e-Learning tools & technologies
Barr & Tagg (1995) asserted that learning and learning outcomes should be the focus of higher education. This would require a shift from a ‘knowledge-transfer’ mode of teaching to a student-centred approach, where the role of the educator is to ‘produce learning’. Chickering and Gamson (1987) argued that encouraging active learning is one of seven principles of good practice in higher education (see table in Learning Activities). e-Learning is not limited to distance or remote learning, but can be strategically employed to produce the most effective approach to enhance learning and the student experience. Digital technologies and tools can be employed to foster and support active learning in classroom environments, and extend learning beyond the classroom (Joint Information Systems Committee, 2004).
Interactive whiteboards (IWB), such as SMART board (http://smarttech.com/gb), can be used in classrooms to enhance presentations through the display of images, videos, web-based systems (such as a virtual patient system) or electronic documents. They can be used to create or run interactive tests or polls and display results in real time (Brown, 2003). Presenters can create notes, maps or diagrams, and interactions with the whiteboard can be captured and transformed into a video clip that can then be shared with learners to help them process their notes, revisit material and consolidate their learning.
‘Lecture capture’ is a term used to describe the process of recording or capturing lecture activity and disseminating the materials electronically. This can include filming the lecture or recording the audio to produce a podcast. A podcast is a digital audio file, which listeners can subscribe to in order to automatically receive updates. A study by Maag (2006) evaluated the use of podcasts in nursing education. Maag found that the majority of learners reported that the podcasts assisted their learning (79%), helped them to process and retain information by enabling them to revisit the lecture and were a useful resource for exam preparation. Maag also reported that lecture attendance did not decline after the introduction of the podcasts, and that contributions in class increased.
Personal or audience response systems (such as Turning Technologies: http://www.turningtechnologies.co.uk/), are ‘clicker’ devices that can be distributed to learners to facilitate formative assessment in the classroom. Students can use the clicker to complete in-class quizzes and submit questions and feedback. Studies have found that if deployed appropriately these systems can have a positive effect on learners’ emotional, motivational, and cognitive experiences in the classroom (Simpson & Oliver, 2007). More and more learners now have access to portable and mobile internet-enabled devices, which can be used in classroom environments. Tools such as Poll Everywhere (http://www.polleverywhere.com/) and Socrative (http://www.socrative.com/) enable learners to use their own personal devices as clickers.
Chat or social tools (such as Twitter) are being used within classrooms for synchronous discussions during a lecture, conference or other event. This activity has been referred to as ‘backchannel communication’ (Educause, 2010). Backchannel activities are now being incorporated into the live sessions, and presenters are actively encouraging participation to capture questions and feedback. Backchannel conversations can be made available to participants who are unable to attend the live sessions and can help students revisit and reassess classroom content and activities.