The rapid proliferation of e-learning tools that offer low or no cost investment and are not housed on institutional servers, has made it very attractive for faculty to move learning experiences online. Yet institutions are often unaware of the technology practices of instructors or learners, thereby investing time, effort, and funding into tools and infrastructure than may not be the best support for learning outcomes. This chapter describes shifts in the use of learning technologies, illustrates a high level overview for assessing current use and practice, and provides a framework for selecting delivery solutions and tools that can best support instructional goals.
Institutions and their faculty are faced with multiple challenges as they move forward in planning for five, ten, or even fifteen years. These include (McGee & Diaz, 2007):
The technology-adoption cycle: Under ideal circumstances, a faculty member may require anywhere from three to four terms to adopt a learning technology tool; even more time may be needed to produce positive results in teaching and learning. Many faculty members are hesitant to experiment with several tools at once and prefer a “one-at-a-time” approach to adoption and integration. The ever-changing array of available tools and the lack of information related to adoption and use together act as a de-motivator.
Lack of integrated technology tools: Although course management systems (CMS) have become standard, many emerging tools are not easily integrated into the CMS. When isolated tools are added on to the CMS course, users are confronted with “multiple log-ins, data input, and results tracking. In other words, tools that are not centrally integrated require an additional “use and management” investment that is otherwise unnecessary. “
Learners’ changing expectations: Students have different expectations, skills, abilities, and knowledge about the technology themselves and how the technologies should be best used in teaching and learning. Increasingly intergenerational issues segment classes and challenge a coherent use of technology.
Institutional changes to technology commitments: Faculty members adopt technology at different rates in different ways. This adoption cycle is often at odds with, or even unconsidered, by the institutional adoption of technology. For faculty and students, the sudden or cyclical change of technology (such as upgrades in CMS) can appear as an unstable and unpredictable environment that results in dissonance and relearning, often contributing to the reluctance of faculty to adopt new technologies.
Key Terms in this Chapter
100% Online Course Approach: All course activities, resource use, interactions, and communications take place online, typically through an institutional course management system.
Neomillennial Learning Style (Dede, 2005): 21st century learners who prefer an environment that includes fluency in multiple media and in simulation-based virtual settings, communal learning involving diverse, tacit, situated experience, with knowledge distributed across a community and a context as well as within an individual.
GAP Analysis: Compares the status quo with intended outcomes of a desired change.
Distributed Engagement Approach: This approach allows the learner to complete instructional modules at his or her own pace, in various learning environments and with various supports. Usable for both face-to-face and online environments, the intent is to allow students to progress through material in the way and speed that is most appropriate for the individual.
Web Enhanced Course Approach: Offers between class meeting activities using learning management systems or other information communications technology.
SWOTT Analysis: Involves examining the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and trends (SWOTT) (Ansof, 1980) associated with the results of a GAP analysis or a planned initiative. SWOTT analyses draws upon what is known from documentation and observation and requires data collection and possibly surveying of relevant units or departments.
Blended/Hybrid Learning: Involves dividing class experiences between face-to-face and online meetings, thus reducing actual seat time.
The Transformative Assessment Process (TAP): Provides a high level ‘map’ of assessment points within a process-oriented flow designed to discover and transform practice.