Technology and Teaching
Instructional technology is an integral component of contemporary university teaching. Whether this means posting materials on a course management site like Carmen, using multimedia in the classroom or teaching a course entirely online, incorporating technology into teaching is most beneficial when it is closely aligned with the teacher’s instructional objectives. The objectives should determine the choice of media, not the other way around.
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Using Technology in the Classroom
Although instructional technology may seem, and often is, an effective way to present instructional materials, these materials are only as good as the thought and organization that precede their use. Used effectively, instructional technology can help emphasize important concepts within teaching, stimulate student interest, enhance comprehension, and prevent boredom (Williamson & Abraham, 1995; Hall, 1996).
Here are some tips for integrating technology in a face-to-face setting.
- To make your slides readable:
- Use fonts size 24 or larger
- Use contrasting type and background colors
- Avoid using ALL CAPS or underlining, both of which can make text more difficult to read.
- Limit the amount of text on any given slide
- Use consistent organization on slides
- Let the PowerPoint supplement your presentation and not the other way around.
- Remember to face the audience and not the screen.
- To keep students from getting drowsy, keep the room lights on if possible. If you must turn the lights off, try to limit the darkness to 15 minutes or less.
- Keep students engaged by combining the PowerPoint material with other formats and activities.
- Technology isn’t always reliable. Always have a backup plan!
Using Visual and Audio Clips
- Select film and video clips carefully to illustrate key course concepts.
- Make the connection between the media you’re using and the course material clear.
- Provide students with a list of ideas or questions to consider while they engage with the media.
- Set up multimedia hardware before class starts so you have ample time to troubleshoot.
- If you’re using online content, make sure your links are up-to-date and accessible.
Teaching Courses Online
Just as in face-to-face courses, online courses (from assignments to content to method of delivery) should be designed around your goals and learning objectives. However, there are some additional considerations, which are outlined in this video, to consider when teaching in an online environment.
Here is a short list of “best practices” adapted from J.V. Boettcher’s Designing for Learning (2011).
Be present. Online courses work best when the instructor’s investment in the students is apparent. Try to be present often–daily, if possible–and set up virtual office hours when students will be assured they can communicate with you.
Create community. Online environments can easily feel anonymous. Begin the course by having students give personal introductions either in writing, or in a synchronous meeting where they can get to know each other. Also, maintain an open forum for students to ask questions about the course, post interesting materials, and engage with each other in less-formal ways.
Articulate clear expectations about communication and workload. Make sure students know how often and for how long they should be working toward success in your course each week. Make sure to set clear expectations about how they are to communicate with each other and with you, and establish guidelines for how quickly they can expect you to respond (24 hours is typical and reasonable).
Use a variety of large group, small group, and individual activities. Not only does this help students develop a sense of community, but it is also good pedagogical practice in general.
Use a combination of synchronous and asynchronous activities. This gives students a chance to get to know you and each other better, and also can be an effective way to establish a sense of presence for the course. Given the variety of technologies available, including at least some synchronous aspect (whether that be for the whole class all at once or just for small groups) is easier today than ever.
Regularly solicit feedback from your students. This gives students a sense of ownership over the course and can help you make modifications that enhance the learning experience.
Craft discussion and assignment prompts that encourage interaction, reflection, and questions. Create open-ended questions. Consider giving students a number of options to which they can choose to respond. Make dialogue amongst students part of the course or assignment requirements. Set a good example and get involved! Ask students follow-up questions like: Why do you think that? What is your reasoning? Is there an alternative strategy? Remember to provide encouragement and feedback regularly.
Make sure that resources for the course and for all assignments are computer accessible for all students.
Using Online Discussion
- Explicitly state goals and expectations for online discussion, including content, quantity, frequency, and decorum.
- Clearly organize Discussion Boards ahead of time. Post direct links on your course homepage if you’re using Carmen or other course management software.
- Integrate online discussion content with what happens in the classroom.
- Establish a clear starting and ending time for each discussion topic.
- Provide students with a list of resources including workshops and online tutorials should they need assistance.
The Digital Union’s eLearning Programs offer workshops, consultations, web resources, and grants to assist instructors who want to integrate technology into their teaching.
Carmen, Ohio State’s Online Learning Management System, is used by instructors, staff, and TAs to create and share materials. Carmen automatically creates blank course shells, complete with a class roster and a set of course tools, for every course in the Registrar’s Master Schedule. Course instructors choose if and when to activate them. To access your Carmen courses, go to carmen.osu.edu and log in with your OSU Internet username.
Classroom Services provide a user-friendly support for faculty, staff, and students who wish to use technology in their classes. They loan and deliver equipment, maintain classroom technology, and provide on-site assistance, should the need arise. You can also find classroom characteristics and available equipment by clicking on: ‘Find a Classroom’ to get room details. This can help you determine what technology you may need to order.
The Classroom Helpline responds to emergencies in the classroom including problems with audio/visual equipment, computers, technology instruction, mechanics, and environment. If you would like to schedule assistance in the classroom, contact them via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone: 4-HELP (from campus phone), or 614-247-HELP (off-campus/wireless phone)
A list of resources put together by University of Michigan’s Center for Research on Learning and Teaching
Updated research on the best practices for teaching online courses
Online tutorials and guides offered by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities