Is constant technological advancement helping us to improve learning? Patrick Lyons, Director of Teaching and Learning at Carleton University, says “Teaching and learning is changing…the types of experiences we want our learners to have need new approaches to teaching. Technology can act as a powerful lever for those things.”
Technology In Classroom
Carleton University utilises the learning management system Moodle, which allows learners to log in. The university currently experiences more than 120,000 student logins on a normal day. It enables students to access study materials; share questions and opinions; host VoIP (Voice over IP) discussions; as well as watch previous lectures. Lyons believes that this advanced technology can not only help online programmes, but it can help all students, whether on-campus or online.
Moodle, an open sourced programme is being used by several postsecondary academic institutes. This means that the programme was developed by a third-party which is downloaded, installed and hosted for free by anyone who has the right infrastructure to support it. Carleton University has designed and developed their own programme named Big Blue Button, which is an online classroom based on Moodle.
Empowering Educators And Learners
With the help of this software, instructors can organise online classes live, as well as office meeting and conferences. One of the most striking features is the private online “room” which provides whiteboard, presentation, video and audio capabilities. This allows the learners to get completely engaged in the online learning environment. According to Lyons, Carleton University has also introduced a mobile-friendly version of the software which enables educators to record entire lectures and include everything which is in the virtual whiteboard such as videos or instant messages. These can then be shared with students from different parts of the globe.
Queen’s University at Kingston is another institution which is effectively using the Moodle programme, claims Jill Scott, Vice-Provost of Teaching and Learning at Kingston school. However, this type of educational technology also poses certain challenges. Dr. Scott says “When you work with an open-source product, you support it internally, but you have to manage it yourself. You’re responsible for it, and any issues will come directly to you. It’s a 24/7 issue for our technology people.”
Creating A Better Learning Environment
At Carleton University, the previous learning management system was present on a single computer server. But now it requires 3 different computers which run simultaneously with a distinct database. Lyons says that Carleton has made sufficient investments to ensure that the back-end system is strong and is capable of supporting all the learners.
In fact, now educators also prefer using this technology to teach their students. Lyons adds “One of our most significant barriers is faculty members’ time to learn new tools and apply these tools for teaching scenarios. You can be a great teacher, but if the tool is so difficult to use, how can you incorporate it into your practice?” These new educational tools aim to improve the current learning experience and environments, along with developing new environments online and on mobile devices.
Student Driven Educational Technology
Moreover, technology is also enabling students to better demonstrate their portfolio and experience to prospective employers. For example, Carleton University utilises the recently introduced ePortfolio, developed by an open-source programme known as Mahara.
Lyons explains “It’s a tool, but it’s also a philosophical approach to teaching and learning. The other tools are teacher-driven. The ePortfolio tool is student driven. It’s a space students can make their own and showcase their learning.”
The fact is technology for improving education and helping students learn better is changing constantly. The scenario will keep improving further in future and education becomes more accessible and widespread.
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