Integrating Technology into the Online Classroom, Part I

Most of us have encountered students who struggle with a particular course objective or assignment. Finding innovative ways to help students break through these barriers to learning is a common challenge for all educators at any level. This problem may be exacerbated in the online classroom due to the geographically dispersed participants and asynchronous learning environment, however, it can be overcome.

After many long, grueling conversations, our group of online faculty decided to attack this issue by looking at ways technology could be used to further the learning process. The first step was to determine the assignment that students struggled with the most; this particular assignment pertained to logic and fallacies. Students were just not getting the concept from the book and the practice material. Thus, we developed material using technology to supplement the current curriculum.

Frequently, creating supplemental learning opportunities with technology can offer a new perspective on the topic to the struggling student. Not all students learn the same way, and by catering to various learning preferences and offering multiple avenues for reinforcement, we can foster a higher level of student engagement and success. Mestre (2010) discussed the importance of instructors using and creating online tools to assist in meeting the various learning styles of today’s online students. The research reviewed directed us toward the idea of trying to find some innovative ways to meet these demands with different delivery methods in the hope of reaching more students.

We formed a specific group that consisted of instructors who all teach the same course. We called our group the “technology think tank.” The premise was to develop beneficial material to enhance student learning and generate engagement through the application of technology. The group decided to use a variety of Web 2.0 tools, such as Weebly, Glogster, and Animoto to address student needs.

Weebly is an interactive web platform that allows for the utilization of various multimedia elements in lieu of the traditional text/video blog. Weebly also supports multiple editors, which granted all of us access to work on the Weebly simultaneously. Another unique feature that drew us to Weebly is that it has built-in site analytics. We were able to track our progress by seeing how many students visited each day, as well as which page had the highest activity and which pages were largely ignored. This allowed us to make adjustments on the fly.

The feedback on the Weebly was mostly positive. Students were excited because it was engaging, interactive, and helped reinforce the information from the textbook. We did make several minor adjustments throughout the course, mostly to integrate more multimedia pieces into it. Here are the links to the two Weeblys that we created to supplement our materials.

In addition to creating Weeblys, the technology think tank also used Glogster and Animoto. Glogster is a virtual poster that is interactive and uses diverse multimedia media elements to address multiple learning preferences. From an instructor’s standpoint, we highly recommend Glogster because it uses a drag and drop interface that is extremely user-friendly and simple to manage.

For those who are a bit more tech savvy, Animoto provides a powerful way to create videos on key concepts in any course. Animoto is versatile because it provides everything from pictures to music, and instructors only need to add their own text to the videos. If want to use your own images, you can do that as well.

We also created a Jeopardy type review game that students could use to test themselves on before attempting the assignment. We thought this was a great way for the students to review the main concepts of the week prior to completing the assignment.

Note: In part II of this article, we detail the process we went through to create and integrate these activities into our courses.

Mestre, L. S. (2010). Matching Up Learning Styles with Learning Objects: What’s Effective? Journal of Library Administration, 50 (7/8), 808-829. doi:10.1080/01930826.2010.488975