts with self-study print materials (p. 92). Spronk’s findings relate to those of Paquette-Frenette & Larocque (1995) who after examining the learning needs of the Franco-Ontarian community, similarly advise that “interactive group learning, not individualized self-study, is essential to people who identify strongly with a specific community” (p. 161). 

5) Openness/Flexibility - CASCOIME


Is the medium flexible? 

Media can be defined as being open and flexible if, among other things, it fosters collaboration and different ways of teaching. 

Does it foster collaboration? 

“The integrative nature of technology and its use in distance education is pulling people around the globe into new and unexpected forms of collaboration” (Thach & Murphy 1994, 17). Collaboration will “increasingly become a major tool of institutional development” (Moran & Mugridge 1993, 163). 

What this suggests is that media that facilitates collaboration is preferable to media that does not, especially for developing nations where it is economically advantageous to adopt the distance education structures of more advanced nations. High technology solutions, such as Internet based CMC and email, foster collaborative efforts. Not only is communication faster, but timely contributions to program development from experts around the world is feasible. Convenient collaboration allows conventional and domestic education systems to more readily share scarce physical and human resources, reduce duplication, and agree on the areas of education each can best address.

Does it foster different ways of teaching? 

According to Clark (1983, 456), “it is what the teacher does—the teaching—that influences learning.” Clark firmly believes that method is casual to learning while media is not. However, Kozma (1994) argues that “medium and method have a more integral relationship; both are part of the design” (p. 205). He believes that certain media allow methods which “would have been difficult or impossible to implement in other media.” Irrespective of who is right, it can easily be argued that any medium that allows course developers the freedom to incorporate a variety of instructional methods is preferable to a medium that is more limited. 

6) Interactivity - CASCOIME


Is the medium interactive? 

Interaction is an important part of all forms of learning. “All the major learning theories specify that some form of meaningful interaction must take place between learners, instructors, and the environment” (Szabo 1998, 44). The importance of interaction in distance education has led Threlkeld and Brzoska (1994) to suggest that “although live on-air interaction may not be important for student outcomes, it may be important as a consumer variable, a requisite condition sought by some learners–even if not used” (p. 48). They state:

Live, interactive learning is what we are familiar with, it’s ‘school.’ The early automobile was designed, perhaps unconsciously, to look like the horse-drawn carriage. It was decades before the automobile became an entity unto itself, developing according to its own potential. Distance education may require a similar aging period to evolve out of preconceived notions of what education should be (p. 48).

Barker, Frisbie and Patrick (1996) go as far as to assert that interaction legitimizes distance education. They state:

The use of new and emerging technologies in distance education that foster live, teacher-student and student-to-student interactivity will enable distance education to assume its rightful and respected role in the educational process (p. 46). 

Does it promote learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction? 

Keegan (1996) stresses the importance of learner-learner and learner-teacher interaction in distance education as a way of recreating the teaching act. He reasons that:  

The separation of the teaching acts and the learning acts that is characteristic of distance education brings about a weak integration of the student into the life of the institution and this has been linked to dropout. It is hypothesized, therefore, that distance students have a tendency to drop out in those institutions in which structures for the reintegration of the teaching acts are not satisfactorily achieved (p. 19).

According to Keegan (1996, 118), the reintegration of the teaching act is attempted by distance systems in two basic ways: by designing materials “to achieve as many of the characteristics of interpersonal communication as possible” and by using various media. The Bangladesh Open University has successfully followed through on the first part of this advice by developing a handbook for textbook writing, that describes among other things, how to make distance education materials easier to read and locally more relevant (Haque 1998). 

Does it facilitate timely and quality feedback from instructors and tutors?

Feedback is a particular type of learner-instructor interaction that bears recognition in distance education. “The swift feedback available from the face-to-face learning model is almost entirely absent” (Sewart 1980, as cited in Keegan 1996, 102) in distance education, which can produce problems for particular types of learners. The importance of timely feedback is supported by data collected from the Darling Downs Institute of Advanced Education (Barker et al., 1986). The DDIAE study discovered that “of the 82 students who failed to complete [course] requirements, 55 of these experienced high turn-around time, whereas of the 110 students who succeeded in completing requirements, only 29 experienced a high turn-around, while 81 students had low turn-around time” (p. 30). Although the DDIAE study concludes that in other institutional contexts, no such patterns emerged, findings in the DDIAE context suggest that some students may have been disadvantaged by the relatively tardy return of assignments.

