Instructional technology from the perspective of cultural historical activity theory: A case study of a video-conferencing system in an open and distance university

Park, Yangjoo and Yeon, Eun Kyung
Korea National Open University

Seoul, Korea

This study analysed the process and results of the introduction and dissemination of innovative instructional media from the perspective of cultural historical activity theory (CHAT). The video conferencing system in a large-scale open university in Korea was explored, and Engeström's (1987) activity system model was employed as a theoretical frame. The data sources were (1) transcripts of the interviews with five lecturers who had experience of using the system and three system administrators; (2) official university reports on the statistics of students' usage of, and satisfaction with, the system; and (3) related documents such as reports on the university's policies. The researchers first described the current status of the system, and then analysed the students' and teachers' need for it. Next, they identified the elements of the activity system using instructional technology, and, finally, they analysed the tension or contradiction within an activity system or between neighbouring systems.

As a result, we can describe the elements constituting the activity system, viz: instructor (subject); distance students (object); video conferencing system (tool); instructors, students, and design and development team (community); formal/ informal norms and underlying culture of the institution (rules); and assigned roles, such as classroom management, problem-solving, and teaching and learning (divisions of labour). In addition, the double binds and tensions among the elements — for example, using interactive media based on a one-way lecture scheme — are identified.