Impact of technology and multimedia on online learning environments
Technology and multimedia are the foundations of online learning; i.e., without technology online learning would not have been possible. I also believe that, because of technology and multimedia, the quality of learning itself has improved in terms of access to information in numerous formats from infinite resources; including from connections we create with other learners, and thereby, resulting in a more enriched learning experience. By the same token however, the technology and multimedia selected for a given online course must add-value to the learning experience. It should not be used just for the sake of using technology. I think the type and purpose of the technology and multimedia used in a given online course will depend on the learning outcomes of the course, and their [technology and multimedia] effectiveness to facilitate the outcomes.
Considerations for implementing technology in an online course
Before implementing technology, the instructor should consider the learning objectives – what type of tools will help my students achieve those objectives? Do my students have the skills required to use the technology? Perhaps they need to practice with the technology prior to using it for a graded assignment, as suggested in (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). How much time should I allow for the practice? As an instructor, I also need to consider my own skill level in the technology I choose. Although it is assumed if one is enrolled in an online class, one does have access to technology, as Dr. Pratt noted in (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) as an instructor I still need to consider accessibility issues. Do I choose downloadable applications or should it be cloud based? Should I choose video/audio tools requiring webcams and microphones or should I go with text only? Some students may not have sophisticated computers or high speed internet to accommodate every type of multimedia. And so my goal should be as noted in (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010), to communicate with my students to understand their needs and capabilities in terms of what technology tools to use for what purpose.
Implications of usability and accessibility of technology tools for online teaching
Cooper, Colwell, & Jelfs, (2007) define usability as “the effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which users can achieve specified learning (or learning related) goals in a particular environment or with a particular tool or learning resource.” (p. 232), and accessibility as “the ability of the learning environment to adjust to the needs of all learners.” (p. 232). What I think this means is then, the learning environment needs to accommodate the diverse needs and abilities of all learners—it has to be fair and inclusive, and consequently, aid in narrowing the digital divide. (Cooper et. al., 2007) further note that, “accessibility and usability impact directly on the pedagogical effectiveness of e-learning systems or resources for all learners. . .” (p. 233). As an instructor, the technology tools I choose should not be a hindrance, but rather assist my students in effectively achieving their learning goals—the tools have to be both accessible and usable.
Most appealing technology tools
There are several technology tools that appeal to me, including Prezi, Vimeo, YouTube, wiki, blog, VoiceThread, Conceptboard, digital books (via the iPad), TED Talks, and of course a learning management system, my preference being Canvas. Regardless of my preference however, if it does not address the learning needs of my students, using the tool is pointless. The learning needs of my students, always takes precedence, and my obligation is to fulfill those needs in whatever manner I can.
What I learned this week
In addition to learning the significance of selecting the right technology and media tools, (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010) tips and suggested pedagogical uses of the various technology tools will certainly help me implement effective online instructional strategies. I particularly like the breakdown of “when/at what point” during a given course (early, early middle, etc.) each tool is best utilized.
Boettcher, J. V. & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide. Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. (pp. 59, 60, 107, 108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Conrad, R. & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction. 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, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Enhancing the Online Experience.