7) Motivation - CASCOIME


Is the medium motivating?

Clark (1983, 454) reports that several studies have “fruitfully explored” the question of enjoyment and entertainment in the use of educational media. He states:  

The fact that we learn (though education and experience) to prefer some media or to attribute varying levels of difficulty, entertainment value, or enjoyment to media might influence instructionally relevant outcomes (p. 454).

In an international setting however, it is important to distinguish between technology that is intimidating and technology that is motivating. What is motivating to a Westerner, such as an interactive multi-media CD, might be threatening to a Papua New Guinean, who has never seen a TV, let alone a remote control.

Does it encourage learners to study harder and longer? 

Bates (1995, as cited in Fahy 1999, 105) notes that novelty “may help launch an innovation, but cannot sustain it.” Similarly, Clark reports that “comparisons of computer and conventional instruction often show 30 to 50 percent reductions in time to complete lessons for the computer groups” (C. Kulik, Kulik, & Choen, 1980; Kulik, Bangert, & Williams, 1983, as cited in Clark 1983, 449). Arguing against the influence of media in learning, he suggests a plausible rival hypothesis for the gains could be due to “[the] greater effort invested in newer media programs than in conventional presentations of the same material.” He reasons:

The increased attention paid by students sometimes results in increased effort or persistence, which yields achievement gains. If they are due to a novelty effect, these gains tend to diminish as students become more familiar with the new medium . . . [rises in exam grades] for computer courses tended to dissipate significantly in longer duration studies (p. 450).

Regardless, of who offers the better hypotheses for the achievement gains, it is apparent that new exciting media has considerable motivational power. Any media, that has the potential to extract more effort out of a student, even if the results dissipate over a longer period of time, is media worth considering.

8) Effectiveness - CASCOIME


Is the medium effective?

It is rather discouraging as a distance educator to realize that “in distance teaching institutions, the deployment of different media for different topics and learning tasks is controlled more by logistic, economic and human factors than by pedagogical considerations” (Koumi 1994, 41). In other words, when it comes down to making a decision, the effectiveness of a medium as an educational tool is a minor consideration in the selection process.

A common theme in distance education research is to compare two or more media in relation to their effectiveness: “does it teach better than . . .” (Threlkeld & Brzoska 1994, 42). “Literally hundreds of media comparison studies have been performed over the past forty years, and the results have been uniform: the instructional medium doesn’t appear to make any important difference in student achievement, attitudes, and retention.” 

More simply stated, effectiveness is not a serious consideration in media selection because no one has been able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that media really does influence learning. Of course the problem may not be in the research itself, but in the definition of what effectiveness truly means. But that is another paper.  

Does it help students learn content faster and develop new ways of thinking?

Clark (1994, 26) expresses the importance of choosing media that are “capable of delivering the method at the least expensive rate and in the speediest fashion.” Kulik and Kulik (as cited in Carter 1996, 34) have also conducted studies which “highlight achievement efficiencies gained by using educational technologies.” 

Also of special interest, concerning this attribute, is the concept of accelerated learning, where for example, during lesson, adults can “learn foreign languages with unusual ease and high rates of retention” (Heinich et al., 1996, 349).  This approach grew out of earlier research done by psychologist Georgi Lozanov in Bulgaria. It is “based on putting oneself into a special state of relaxation in which the brain is most open and receptive to incoming information.” Educators can only drool over the implications of media devices capable of inducing an “accelerated learning” in its learners. This excitement is further sustained by Simpson’s neurological findings (1994) which reports on the power of technological media to alter the biochemical structure of the brain. Simpson submits that it may be possible for new media to actually be responsible for new ways of thinking. 

