Tips for adopting the right technology for blended learning

Start simple, practise and consider what IT support is available when choosing online tools for blended courses, advise Carl Sherwood and John Raiti, among other aspects to consider


1 May 2023
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Tech tools to help enhance online and blended learning
Selecting digital tools that support your pedagogy and teaching strategies

The shift to blended (or hybrid) learning has opened new horizons for the way we teach using technology. But how do teachers choose the right technology and ensure they are using these tools effectively when creating blended learning resources and activities?

In a previous video, we highlighted that blended learning should be based on developing good teaching practice first and considering technology second, not the other way around. So, after you’ve reflected on what effective teachers do to engage their students, the next step is to decide what tools can help facilitate your practice.

Here are seven tips to consider.   

Tip 1: Start with the learning outcomes

A good starting point is to consider the course learning outcomes. The knowledge, skills and attributes you want your students to be able to demonstrate will drive your choice of technology.

For example, if a learning outcome relates to students collaborating with peers to find solutions, you would look to use collaborative digital tools such as Padlet or discussion forums. Likewise, if you want students to demonstrate application of complex concepts, then you would look at digital tools that can help break up or “chunk” concepts into parts and represent these in different media to help support diverse student learning needs. Making a video, say, can be good way to chunk and show complex concepts through visuals and audio (rather than just text on a page). Further, you could provide students with immediate feedback to revision questions on each chunk via an online quiz or interactive module such as H5P.

Tip 2: Ensure just-in-time technical support

Check the software suite at your university. Choosing a tool(s) that your university officially supports will make it much easier to implement your new blended learning initiative. Start by asking a learning designer in your faculty or IT support.

Tip 3: Think about scale

Choose tools that will save you time. A strategic choice can cut down the number of questions and emails you receive from students. For example, developing an online interactive module where students can receive immediate feedback when answering revision questions or implementing a well-managed discussion forum will enable you to reduce how often you answer the same question from different students. You can also save time with assessment by providing students with meaningful feedback that is built into tools. Many learning management systems allow you to enter pre-populated feedback comments and rubrics for marking.

Tip 4: Keep it simple, and practise 

Keep it simple when starting out! Choose one tool for an activity and try to master it. A low-impact or medium-impact blend is a quick and easy approach that minimises the risks of failure. If learning a new tool, set up a “sandpit” where you can explore and “play” with the features. Remember that practice makes perfect. The advantage of keeping it simple to begin with is that you can quickly refine and update any online learning activity if it needs to be improved.

Tip 5: Integrate technology with your teaching

Make sure any digital tools or online learning activities are demonstrated during your teaching. When doing so, be sure to set student expectations such as the required level of engagement. This will allow students to see the purpose of the activity and how it enhances their learning. For example, adding a discussion forum to your course will not work if you simply leave it to the students to run. Instead, you need to seed topics, ideas or conversations, then respond to common questions, perhaps by discussing them in class. The students will then see the discussion forum as an integral and purposeful tool to enhance their learning.

Tip 6: Align teaching and tools with assessment

Your assessment tasks should be constructively aligned with the teaching and learning activities and course learning outcomes. Hence it makes sense that your chosen tool and online activity are closely integrated with the assessment. Again, show students how the online activity they are undertaking is linked directly to their assessment. The tool you choose should enable students to quickly access the resources they need to complete their assessment.  

Tip 7: Test with the students

Good teachers are continuously reflecting on their practice. This includes asking your students how your new online activity benefits their learning. At the same time, ask for suggestions for how you can improve an activity. Students will generally appreciate your efforts to enhance your teaching, especially when they can provide you with feedback.

In the short term, designing blended learning can be time-consuming. However, you can view this as an investment of your time in professional learning. The good news is that it does get easier.  

John Raiti is a learning designer and Carl Sherwood is a senior lecturer, both in the School of Economics at The University of Queensland.

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