Online learning is growing in leaps and bounds in Canada and around the globe. According to Statistics Canada, in 2005 11% of Canadian home Internet users used the Internet for online learning. While high, this statistic is already several years old and it is certain to be much higher now. The growth in online learning has naturally led to an increased interest in the technologies that support online learning.
During the research phase of the Getting Online project, many survey and interview respondents indicated that while they were currently using technology for online learning, they would like to know more. They wanted to improve their online learning activities and stay on track with new developments in the technology field. They wanted to know about other possibilities, other technologies, and other modalities. And, they definitely wanted to know about the emerging Web 2.0 technologies and their application to learning.
Many respondents, especially those from non-profit organizations, had a sense that many new tools were available but often they did not know where to go to access clear, concise, and user-friendly information on a wide variety of online learning technologies. In response to these needs, the Getting Online project is delighted to share this informative module on “Online Learning Technology”.
“Online Learning Technology” provides an overview of some of the common technologies that can be used for online learning. It is not an exhaustive review, and we are not recommending any particular products or manufacturers. We do hope, however, that this information will provide you with some examples of what technologies are currently being used for online learning in Canada. We have also included a section called Technology in Action to show you examples of how each type of technology is currently being used. In each description, there are a number of links that you can follow to extend your knowledge. Where possible, we have also provided you with web links to live demonstrations of the technologies.
There is not a perfect or a “right” choice when it comes to online learning technologies. What is right for you and your organization will depend on a number of factors including:
- Your organizational mission and purpose
- Organizational capacity
- Content being delivered
- How that content is delivered
- Whether the learning opportunity is formal or informal
- Your knowledge and skills with technology
- Computer equipment and technology available to both you and your participants
- Skills and knowledge of your staff
In some cases, you will be able to choose the software or features you would like to use; in other cases, you may not have a choice because of budget or human resources constraints, for example. Whatever your situation, we hope that this module will provide you with some useful information to help you learn more about online learning technologies.
It is also important to remember that as important as technology is, it is just a tool used to deliver learning. Try not to get dazzled by technology as an end in itself. Use it well and build on the wonderful features and abilities offered by the various online learning technologies, but also remember that first and foremost you need to develop high quality content, offer excellent instruction and provide strong support for students.
Some of the descriptions in this module are for a specific software or application (for example, Moodle or Facebook). Others are for a type of technology (for example, audio feed or online meetings). Some of the software we have included was designed specifically for online learning (for example, Acrobat Connect or Saba Centra), while other technologies can be used for a variety of uses, including to deliver or enhance online learning (for example, YouTube or podcasts). The technologies researched and overviewed in this report are current as of December 2008.
The online learning technologies are reviewed in alphabetical order in this module. The technologies reviewed are:
In the “Online Learning Technology” module, GO researchers have tried to provide a clear overview of each of the technologies along with possible uses for online learning, but we encourage you to explore and experiment on your own. New features and functions are being added to online learning technologies every day, and it is a “brave new world” out there for those wanting to initiate, expand or explore.