Other Recommendations for Media and Technology Selection Criteria 


Daunt (1998), Paquette-Frenette & Larocque (1995), and Bates (1995, as cited in Fahy 1999) offer the following advice in selecting media and technology: 

A) Daunt’s – Choosing the Right Technology Strategies

Daunt (1998, 168-169) outlines the following strategies for choosing the right technology:

  • Establish your need-then choose the technology. Daunt maintains that “a common mistake is to start with the technology and then find a use for it.” She advises that “your needs should always dictate which (if any) technology should be used.” 

  • Look at the range of technologies. Don’t be seduced by just one technology or media. Daunt advises that “no single technology is superior to all the others.” She suggests that you ask yourself: “How available/accessible is this technology? Will the students be comfortable using it?” 

  • Include the users in your selection process. Daunt warns us that “in some cases, resistance [to new technology] has been so high that the implementation of the technology has failed completely.” She adds that “technologists are very good at knowing the technology, but often don’t have educational experience. They should be part of your team, but remember, they are seeing the technology with a different set of values to educators.” 

  • Consider the needs of your learners. Daunt believes that “just as teachers have to be comfortable with a new technology, so do the learners.”

B) Paquette-Frenette & Laroque’s – “Collective Approach” to Technology Selection 

When needing to link “design, delivery, and organizational structures” in an effort to implement a “collective approach” in distance education, Paquette-Frenette & Laroque (1995, 164) advise selecting technologies that are: 

  1. easiest to use and that build on acquired competencies;

  2. most interactive in real time;

  3. the least expensive to operate, install, buy, and maintain;

  4. easiest to connect in networks for group work; and

  5. easiest to connect with existing installations (at the local, regional, provincial, and national levels).

C) Bates’ – ACTIONS Model 

Bates (1995, as cited in Fahy 1999, 104-105) provides the following criteria for selecting technology: 

  • Accessibility – includes availability and attitudes toward the technology.

  • Cost – per learner, including fixed and variable costs.

  • Teaching and learning implications – presentational and other factors which affect how the technology impacts learning

  • Interactivity and “friendliness.”

  • Organizational implications – most popular innovations are those which require the fewest changes in present operations.

  • Novelty – may help launch an innovation, but cannot sustain it.

  • Speed – how fast the innovation can be mounted. 



The ability to see the big picture and extract the right details to summarize that big picture has always led to clarity and progress. Einstein summarized the universe in the modest formula: E=mc2. He saw the truth before any one could prove it. 

But in education, if only solutions could be that simple. Koumi (1994) argues that:

there does not exist a sufficiently practicable theory for selecting media appropriate to given topics, learning tasks and target populations . . . the most common practice is not to use a model at all. In which case, it is no wonder that allocation of media has been controlled more by practical economic and human/political factors than by pedagogic considerations (p. 56).

CASCOIME (pronounced cas-coy-mi) advises international distance educators to select media based on Cost, Accessibility, Social-political suitability, Cultural friendliness, Openness/flexibility, Interactivity, Motivational value, and Effectiveness. These guidelines may not provide distance educators with easy answers to the problems of media selection in both domestic and international distance education settings, but at least it will point us in the right direction and get us asking the right questions. CASCOIME is a practical solution, a sequoia in a forest of saplings and underbrush. It teaches us what is important, and what upon examination, may bear more fruitful insights into media selection, rather than leave us to toss our hands up in the air and rashly resolve, “Okay, let’s pick the one with pretty pictures!” 

Appendix - Media Evaluation Chart 


The following CASCOIME chart (pronounced cas-coy-mi) presents eight attributes/guidelines users can consider when evaluating media in an international setting. These attributes are listed in relative order of importance. The “Value” box allows users to increase the importance of key criteria. It is recommended in an international setting that CAS criteria are given “Value” ratings of 3; COI criteria “Value” ratings of 2; and ME criteria “Value” ratings of 1. Although these valuation assignments are somewhat arbitrary, they do provide a more functional tool than if all criteria were valued equal. A number from 1 to 10 should then be assigned to each criteria in the “Rating” box. The “Score” for the attribute is then determined by multiplying the “Value” and the “Rating.” 


