The type of tools that are used in a digital class are very important as they contribute to the success and failure of your students. I think it is incredibly important to consider who your typical student is and how your typical class is structured. This allows an educator to determine whether synchronous or asynchronous etools are better and allow the instructor to choose the better platforms.
In my class, most students are adults returning after a break or pause in their education. Most work full or part time and have families to support. The typical class at Vancouver Island University (VIU) is face-to-face though the department fully supports moving to a blended model. Thus for my students, asynchronous etools are the better option. Many students struggle with coming to class as it is, a synchronous option would not be a good choice.
Although many students are eliterate, quite a few are not. Any etools would have to have introductory assignments to introduce the students to the system. Additional support may also be needed. I am also fortunate that there are computers available for student use 24 hours a day, in the VIU library as not all learners have internet access or computers at home.
Currently in my class I am using a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Desire to Learn (D2L). Within D2L students are currently expected to participate in discussion boards. They are required to post questions or internet links and respond to two other student’s links. I am planning soon to require the use of microblogging, probably Twitter, as the asynchronous nature allows students to participate when it is convenient to them. As the assignment I am planning is quite comprehensive, it will not be created until September 2014.
While reading the OLTD 503 text by Kear (2011) I was intrigued by the idea of podcasting. Many student own MP3 players. This would allow them to “learn-on-the-go”. For visual learners, the podcast could be accompanied by a PDF or PowerPoint with images that correspond to the audio. I may try this for an upcoming lecture on Mitosis and Meiosis.
Kear, K. (2011). Online and social networking communities: A best practice guide for educators. New
York, NY: Routledge.