AtoZ of TEL: The 3E Framework (Edinburgh Napier University)

Edinburgh Napier University website Link:

Designed to help staff with the practical implementation of technology in an Educational setting it recognises the iterative nature of adopting such technology. The 3E Framework is based on a tried and tested Enhance-Extend-Empower continuum to support the use of technology effectively in learning, teaching and assessment across all disciplines and levels of study.

Many institutions across the sector (both teaching and research focused) have adopted the 3E Framework are a core element of their eLearning/Technology Enhanced Learning/Blended Learning quality Frameworks. Other are using it as an evaluative tool benchmarking their Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) offering.

The three stages within the continuum are:

Enhance: Adopting technology in simple and effective ways to actively support students and increase their activity and self-responsibility.

Extend: Further use of technology that facilitates key aspects of student’s individual and collaborative learning and assessment through increasing their choice and control.

Empower: Developed use of technology that requires higher order individual and collaborative learning that reflect how knowledge is created and used in professional environments.

Within the 3E Framework, a small blends approach is suggested as the starting point for making active use of technology in modules. At a minimum, this should involve identifying two or more straightforward interventions at the Enhance level that need only require a modest workload to implement, and which facilitates the active engagement of students throughout the trimester.

The 3E Framework comprises illustrative examples for a range of LTA activities that might be incorporated as a minimum (to Enhance), and which advances the use of technology to underpin more sophisticated learning, teaching and assessment activities (at Extend and Empower levels) where desired and appropriate.






Use copyright cleared online
video and multimedia clips to
reinforce points and examples
in class
Bring guest experts into
discussion forums or live
virtual classrooms
Have groups of students to
make short audio or video
recordings relating to the main
topics to be covered


In considering the 3E Framework, the following points should be kept in mind:

  1. The 3Es do not match against academic levels. For example, you should not be limited solely to enhance activities at level 1, extend at level 2 and empower at level 3.
  2. Although the 3E levels can be seen as a continuum of change in TEL and teaching practice, they should not be viewed as mutually exclusive. In any single module context, there may be a range of learning tasks and activities that align with any of the three levels within the Framework.
  3. The 3E Framework can be applied at programme level where common technology enhanced approaches are used across modules to support student progression to more advanced learning.
  4. In being part of a continuum the 3E levels are not clearly distinct categories, and it is to be expected that some technology-enhanced activities will blur the boundaries between one level and another. This point perhaps applies particularly at the Enhance and Extend levels, and maybe less so at Empower.
  5. Where students are new undergraduates or likely to be largely unfamiliar with the subject matter then activities at primarily the Enhance level may be most appropriate.
  6. Enhance activities can work well in any subject at any level of study. In encouraging the development of learner autonomy and other key graduate attributes required in the workplace then an increase in Extend and especially Empower activities would be more appropriate.
  7. The 3E Framework does not promote the Empower level as an ideal, and an important part of the approach is that tutors and their students will start from (and may end up at) different points on the 3E continuum in terms of applying and using technology in a particular learning, teaching and assessment context.
  8. If the tutor is doing a lot of work at the Extend level, then aiming for the Empower level in some aspects of what they do would be very worthwhile. However, if a tutor wants to begin by Enhancing several aspects of what they already do, this is an equally valuable step in the adoption of TEL.
  9. Classroom to fully online? Although Enhance represents simple adjustments to existing practice, and Extend a more purposely blended approach, Empower does not imply fully online.
  10. As students transition along the 3E continuum the tutor is relinquishing more control and responsibility to their learners. While this brings benefits, it can require the tutor to adjust and to be comfortable with assuming a facilitating role or, for some kinds of activities, a co-learning role (e.g. student-led seminars).

Additional Links and Resources

Nichols, M. (2008). Institutional perspectives: the challenges of e-learning diffusion. British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 39 (4), pp. 598-609.

Smyth, K. (2009). Transformative online education for educators: cascading progressive practice in teaching, learning and technology. In: Remenyi, D. (ed). Proceedings from the 8th European conference on e-learning. University of Bari, Italy, 29th to 30th October. Academic Conferences International, pp. 549-557.

Smyth, K., Bruce, S., Fotheringham, J. & Mainka, C. (2011) Benchmark for the use of technology in modules. Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University. Available from:

TESEP (2009). Rethinking your practices: 3E Approach [Online]. Available from:


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