CASCOIME Media Evaluation Chart:
Eight Practical Guidelines for Selecting Media in an International Setting


Media 1

Media 2

Media 3











Cost - Is the medium cost effective? Can it reach a wide enough audience? What technology infrastructure is currently available?



Accessibility – Is the medium accessible? Does it facilitate distribution? Is it convenient to use? Is it user-friendly?



Social-Political Suitability – Is the medium socially and politically suitable? Does its use coincide with social and political agendas of governing bodies?



Cultural Friendliness – Is the medium culturally appropriate? Does it coincide with the culture’s traditional way of learning?



Openness/Flexibility – Is the medium flexible? Does it foster collaboration? Does it foster different ways of teaching?



Interactivity - Is the medium interactive? Does it promote learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction? Does it facilitate timely and quality feedback from instructors and tutors?



Motivational Value - Is the medium motivating? Does it encourage learners to study harder and longer?



Effectiveness - Is the medium effective? Does it help students learn content faster (i.e., more efficiently)?





Barker, B. O., Frisbie, G. A., & Patrick, K R. (1996). Broadening the definition of distance education in light of the new telecommunications technologies. In K. Harry, D. Keegan, & M. John (Eds.), Distance education: New perspectives, (pp. 39-47). New York: Routledge.

Barker, L.J., Taylor, J.C., White, V.J., Gillard, G., Khan, A.N., Kaufman, D. , & Mezger, R. (Sept. 1986). Student persistence in distance education: A cross-cultural multi-institutional perspective. ICDE Bulletin, 12, 17-36.

Bates, A. W. (1988). Technology for distance education: a 10-year prospective. In D. Open Learning, 3(3), 3-12.

Carter, V. (1996). Do media influence learning? Revisiting the debate in the context of distance education. Open Learning, February, 31-38.

Casas-Armengol, M. & Stojanovich, L. (1990). Some problems of knowledge in societies of low development: Different perspectives on conceptions and utilization of advanced technologies in distance education. In M. Croft, I. Mugridge, J.S. Daniel & A. Hershfield (Eds.), Distance education: development and access, (pp. 130-133). Caracas: ICDE.

Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459.

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-30).

Commonwealth Secretariat (January 1985). Final report. Commonwealth Meeting of Specialists: Distance Teaching in Higher Education. Cambridge, England, 6-11 January 1985. London: Commonwealth Secretariat.

Da Silva, T.R.N. & Esposito, Y.L. (1990). Keynote address. Literacy: The challenge of the 90s. In M. Croft, I. Mugridge, J.S. Daniel & A. Hershfield (Eds.), Distance education: development and access, (pp. 189-199). Caracas: ICDE.

Daunt, C. (1998). Introducing and implementing a new technology: Some practical suggestions. In F. Nouwens, (Ed.), Distance education: Crossing frontiers, (pp. 167-271). Rockhampton, Australia: Central Queensland University.

Eastmond, N. (1994). Assessing needs, developing instruction, and evaluating results in distance education. In B. Willis (Ed.), Distance education: Strategies and tools, (pp. 87-107). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

Evans, T. (1998). Thinking globalisation: Issues for open and distance educators in Australia and the South Pacific. In F. Nouwens, (Ed.), Distance education: Crossing frontiers, (pp. 357-361). Central Queensland University: Rockhampton, Australia.

Fahy, P. J. (1999). On-line teaching in distance education and training, MDDE 621, Study Guide. Athabasca, Canada: Athabasca University.

Fahy, P. J. [Pat]. (1999, September 24). “Quality” - from 620. In reply to: Mono Media Madness? [Online]. Available: wwwboard/mdde621f99-unit1/index.htm [1999, September 24].

Granger, D. (1988). U.S. higher education and international distance learning. The American Journal of Distance Education, 2(3), 80-88.

Guy, R. (1991). Distance education in the developing world: Colonisation, collaboration, and control. In T. Evans & B. King, (Eds.), Beyond the text: Contemporary writing in distance education, (pp. 152-175). Deakin University Press.

