Technology and Multimedia Impact on Online Learning Environments
Technology has a considerable impact on the online learning environment. This statement might be a very obvious statement to some people. But with my experience as an instructor and a student in the online environment, the technology and multi-media don’t make the online learning environment. That job is up to the instructor. In my opinion, technology is a tool for the teacher to use in the online learning environment. Similarly, in the traditional learning environment, the book based curriculum is the tool used by the teacher. The traditional learning environment is created and supported by the teacher in that environment. If a school wants to create an effective online learning environment and they just focus on buying the newest technology, they will be dropping the ball on creating the effective online learning environment. What really makes an effective learning environment is an effective teacher using the available technology appropriately. With that being said, there are some important considerations for teachers to consider when incorporating technology into the online learning environment.
In the past, I taught for one year in an online K-8 school in our district. I was the Language Arts teacher for K-6 grade. During this time, I quickly realized the importance of understanding our Learning Management System (LMS). In our textbook by Boettcher and Conrad, they made a very good reason why getting to know your Learning Management System is so important. They said, “You as the faculty mentor serve as the hub, the host the glue of the learning community (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).” If you are struggling with the Learning Management System you will struggle to be successful as a teacher in my opinion. Many Learning Management Systems come with effective tools readily available for the teacher. At the time, our school was using Moodle for our LMS. Moodle was a great platform because of the multiple tools available for use. Moodle had a gradebook, a quiz or test generator, a discussion platform and allowed teachers to embed video and audio directly into the webpage. At the time, the embedding tool was very helpful because it helped the teachers make the videos available for viewing without worrying about the video format.
Another consideration when incorporating technology into the online environment is utilizing the web 2.0 tools available. In our video this week with Dr. Pratt and Dr. Palloff discussed the different Web 2.0 tools that are available. The big difference between a standard technology tool and a Web 2.0 tool is the sense of community that it creates (Laureate Producer, 2010). A good example of the community a Web 2.0 tool brings is a Wiki. Wiki’s allow students located in different places to collaborate together on creating a web-page of information (Laureate Producer, 2010). Allowing for collaboration is a great idea for the online environment. According to Boettcher and Conrad in our textbook, “tools with social networking features that support new collaborative and constructivist pedagogies that encourage peer-to-peer linking, commenting, and messaging (Boettcher and Conrad, 2010).” In a traditional classroom, collaboration is very easy because you have the opportunity to meet face-to-face. In the online environment, getting the students to collaborate is a little more difficult. Utilizing Web 2.0 tools like a Wiki allow for the students to work together and collaborate even when they live far apart.
The usability and accessibility are another important consideration when incorporating technology into the online learning environment. Many times, the new technology that comes out to us as teachers is so new that many of our students don’t have the ability to use the new technology. In our video this week, Dr. Pratt brought up a good point about internet connections speeds in rural towns. In some of these rural towns, citizens are using dial up for their internet connection. Many Learning Management Systems will be unavailable to students using a dial up connection (Laureate Productions, 2010). This is an important consideration for an instructor to think about before using new technologies. Another thing that should be considered is your video format when uploading to your webpage. From personal experience in the past, using a Learning Management System that allows you to embed the video directly into the webpage allows for students to access the video with less complications. If you just put the video up as a downloadable file, then some students who are using a different software might not be able to view the video. Embedding the video into the webpage allows students to view the video if they can view the webpage.
For me, as I move forward in my career as an Instructional Designer, there are three tools that are very intriguing to me. First is the use of blogs. While working through this program at Walden, I have enjoyed posting to my blog on a regular basis and reading fellow student’s blogs. This has allowed us to interact socially and professionally even when we live in different states. I have also enjoyed using a RSS Reader to keep me updated on the new professional development opportunities out there for an elementary school teacher. The reader filters out any blogs that I enjoy and allows me to see when they are updated regularly. Another technology tool I am excited for is the ability to find or create video to go with your lesson. For the visual learners, it is extremely helpful to have a visual component with each lesson. Many students make a stronger connection to the material when there is a visual component. Learning Management Systems are now making it more feasible for instructors to embed their video directly into the webpage to make the video more accessible. I have fought the format battle in the past with videos and it is not enjoyable. The new technology tool I am most excited about is the idea of using a voice cast or a pod cast for your instruction. In our video, Dr. Pratt and Dr. Palloff discussed with one of the panelists about how he uses it in his online environment (Laureate Productions, 2010). Allowing the students to communicate with audio or video opens up new doors that gets me very excited.
In the end, using technology in the online environment is just a tool for the instructor. It can help you become more effective in your teaching. Having the mindset that technology alone will make your teaching online more effective is a dangerous mindset. Good lesson design with many of tools in your tool-box is the way I want to teach in the future!
- Boettcher, J.V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
- Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file].