As an instructor of an online course, you may be thinking that you do an effective job of integrating technology. More than likely, this is an accurate reflection. Oftentimes online instructors make use of technology tools that are limited to providing them and students with up-to-date primary source material, collecting and recording data, and providing an opportunity for demonstrating understanding via multimedia. We should not limit ourselves to these tools and should expand our knowledge in order to plan and prepare for instruction that uses technology resources that can impact learning and engagement. This blogs seeks to introduce collaborative online tools and provide an overview of a commonly used model for technology integration in order to help online instructors routinely design coherent instruction which leverages technology tools.
Successful technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is supporting the curricular goals and is helping the students to effectively reach their goals. Technology integration is defined as students using technology daily and having a variety of tools to match the task at hand in order to build a deeper understanding of the content. Technology is continuously, and rapidly, evolving. As online instructors, we must continually learn about a variety of technology tools that can extend learning and increase student engagement in powerful ways. We must continually think of technology as learning tools and select ones that can be matched to a specific task that supports mastery of our curricular goals. More importantly, we must plan for using effective technology tools that actively engage students in the learning process.
Collaborative Online Tools
Collaborative online tools allow for individuals to connect with each other remotely which can be a powerful experience. Commonly known collaborative online tools include wikis or Google Docs. video conferencing collaboration tools can be added in this category. Video conferencing is a two way communications protocol between participants in two or more locations. Typically, true video conferencing requires equipment in beyond personal computer equipment and built-in cameras and microphones (Ohio State University, 2018). These tools have the potential to greatly expand student interaction as well as increase opportunities to interact with varied populations (Kolås, Nordseth, & Yri, 2015; Rainford, Sinclair, & Pike, 2015; Zoumenou, et. al, 2015).
With an array of video conferencing technologies available, instructors should think through and ultimately decide how they want to use video conferencing as a collaboration tool. Important questions during the planning process may be, “Which video conferencing tools are accessible to me and my students?” and/or “Would this learning activity best be conducted as a web conference or a webinar so that students can deepen their understanding of the intended learning?” Web conferencing is the use of the Internet to conduct synchronous, two-way audio and video communications between participants in two or more locations. Typically, each participant utilizes his or her own computer to connect to the web conference. Participants use Voice Over IP (VOIP) or a personal phone connection to provide audio. No special hardware is necessary to conduct a web conference. Similarly, a webinar uses participants personal computers and the Internet to connect. However, webinars are typically one-way, though some allowances may be made for participants to ask questions. There may also be a live audience in the room with the presenter during a webinar, sometimes referred to as a hybrid conference, but the live audience is not necessary. Engagement tools such as polling or the ability to ask questions may be incorporated.
Framework for Technology Integration
One commonly used model for technology integration is known as SAMR. The SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model guides the process of how we are integrating technology into our courses. The model redefines how we teach and learn by doing things with technology that we never could do before. SAMR categorizes four different degrees of classroom technology integration.
As we use the SAMR model to integrate technology, it is important to note that the intended learning outcomes and the design of our learning activities or assessments may or may not change. The SAMR model refers to these changes (as a result of technology integration) as “transformations.” Disclaimer: As online instructors we are required to adhere to the learning objectives of our courses. However, we may have some flexibility in making changes to some learning activities and/or assessments. It is important that proposed changes to learning activities and/or assessments be reviewed by appropriate personnel and approved before finalizing and publishing your syllabus for students. The SAMR model should be thought of as a spectrum rather than a ladder or staircase. One one end, technology is used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional tools (enhancements), and on the other end technology enables experiences that were previously impossible without it (transformations). If you enjoy cooking, you could think of this difference as seasoning a traditional family recipe versus creating an entirely new, original dish.
The video conferencing tool is substituted for a traditional online classroom tool. This is a simple, bare-bones replacement. One example may be instructors providing a recording of a lecture or using multimedia (videos, etc) instead of a written text. To preserve the academic integrity of the course, the text that is being augmented should be a recommended text rather than a required text.
In this stage, the technology is directly substituted for a traditional one, but the student experience is enhanced as a result of the substituted technology. This may be the place for our scenario with implementing video conferencing. In this instance, the video conferencing platform is being used as a collaborative online tool to bring students and instructors together at the same time to interact with each other rather than interacting asynchronously through a discussion board. The student experience is enhanced by connecting with their peers and instructors through audio and video features that allow for them to develop relationships with each other. Questions and discussion can be offered in real time helping to clarify content or deepen understanding in a more efficient manner.
In this stage, the instructor is beginning to move from enhancement to transformation on the model. Remember the cooking analogy? This stage results in an actual change to the design of the learning activity and its learning outcome. During the planning process, instructors should ask themselves if the technology significantly alters the task. Altering the task often increases the level of cognitive demand that is required to complete the task. Students move from learning activities that require the recall of knowledge (knowledge, comprehension, and application) to activities that require higher order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation).
In this last stage of the SAMR model, redefinition is the highest point in which technology can be used to transform a student’s experience. During the planning process, instructors should ask themselves if the technology tool creates a novel experience and redefines a traditional task in a way that would not be possible without the technology. This may be another place for our scenario with implementing video conferencing depending on the purpose and focus of the learning activity. For example, students and instructors could utilize video conferencing to network with other students, scholars, leaders, or practitioners in order to examine how a learning objective relates to the field in the real world.
It’s All About the Focus and Purpose of the Activity
Planning and preparation for a lesson is a critical component for online instructors. The focus and purpose of the learning activity drives the selection of technology tools. The same tool may fit into different stages of the SAMR model depending on the focus of the learning activity. In the Augmentation stage, the video conferencing platform was serving as an enhancement to the discussion board. In the Redefinition stage, the video conferencing platform was being used to interact with others in the field outside of the university to deepen their understanding of the content. In this instance, the student experience is changed by transforming the relevance of their learning so that it directly comes from scholars, practitioners, and leaders in the field.
Additional note: The SAMR model was created by Dr. Ruben Puentudura. It has become a widely accepted model in K-12 education as a means for helping students become 21st century learners. Additional background and exemplars of the SAMR model in K-12 can be reviewed in Dr. Puentudura’s paper.
Kolås, L., Nordseth, H., & Yri, J. S. (2015). Active students in webinars. Presented at the 11th International Association for Development of the Information Society (IADIS) International Conference on Mobile Learning, Madeira, Portugal, Mar 14-16, 2015. Madeira, Portugal: IADIS
Ohio State University (2018). What are the differences between video conferencing, webconferencing, webinars, and webcasts? Health Sciences Library. Retrieved from https://hsl.osu.edu/eventtech/faq/what-are-differences-between-video-conferencing-web-conferencing-webinars-and-webcasts
Rainford, J. J., Sinclair, T., & Pike, D. (2015). Widening the (out)reach: The potential use of interactive webinars to extend widening participation beyond local geographical boundaries. Widening Participation & Lifelong Learning, 17(4), 105-115. doi:10.5456/WPLL.17.4.105
Zoumenou, V. v., Sigman-Grant, M., Coleman, G., Malekian, F., Zee, J. K., Fountain, B. J., & Marsh, A. (2015). Utilizing technology for FCS education: Selecting appropriate interactive webinar software. Journal Of Family & Consumer Sciences, 107(3), 33-40.