Haque, A.K.E. (1998). Challenges of distance education in developing countries: A note. In F. Nouwens, (Ed.), Distance education: Crossing frontiers, (pp. 63-65). Rockhampton, Australia: Central Queensland University.

Heinich, R., Modenda, M., Russell, J. D., & Smaldino, S. E. (1996). Instructional media and technologies for learning (5th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Juran, J.M. (1989). Juran on leadership for quality: An executive handbook. NY: Free Press.

Keegan, D. (1996). Foundations of distance education (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Kenworthy, B. & Russell, N. (1998). Old technology – New solutions: Educational radio for development in Mongolia. In F. Nouwens, (Ed.), Distance education: Crossing frontiers, (pp. 243-251). Rockhampton, Australia: Central Queensland University.

Koumi, J. (1994). Media comparisons and deployment: A practitioner’s view. British Journal of Educational Technology, 25(1), 41-57.

Kozma, D.R. (1994). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179–211).

McIlroy, A. & Walker, R. (1993). Total quality management: Some implications for the management of distance education. Distance Education, 14(1), 40-54.

Mish, F. C. (Ed.) (1989). The new Merriam-Webster dictionary. Springfiled, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster Inc.

Moran, L. & Mugridge, I. (1993). Policies and trends in inter-institutional collaboration. In L. Moran & I. Mugridge, (Eds.), Collaboration in Distance Education, International Case Studies, (pp. 151-164). Routledge.

Murphy, K. (1991). Patronage and an oral tradition: Influences on attributions of distance learners in a traditional society (a qualitative study). Distance Education, 12(1), 27-53.

Oliver, E.L. (1994). Video tools for distance education. In B. Willis (Ed.), Distance education: Strategies and tools, (pp. 165-197). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

Paquette-Frenette, D.V. & Larocque, D.L. (1995). A collective approach to distance education. In J.M. Roberts & E.M. Keough (Eds.), Why the information highway? Lessons from open & distance learning, (pp. 156-184). Toronto: Trifolum Books.

Peñalver, L.M. (1990). Distance education: A strategy for development. In M. Croft, I. Mugridge, J.S. Daniel & A. Hershfield, (Eds.), Distance education: development and access, (pp. 21-30). Caracas: ICDE.

Pittman, V.V. Jr., A. (1993). The persistence of print: correspondence study and the new media. American Journal of Distance Education, 1(1), 31-36.

Rumble, G. (1989). The role of distance education in national and international development: an overview. Distance Education, 10(1), 83-107.

Simpson, M. (1994). Neurophysiological considerations related to interactive multimedia, Educational Technology Research and Development, 42 (1), pp. 75-81.

Spronk, B. J.(1995). Appropriating learning technologies: Aboriginal learners, needs, and practices. In J.M. Roberts & E.M. Keough (Eds.), Why the information highway? Lessons from open & distance learning, (pp. 77-101). Toronto: Trifolum Books.

Szabo, M. (1998). Survey of educational technology research. Edmonton: Grant MacEwan Community College and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Teasdale, G. (1990). Interaction between ‘traditional’ and ‘western’ systems of learning: The Australian experience. In A. Little, Understanding culture: A precondition for effective learning. (appendix 1.1-6.3). Paris: UNESCO.

Thach, L. & Murphy, K. L. (1994). Collaboration in distance education: From local to international perspectives. The American journal of Distance Education, 8(3), 5-21.

Thomas, N.A. & McDonell, D.J. (1995). The role(s) of technology in minority group distance learning. In J.M. Roberts & E.M. Keough (Eds.), Why the information highway? Lessons from open & distance learning, (pp. 185-199). Toronto: Trifolum Books.

Threlkeld, R. & Brzoska, K. (1994). Research in distance education. In B. Willis (Ed.), Distance education: Strategies and tools, (pp. 41-66). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

Todaro, M.P. (1989). Alternative theories and the meaning of development. In Michael P. Todaro (Ed.), Economic development in the third world, (4th ed., pp. 66-99). Longman Group, Ltd.


List of all Usableword columns