Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Bolstering Teaching through Online Tools

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Bolstering Teaching through Online Tools

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The Internet has influenced many aspects of our lives, and the field of education is no exception. While some instructors have augmented their traditional face-to-face classes with various online components to better serve the learning needs of their students, many institutions offer online classes delivered completely on the Internet (Tallent-Runnels et al., 2006). Research shows that online classes can be as effective as traditional classroom-based courses when appropriate technologies are used and sufficient interactivity is present (Durrington et al., 2006). Implementation and proper utilization of available technologies, however, is a daunting task for two main reasons: (1) the instructor's limited knowledge of these technologies and (2) the apparent lack of many interactive features in the Web-based Learning Management Systems (LMSs) often used by universities to administer and deliver online courses (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009).

Instructors in traditional classrooms use a rich repertoire of teaching methods to impart knowledge to students. The primary methods used to facilitate learning in a class include lectures, class discussions, case scenarios, team projects, lab work, presentations, games and simulations. Traditional teaching methods invoke various levels of student participation, ranging from passive (e.g., listening to lectures) to active (e.g., participating in games). Instructors may vary their teaching methods to suit the learning objectives of the day. They may use lectures on one day, discussions on another day, and lab exercises or cooperative learning techniques on yet another day (McKeachie et al., 2006). Because students have different learning styles, a variety of teaching techniques can be used to appropriately target these learning styles (Nilson, 2003). Thus, diversity in teaching approaches leads to unity among students' learning outcomes; this holds equally true for online courses (Mupinga et al., 2006).

Incorporating a richer set of teaching methods in an online course requires the use of diverse Web technologies--something which may often be difficult with a traditional LMS. Traditional LMSs primarily focus on centralized content creation and deployment of courseware by the instructor. There is a need to further facilitate communication, collaboration, and cooperation, both among students and between students and the instructor--which is the essence of the traditional classroom-based course. While the first-generation Web technologies (Web 1.0) which support traditional LMSs primarily rely on a one-way flow of information via "read-only" material available on the websites, the current generation of Web technologies (Web 2.0) tends to facilitate communication, information sharing, interoperability, and collaboration on the Web (Harris and Rea, 2009). Few universities have resources to upgrade an LMS to the latest version available in the market which may include newer interactive features. However, students of the current generation--often called millennials--are proficient in collaborative Web tools (e.g., Facebook, MySpace) and they expect the same level of capability from their online classes. According to the well-known "Task-Technology Fit" model (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995), there is a positive impact when capabilities of the technology match the tasks. Therefore, instructors need to match Web based tools with student learning needs to achieve proper learning benefits (Durrington et al., 2006). This puts the onus on the instructors to develop and deliver courses online that are rich in collaborative and interactive spirit, effectively utilizing the collaborative nature of the Web to replicate the traditional classroom-learning environment.

To address the above-mentioned challenges, this paper aims to: (1) provide an integrated list of free or low-cost tools and technologies that can enrich online classes; (2) classify the tools and technologies in a meaningful way for selection by instructors; (3) capture the fit between various teaching methods and the outlined Web tools and technologies; and (4) highlight the ethical, security and privacy considerations related to appropriate use of such technologies. …

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