How To Choose and Assess a Learning Tool

By following an online training design template, trainers can ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness for their modules. In the academic environment, the collaborative development of an online course content template could lead to a final product that is “equal or superior in effectiveness to the face-to-face version of the course” (Miller & Rader, 2010, p. 246).

How to Get Started

Step 1: Establish course learning objectives and complete a learner analysis (this involves taking students’ prior knowledge, group characteristics, and entry behaviors into consideration) (Justice, 2003)

Step 2: While there are almost unlimited options for which learning tool to use, consider the category of tool that will help students achieve the objectives. Learning tool categories, along with a few examples, include:

  • Assessment
    • Exams
    • Quizzes
    • Projects
    • Essays
    • Classroom responses systems, Top Hat
    • Moodle Workshop
  • Presentation
    • VoiceThread
    • Google Slides
  • Group Discussion/Collaboration
    • Forum
    • Google Apps
    • Moodle Workshop
    • Zoom
  • Synchronous Communication
    • Moodle Chat
    • Google Chat
    • Zoom
  • Creation
    • Adobe Voice
    • Google Apps
    • WordPress

Step 3: Consider each tool in light of the 5 Step Ed-Tech Integration Model (Morrison, 2012). Steps include:

  • Consider – Will this tool enhance and improve instruction, and/or motivate learners? What similar applications/tools are there to consider?
  • Review/revisit the learning objectives for the course or lesson
  • Identify the content students need to learn – review, augment and/or update content with sources such as online articles, e-books, video lectures, PDF articles, etc.
  • Assess the ed-tech application/tool – Will it encourage students to apply the content and learn the material, construct knowledge, and promote critical thinking?
  • Select and implement the best application. Create concise instructions for using the tool, then allow time for learning the tool and learning course content

Step 4: Evaluate how this tool affected learning in your course. Were students more engaged? Was their work more polished as a result of the additional tool? Did you receive many questions about how to use the tool? Note any concerns or successes for future courses.

Best Practices

  • Students prefer tools that are well-designed, easy to learn, and easy to use (Storey, Phillips, Maczewski, & Wang, 2002); ensure that your tools fit this criteria.
  • Make sure your tools are accessible to a diverse student body; for more, see this quick guide.
  • Create a screencast of you using the tool; students will appreciate this level of guidance.
  • The university is responsible for providing integration, standardization, flexibility and accessibility in tool/program choices for faculty and administrators (Storey et al., 2002); if you need assistance with this, request help from us.

Examples

Reflect on the potential learning tool’s fit with the 5-step model. For this example, we will use Google Forms:

  • Consider – Will this tool enhance and improve instruction, and/or motivate learners? What similar applications/tools are there to consider?
    • This will enhance instruction because creating a structured Google Form as a group will lead students to think deeply about literary genres and their reflections in current culture.
    • There are a few similar tools available online, but Google Forms is the best choice because students are able to use it through their existing email account.
  • Review/revisit the learning objectives for the course or lesson.
    • One of the two objectives within this module is: “To identify and apply themes from a literary genre to events and themes that exist within current culture.” The group-created surveys (along with peer responses) in Google Forms will support this objective.
  • Identify the content students need to learn – review, augment and/or update content with sources such as online articles, e-books, video lectures, PDF articles, etc.
    • Students are required to read two works from the Victorian era before creating their survey. They must also read a contemporary Buzzfeed article that compares Victorian courtship to that of modern America.
  • Assess the ed-tech application/tool – Will it encourage students to apply the content and learn the material, construct knowledge, and promote critical thinking?
    • Yes, through the instructor’s assignment guide, as well as their group discussion.
  • Select and implement the best application. Create concise instructions for using the tool, then allow time for learning the tool and learning course content.
    • The instructor finds the tool acceptable and will create a screencast illustrating how to use the tool.

Resources