Learn about Digital Pedagogy

The complexity of incorporating technology into teaching and learning falls along a continuum. It is relatively easy, for example, to construct a course site on Canvas or Chalk that serves as a hub for students to access the syllabus, readings, and announcements. Such a use of technology gives students more ready access to the resources that you have developed. Another example is using a conferencing tool like WebX to enable students who cannot make it to class (or who live across the world!) to watch and participate in class synchronously. In these cases, technology is extending what you are already doing and may not change how you teach much.

But other uses of technology are more involved and require a digitally-infused pedagogy that fully takes into account how technology affects teaching. For example, in a flipped class, passive activities that are conventionally done in face-to-face meetings (such as lectures) are put online so that students can do them outside of class. