This week in class we took a look at technology available to instructors of an online environment. We were asked to then answer questions over the use of this technology in a classroom and how to best implement it. My responses are as follows, after the responses you will find a synthesis of my thoughts on the significance of using technology in an online experience and what I learned to allow me to implement this technology better in the course I will create in the future.
- What impact does technology and multimedia have on online learning environments?
An online learning environment is created by an instructor with the notion of helping students learn in an online format. The technology and multimedia an instructor uses effects how the students interact with the learning environment and its content. The technology tools used in the creation of content and activities allows an instructor to produce activities similar to a face to face course, “”tools make it possible to design almost any learning experience that you have designed for your face-to-face environment” (Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R., 2010, p. 58) The technology we use can enhance the learners experience online and engage them in activities that allow them a deeper grasp of the content. The use of communication technology such as Skype or Blackboard collaborate can allow synchronous video chat with instructors or fellow students, this can help the student feel a part of a community and help stop the feeling of loneliness in the online environment. The technology and multimedia used in a course has a great impact on how the students learn and feel in an online environment.
- What are the most important considerations an online instructor should make before implementing technology?
One of the first considerations an instructor should have when implementing technology is to only use the tools they feel comfortable with at the beginning and learning new tools as they go, implanting these tools in later courses. There are many tools available to instructors and it is easy to get overwhelmed with trying to understand these tools. In the beginning it is best to create a well-developed course with a set of simple and standard tools that the instructor understands. The instructor should not try to use technology or a tool he or she does not understand because this can lead to problems with the technology the instructor does not know how to fix. Using unknown tools and technology can lead to additional stress and problems for both the instructor and the students. I feel that Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010) state it the best when they say “You may not be feeling quite ready to tackle all the tools that are available for your online course. This is actually wise.” (p.57).
The second consideration an instructor should make is if the technology they are implementing serves a purpose in the course. There are many technologies and tools at the disposal of any instructor; however a tool or technology should only be used if it serves a purpose or if it makes an activity authentic. In the “Enhancing the Online Experience” video that we watched this week Dr. Pratt states “mandating that or incorporating it (technology) just because it’s available is not a good way to go. It needs to meet the objectives of your course” (Laureate). While many technologies are really interesting and cool to use, if it does not serve a purpose in the course then students will not see the value in the activity and this could harm the student’s view of the course and the instructor.
- What implications do usability and accessibility of technology tools have for online teaching?
Having technology tools that are accessible and usable opens the online learning course to students with disabilities as well as allows all students options in how they learn. Students learn in different ways and having content and activities that match these different needs help all students do better in courses, accessibility or “the ability of the e-learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners… improved accessibility for disabled users promotes usability for all” (Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A., 2007, p. 232). The more accessible your course is helps all students and not just the students with disabilities succeed.
- What technology tools are most appealing to you for online teaching as you move forward in your career in instructional design?
Some of the tools I find most appealing for online teaching are those tools that allow the teacher to create their own learning activities and more importantly their own interactive learning games. I am especially interested in tools such as Adobe Captivate which allows instructors to make interactive videos and online games. This could make learning a lot more fun and exciting for the online student as well as keeping the student engaged in the content longer.
Another set of tools I especially enjoy using and look forward to advancements in are the collaborative tools especially synchronous collaborative tools. I really enjoy Skype, GoToMeeting, and Blackboard collaborate because it allows me to interact with students as if we are face to face and it allows me to show them content or help lead them in finding a solution which in the past could only be done by writing out an email. Google drive is an awesome tool for online learning especially when used with Google hangouts. Google drive allows users to create word files, slide shows, or even spreadsheets that are automatically saved on the Google cloud. This means that the student can access and update these documents from wherever they have internet access. The other cool thing about Google drive is that the creator can allow access to others who can then make changes to the document synchronously with others. If you had a group that needed to work together in writing a paper you would not have to rely on sending emails back and forth to each other with the changes you make or send all your research to the one designated “writer” of the group. These tools allow for you and your group to work on the assignment at the same time form different locations, very cool!
Using technology in an online learning environment, I feel, improves the learning experience for the students if the technology is implemented correctly. Technology allows us to craft and build activities and content that before were not possible. It allows us as instructors to create a social presence for ourselves with are students to show them that we are a living breathing person and not just a machine grading papers. This technology helps the students to interact with their instructor and the other students, which helps to fight the feeling of loneliness and isolation usually found in an online environment. Technology also allows us to make activities with tools to help student interact with their learning. It can provide students with a simulation that allows them to act as a different individual and use their learning in real life situations. This causes a deeper learning and better understanding of the concepts they are learning. All in all as long as technology is being implemented properly then it will always enhance the student’s interaction in the online learning environment.
I feel that the biggest thing that I learned from this assignment is by making technology accessible and usable it allows all students a better learning environment. I learned how to make activities more accessible and how these accommodations can help all. In my personal learning I find that captions in online videos help me learn the content better as well as allow me to cite the movie faster and easier than I could with no captions. I feel that this is the heart of the lesson, the easier it is for a student to learn the better they will learn and the less frustration the will find in a course. I will use the accessibility tools I have learned to help create better online instruction in the future.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu