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Fifteen Technologies to Enliven Online Teaching and Learning

By Jacob Aroz, Elizabeth Larson, Jean Mandernach / April 2024

TYPE: EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES, HIGHER EDUCATION
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Instructional technology has the power to transform teaching and learning. Recognizing technology is simply a tool to supplement instruction toward targeted learning goals, used intentionally, technology can enhance learning, engagement, satisfaction, motivation, connection... and virtually every other aspect of the learning experience. As education has shifted to embrace more digital components, technology has evolved and adapted to meet its needs. So much so, that the current number of available technologies can be overwhelming. The key lies in aligning technology selection and integration with specific instructional goals.

Here are 15 technologies that can be incorporated into the online classroom to enliven the educational experience and meet targeted instructional objectives.

1. Canva is an easy-to-use design tool for educators. It can be used in the online learning environment to create personalized digital content that is visually appealing and engaging. Canva has an intuitive interface and a wide range of templates and design elements, allowing educators to easily create customized presentations, infographics, videos, and other course materials. Other great features of Canva are that it allows for collaboration and team workspaces and tends to integrate seamlessly with other technology-based tools. By using Canva, educators can create engaging and interactive content for their classrooms. A great way to introduce Canva into the digital classroom is by creating a quick infographic on classroom expectations or a welcome poster for the class.

2. Genially is a digital content creation tool that allows instructors to create interactive, animated, and gamified content for their classrooms. Genially embraces students as active participants in the learning process through interactive, engaging, and visually appealing content. Instructors can use Genially to create animated infographics, interactive presentations, and gamified content such as quizzes and escape rooms. It is simple to use and there are plenty of free templates educators can customize to fit their needs.

3. Waklet is an online application that can be used to organize resources and content in a manner that is more engaging for learners. Creating a Waklet, you can share content (i.e. important links, YouTube videos, articles, etc.) in a layout of your choosing. This allows you to pull important pieces from different places on the internet into a single location that can be organized to meet the needs of your students or your specific project.

4. Quizizz fosters gamification and student engagement by allowing instructors to create quizzes catered to your content or utilize an expansive collection of preexisting quizzes. A quiz can be shared in “game mode” for synchronous fun or assigned as homework. When assigned as homework, students can attempt the quiz on their own schedules and as many times as they like. After a quiz, a report can be easily pulled to help you recognize participation and identify gaps in learning that require attention.

5. Flip allows instructors to create prompts—or topics—and students can respond using quick videos. Students can hear and see colleagues they would not normally have an opportunity to interact with. It also works well asynchronously; once a topic is created, students can respond with a video on their own time. 

6. Flipsnack gives instructors the capability to make interactive flipbooks. To utilize Flipsnack, instructors upload a PDF or use Flipsnack’s design studio to create customized and interactive content. Instructors can embed links, videos, charts, and even slideshows into their flipbook. In the digital classroom, a flipbook is a great way to keep track of supplemental course material and instructional resources. For example, if a teacher has several videos, games, handouts, and announcements, Flipsnack is a great way to create one document that houses all of them.

7. PowToon allows educators to create animated videos, presentations, and infographic videos. One key feature is the ease by which instructors create customized content for the classroom using free templates. Instructors can use PowToon to create fun and animated clips to help further discussion, explain challenging content, or use longer videos for lectures and learning objectives.

8. Anchor Over the last several years, podcasts have exploded in popularity; a podcast can be leveraged to help students grow and expand connections with people within your field. Instructors can use Anchor to find and share existing podcasts or they can use it to make their own instructional podcast. It has recording and editing tools that can be used from the app to streamline the creation and distribution of course-related podcasts.

9. Bitmoji is a fun and practical way to infuse instructor presence within a digital classroom. Bitmoji allows instructors to create a personalized emoji of themselves and can be shared across a range of platforms including most learning management systems. Creating a customized bitmoji is a quick and easy way to jump-start the customized content creation process for new instructors. For example, instructors can use a bitmoji as their avatar in the digital classroom or as part of their feedback. For the more adventurous or tech-savvy teacher, Bitmoji classrooms and virtual lockers are a fun way to create a warm and welcoming space for the class, introduce yourself, show off some personality, and bridge the distance that can be felt online. 

10. Loom allows instructors to record quick videos and screencasts. Because Loom doesn’t require uploads or downloads to view, it provides an efficient strategy for making just-in-time instructional videos, announcements, or feedback. You can record demonstrations and presentations that students can access in their own time as often as they need.

11. Padlet is a collaborative online space that allows users to create a customized pinboard using text, images, links, documents, and videos. It is very user-friendly and allows multiple users to work on a shared project or assignment. One way to include this in a digital classroom is by creating a brainstorming board for an assignment, learning objective, or topic. This brainstorming board can become a place where students can share ideas, express their thoughts, or post curated media content for that specific brainstorming session. 

12. Google Jamboard is an interactive digital whiteboard that allows teachers to create and share sketches, images, and other multimedia content in real-time with students across the world. Since Jamboard is a Google product, it seamlessly integrates with other Google applications and teachers can customize sharing and access permissions. Teachers can use Jamboard for everything from brainstorming activities to math problems. A fun way to integrate Jamboard into the online learning environment is through participation. Teachers can create a Jam on a specific topic or ask a question and invite students to post sticky notes responses to their Jam.   

13. Moovly is a multimedia platform to create engaging and interactive video content. Its interface is fairly easy to use and has plenty of templates to help start the creative process. With Moovly, instructors create whiteboard videos to explain complicated topics or use animation to make learning objectives fun and engaging. Moovly also allows for video narration, which fosters instructor presence within the digital classroom. Moovly is best for videos that need a professional and polished look. It may be a little more time-consuming than other video content creators.

14. Edpuzzle is video annotation software to customize existing online videos. Instructors can take videos from YouTube, Kahn Academy, Vimeo, etc. or upload their own videos. They can then customize the video using the crop feature to focus the attention on a particular segment, add commentary, or embed quiz questions within the video. These features can enhance the interaction that viewers have with the videos that are edited/created.

15. Clarisketch allows users to add commentary or animate pictures to catch learners’ attention and strengthen their utility within the online classroom. This is a great option to enhance content presentations, class biographies, or study guides. Clarisketch also provides a creative way to enhance assignment instructions through narration and animation. For example, if there is a challenging assignment, use Clarisketch to animate the completion of that assignment while addressing common issues or misconceptions. All you need to do is upload a picture/resource using the application (Chrome app or Google) and animate or narrate.

Technology provides numerous engaging and novel ways to enliven the online learning environment. But before integrating any technology-based resource, it is imperative to know exactly why you are using technology and what you hope to achieve. Don’t integrate technology simply for the sake of technology; it should meet a clear, identifiable need or learning goal. Utilizing the right technology tool can help instructors create dynamic discussions, gamify activities to increase learning, foster student brainstorming, create opportunities for social interaction, or invigorate interaction with content. Start by identifying your pedagogical need; then dive into the range of technology possibilities that can help you foster more effective student learning and engagement in the online classroom.  

About the Authors

Jacob Aroz is currently an assistant professor with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Grand Canyon University. There he has worked with students beginning their college degree, many of whom are returning to school later in life to achieve lifelong goals and dreams. In addition to his work teaching students over the last 10 years, he has enjoyed working with colleagues and researching areas like social presence in online classrooms, gamification in online classrooms, and metacognitive practices in self-reflection.

Elizabeth Larson is an associate professor at Grand Canyon University. She also serves as a faculty mentor, actively engages in research, and is an author and presenter, primarily in online higher education. Her research interests include first-year student success, technology integration in the classroom, and maximizing the effectiveness of online classrooms. Her research focuses on developing innovative learning and social support structures tailored to meet the needs of students new to the online learning environment, empowering them with the strategies needed to be successful. Furthermore, her research centers on identifying strategies faculty can employ to optimize their teaching effectiveness in the online classroom.

Jean Mandernach, Ph.D. is executive director of the Center for Innovation in Research on Teaching at Grand Canyon University. Her research focuses on enhancing student learning experiences in the online classroom through innovative instructional and assessment strategies. She explores strategies for integrating efficient online instruction in a manner that maximizes student learning, satisfaction, and engagement. In addition, she has interests in innovative faculty development and evaluation models, teaching and learning analytics, emergent instructional technology, and faculty workload considerations. Mandernach is an active researcher, author, presenter, and consultant in the field of online education.

 

© Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM. 1535-394X/2024/04-3592863 $15.00 https://doi.org/10.1145/3658618.3592863


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