12 Using SECTIONS to Select Digital Tools

Selecting Digital Tools

From the perspective of Instructional Systems design Reiser and Gagne (1982) stated it is necessary to select a technology for a cluster of similar objectives in the same domain and attempt to mix compatible media for various objectives. The critical factors in media selections included:

  1. The projected availability of various media
  2. The ability of the teacher and the students to manage the media
  3. The ability of the designer or an available expert to produce the materials in a particular media format
  4. Flexibility, durability, and convenience of the materials within a specified medium
  5. Cost-effectiveness

These should be your first considerations when determining which technology (or how much) technology to adopt.  However, deciding when and how to use media in your unit or lesson has a few more considerations.

How Do You Evaluate the Effective Use of Media or Technology in Learning Design?

This is a topic we could debate at length.  First, what constitutes effective? Or quality, for that matter? The criteria you choose to determine both of these could be measured either qualitatively or quantitatively, and again the measure you choose further demonstrates your bias.

SECTIONS: A Practical Evaluation Tool

Tony Bate’s SECTIONS framework offers a practical guide to evaluating the fit of different media with your instructional design needs.

In 1988, Bates first published his ACTIONS model for selecting technology for use in distance education and published a revised model in 1995. In 2003, Bates & Poole expanded the model to select the appropriate technology for use in any educational system. The Bates & Poole model was called SECTIONS and was a framework for selecting and using technology in all areas of education. The criteria chosen for the SECTIONS model were that:

  1. It will work in a variety of learning contexts.
  2. It allows decisions to be taken at both a strategic, institution-wide level and at a tactical, instructional level.
  3. It gives equal attention to educational and operational issues.
  4. It will identify critical differences between different media and technologies, thus enabling an appropriate mix to be chosen for any given context.
  5. It is easily understood, pragmatic, and cost-effective.
  6. It will accommodate new developments in technology. (Bates & Poole, A framework for selecting and using technology, 2003, p. 77)

Bates’ (2015, 2019, and 2022) versions of the SECTIONS model revise some of the parts of the model to incorporate some of the recent developments in the use and abuse of technology in society. The SECTIONS framework provides key considerations for selecting technology based on the following domains:

  • Students
  • Ease-of-Use
  • Costs
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Interactivity
  • Organizational Issues
  • Networking
  • Security and Privacy

The SECTIONS model, explained in Chapter 10 of Bates (2022), is an excellent way to compare media to enable effective tool selection. Power (2022)’s Selecting the Right Tool with SECTIONS provides practical examples of how to use the SECTIONS tool to make decisions about your instructional design project.

Further Reading

Further ReadingYou can read more about SECTIONS from Chapter 9 of Bate’s (2022) eBook, Teaching in a Digital Age.

Additional Resources


Download SECTIONS Template (MS Excel)


Activity iconWhether you are developing a lesson plan, a unit plan, or a blueprint or storyboard for an online module, you are likely considering what digital tools or resources you should integrate into your instructional design.

Try using the downloadable SECTIONS template to help you determine which broad “type” of technology would be the best fit in your context. Then, use the Assess: Applications tab to evaluate current applications of that “type” of technology. Once you have weighed all of the factors outlined by SECTIONS, you should feel confident that you can justify your digital resource integration decisions.

Course Participants

Alert!If you are a participant in one of my educational technology courses, please refer to the Assignments Overview area, and any specific assignments utilizing the SECTIONS template, for detailed assignment preparation and submission instructions.


Bates, A. (2015). Teaching in a Digital Age: Guidelines for Designing Teaching and Learning. Tony Bates Associates Ltd. https://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Bates, A. (2019). Teaching in a Digital Age – Second Edition. Tony Bates Associates Ltd. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/teachinginadigitalagev2/

Bates, A. (2022). Choosing and using media in education: The SECTIONS model. In Teaching in a Digital Age – Third Edition. Tony Bates Associates Ltd. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/teachinginadigitalagev3/part/9-pedagogical-differences-between-media/

Bates, A., & Poole, G. (2003). SECTIONS Framework For Selecting and Using Technology. In Effective teaching with technology in higher education (pp. 75-105). Jossey Bass.

Power, R. (2022, February 23). Selecting the Right Tool with SECTIONS. https://youtu.be/XEOIFnOVWzY

Reiser, R. A., & Gagné, R. M. (1982). Characteristics of media selection models. Review of Educational Research, 52(4), 499–512. https://doi.org/10.2307/1170264


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