April 29, 2014

Integrating Technology into the Online Classroom, Part II

By: in Online Education

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In Part I of this article, we wrote about the value in collaborating with peers. Here we conclude the piece by sharing with you the steps we followed in forming our group, while offering advice on how a similar approach could work on your campus.

Although our technology think tank met in person, online instructors can form collaborative groups across the globe with the help of online meeting and conferencing tools. MeetingBurner is a great starting point for those new to the web conferencing world. The service is free and it allows up to 10 participants at a time. MeetingBurner features instant screen sharing, in meeting chat, as well as Skype integration. Another great web based conferencing tool is GoToMeeting, which has the same features as MeetingBurner, but there is a monthly fee.

A step-by-step guide to a collaborative approach to integrating technology:

  1. Start forming your group by making an opening invitation to all relevant stakeholders. You never know who will contribute a great idea or may have a passion for the topic.
  2. Identify the areas in the course that could be dramatically improved with the incorporation of new technology. These will also usually be the areas or assignments that students struggle with the most.
  3. Once the team has targeted the areas that could be improved, brainstorm new strategies around a variety of possible technological tools that could be used to enhance assignments. These tools could include videos, websites, or other supporting technologies. We developed assignments using Weebly, Glogster, Animoto, and game creators.
  4. Once you have identified the areas that can be improved and pulled together a list of ideas, it is time to do some research on new methods and technologies that can boost student learning. Bring all the ideas together in a meeting and pinpoint the ideas that the team feels may work best. Our group discussed various methods and arrived at using the discussed Web 2.0 tools to supplement the text. Remember, despite the benefits of collaboration, you do not need a team to make improvements. One teacher can make changes using this same approach.
  5. Put together a plan that includes a timeline for creating, implementing, and tracking the new strategies and supplemental course materials. We created a timeline for creating the materials and then divided up the content. Deadlines are essential for keeping the plan on track.
  6. Have one final meeting prior to the implementation phase to tie up any loose ends.
  7. Track the strategies or supplements and discuss how the changes are working or can be improved. This was a very important piece for us because it allowed us to see whether what we were doing was effective. It also helped us see where we could make adjustments.
  8. Go to the source! Ask your students what they think about the new resources. Are they helpful? What do they like about the new technology? What would they change?
  9. Make any necessary adjustments based on the student outcomes and group feedback. Ideas that are not working can be modified or removed from the course, while approaches that have achieved favorable results can be tracked further for possible inclusion in other courses.
  10. Once the strategies have proven successful, consider discussing your results with curriculum developers and other instructors. We found this is also where it is important to track this information to show that it really works!

Throughout the process, be sure to have fun and remember that anything that you can do to help a student become more successful is well worth the time. This collaboration worked so well that we shared the technology with the curriculum developers and they decided to add the resources into every course. Integrating technology as a supplement or as part of the curriculum can make the class more fun and engaging. This type of collaboration also benefits you as an instructor because you get to build relationships with and learn from your peers while better serving your students.

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