Thursday, February 4, 2016

Selecting Technology Tools to Advance Learning Outcomes

This post provides insights into considerations in selecting and adopting web 2.0 technology for the asymmetric online classroom. Previous posts covered the pre-course and the introductory phases of course facilitation. The prescriptions in this post are directed towards the “early-middle” stages of the course. Crucially, (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010) suggest Facilitators should begin adapting to individual learners, as the learning community begins to assimilate core concepts.

On the impact of technology and multimedia in the online classroom
The web 2.0 document sharing site Wikipedia describes web 2.0 as cumulative changes to the way web pages are made and used. Specifically, web 2.0 tools allow for the creation of collaborative document sharing and user friendly means of multimedia communications. Examples provided by (Boettcher, & Conrad 2010 pp. 107-108) include: Skype, Text Messaging and Tweeting, course management systems, blogs and wikis, podcasts, and screencasts.
Since the online facilitator has (by this point) developed a feel for both individual and collective prerequisite levels of knowledge, web 2.0 tools can be employed to monitor and direct customized learning experiences. As with all learning interventions, selecting appropriate technology must be based on established outcomes. In many cases, wikis, blogs and the like are great tools for collaborative learning projects. Selection criteria for individual (four-five members is optimal) teams requires careful consideration of each person’s ability to contribute to the effort.

Course management system feedback features and screencasts/podcasts can and should also be employed to increase facilitator presences and adapt instruction to student achievement progressions.

On considerations when implementing new technology
As noted in (Laureate Education 2010) online instructors should steer clear of adopting technology for technologies’ sake. Meaning, the principle criterion is, utility in advancing learning objectives and enhancing knowledge accusation. Additionally, (Laureate Education 2010) suggest consideration of the availability of the selected technology and potential resource constraints of each student. For example, some rural and international students may not have access to the internet bandwidth required to operate streaming multimedia communication tools.

Personal thoughts on how I would deploy technology in online course facilitation
Pre-selecting technology tools for an (unknown course) flies in the face of previous qualifiers related to instructional objectives. However, some generalizations are possible. I think Weblogs are great tools that allow students to solidify the formation of complex constructs through elaboration. Blogging also provides each student with an avenue for artistic expression. Finally, blogging may serve as a professional journal of sorts for the communal construction and dissemination of knowledge.

I also think facilitators should commit to a making a weekly webcast or podcast as a means of summarizing key concepts and the contributions of learners to the community. These recaps would essentially fill a void in online education that falls short of integrating (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson 1998) “Whole-Part-Whole” learning model. Specifically; they describe the “second whole” as an extension of Gestalt Psychology where the complex bytes of instruction are fragmented until a summary view of “the big picture” is formulated.

Naturally, the principle obstacle to weekly summary podcasts is the of time and effort required to construct and record a suitable passage. However, as with all endeavors, nothing worthwhile is easy       

Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M. S., Holton, E. F., & Swanson, R. A. (1998). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development. Houston, TX: Gulf Pub.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file]. Retrieved

"Web 2.0." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 04 Feb. 2016. <>.


  1. I thought you brought up a great point about making sure that technology works for all students especially those that are international. In a corporate environment, would you not assume that the technology throughout this environment would be relatively the same? Is that enough to make sure that the technology works? What techniques have you used when dealing with the issue of technology constraints within a company? Do you think that usability testing should be a part of the ISD process?

  2. Hi Terri,

    Thanks for the thought provoking questions. In my experience a solid contextual analysis must be performed at the front-end to avoid downstream technology issues. The military uses software that requires the identification (and funding) of required resources before course materials are developed. Connectivity, compatibility, and multimedia capabilities was one of the first things we looked at when selecting a LMS for a mid-sized multi-national corporation.

    Of course, an online university is a different animal, because the target-population is using private computers and local internet connections, vis-à-vis a universal LAN. If I were designing courses for an online university, I would err on the side of caution in selecting technology. The next “big thing” is completely useless to the student lacking the technology required to operate it.

  3. You stated " Selection criteria for individual (four-five members is optimal) teams requires careful consideration of each person’s ability to contribute to the effort". What criteria do you think is most important to consider first when looking at the characteristics of the learners and learning groups?

  4. Rob,

    I like the concept of the instructor posting a pod-cast at the end of each week of the course. This was not something I had considered. However, it would give the instructor more "presence" with the learners and fill the void of isolation and disconnect many online learners may experience. Thanks for this new idea to incorporate into course curriculum.


  5. Michelle,

    Owing to generalizability issues inherent in group projects, I believe the first order of business is to determine if a group project is the most efficient route to mastery of the learning objectives. All things being equal, PBL involving workgroups must necessarily limit individual exposure to the pool of outcomes, as labor is divided amongst the group.

    Time is another important consideration, as (properly designed) PBL will foster deeper learning through extended time on task. While my exposure to workgroups in online education is limited, my sense of things is, that required tasks always take longer than the time allotted. This week’s team exercise illustrates the point, as none of the teams were able to publish the required information by the Thursday deadline.

    Finally, the work habits and characteristics of each learner must be carefully considered to optimize team integration and subsequent production of project deliverables. Ideally, each team member will contribute specific skills, creating a sum greater than its individual parts.