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Impact of Technology and Multimedia

I’d like to discuss the impact of technology and multimedia on online learning environments, share considerations for instructors regarding the implementation of technology, and address usability and accessibility.

Multimedia and technology have made a huge impact on online learning environments particularly because of their growing acceptance by the general population. According to George Siemens, PhD in his video “The Future of Distance Education,” the surge in exposure to new technologies allowed a broader range of individuals to gain practical experience with technology tools. (Siemens, G. n.d.)

Technology development has grown rapidly and costs have come down. This facilitates environments where all students – regardless of class or income can participate. Walden students, for example, have no cost and low cost ways to record audio and video from their desktops. (Palloff, R. & Pratt, K. n.d.)

In fact, the “social media” rise has made a larger swath of the world’s population more comfortable with the notion of online discourse. (Siemens. n.d.) I’ve taken classes with students from other countries – all of us using the same technology.

Additionally, the potpourri of new applications e.g. course management systems, blogs, Skype, and Flash, etc. have made it easier for online instructors to recreate and/or repurpose face-to-face activities for online environments. They’ve reduced transactional distance between instructors and students.

This plethora of technologies, literally at our fingertips, can enhance the online teaching and learning experience. However, I’d remind educators that if they’ve proven effective in face-to-face environments, they can adapt to their online roles with patience and practice. (Boettcher, J.V. & Conrad, A. 2010)

I’d also suggest instructors proceed methodically and limit tools within their repertoire to those that facilitate specific educational goals. (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010) In fact Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) suggest keeping outcomes and objectives at the forefront. “If it technology serves the outcomes, then we use it.” (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

Instructors should practice tools frequently enough to develop “automatic behaviors.” (Boettcher & Conrad. 2010) Additionally, our text suggests instructors become familiar with their institution’s course management system.

Online instructors should also review the Distance Education Teaching and Learning Resources Web site at Portland Community College. This institution built a matrix tool that instructors may find helpful when matching learning theory approaches and strategies with tools to enable them. This matrix walks educators through the “What (tools), Why (theory), and How (pedagogy)” needed to effectively pair tools and their applications. (“Distance Education Faculty and Staff Web Site,” n.d.)

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Conversely, instructors should give students a choice of technologies that support their learning goals. Mandating a technology just because it is available is not the way to go. (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

Finally, educators in online environments should consider the non-technology factors that may influence the quality of their teaching experience. This includes

  • Course overview with introductions
  • Learning objectives and outcomes
  • Assessment
  • Materials
  • Learner support and
  • Accessibility

Speaking of the latter-mentioned “accessibility,” I believe this issue along with “usability” should be reviewed and considered within online teaching and learning. These factors impact course effectiveness and learner satisfaction, particularly for disabled students. (Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. 2007). The terms accessibility and usability tend to be used interchangeably within some circles, but they are different.

Our course resource defines usability as the extent a system can be used to effectively achieve specific goals. Accessibility refers to the capability of a learning community to reflect the needs of diverse learners. (Cooper, et al., 2007)

Courses that hinder usability will generally hinder accessibility, again especially among disabled students. (Cooper, et al., 2007)

Here’s one example that may help distinguish usability and accessibility:

A course may be perfectly designed to allow students with varying classifications of disability to participate, but if it contains high-bandwidth videos and high-file size resources, it may not suit students in areas e.g. rural ones with dial up connections – regardless of their ability. (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

As I move forward with a career instructional design, I’d have to agree with Drs. Palloff and Pratt (n.d.) that Web.2.0 is the way to go. Inclusion of Web 2.0 technologies would enable synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. Additionally, Web 2.0 would allow me to take advantage of “user generated content” (Palloff & Pratt. n.d.)

I’ve mentioned in other discussions and assignments that I’m a member of the eLearning Guild. Hence I am biased toward Palloff and Pratt’s support of taking advantage of “en vogue” technologies e.g. tablet and mobile. For example, a recent article in Campus Technologies said tablets and smart phones saw “explosive growth” in 2012. (Nagel, D. 2012) This market expansion will allow even more students to download applications e.g. vodcasts or podcasts to their mobile devices.

Finally, as I progress, I will remind myself to be patient learning new technologies and their appropriate applications. I will try not to get distracted by “bells and whistles” and focus on technologies that support my teaching and learning goals.

Works cited:

Boettcher, J.V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (nd). Enhancing the Online Experience. Laureate Education, Inc. Baltimore, MD

Nagel, D. (2002). Tablets, Smart Phones See Explosive Growth as Apple and Samsung Solidify Their Leads. Campus Technology. Retrieved fromhttp://campustechnology.com/articles/2012/08/03/tablets-smart-phones-see-explosive-growth-as-apple-and-samsung-solidify-their-leads.aspx.

Portland Community College. (nd) Distance Education Faculty and Staff Web site. Retrieved from http://www.distance.pcc.edu/distancehq/lrchq/

Siemens, G. (2010). The Future of Distance Education. Laureate Education, Inc., Baltimore, MD

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