Natural, practical and social contexts of e-learning: A critical realist account for learning and technology

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Much of the research in educational technology with a primary concern over how technology enhances learning has been criticized as privileging the immediate learning settings over the other dimensions of learners' social life and the wider social and economic contexts in which learning and technology are located. The ability to develop a rich understanding of learning and technology in various contexts requires careful use of theory that might enable 'looking beyond learning'. To meet this need, this paper proposes the use of a critical realistic account of learning and technology, in particular Margaret Archer's 'three orders of reality' and 'personal Identity'. Drawing on an empirical case study for illustration, the paper argues that such an approach offers a 'way out' to unpack the relationship between learning and technology through a deep exploration of the interrelationship between individual practices of learning, with or without technology, and the bigger picture of how learning intervenes in other dimensions of social life and how other contexts come into play in learning settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-291
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Computer Assisted Learning
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Archer
  • Critical realist approach
  • E-learning
  • Personal identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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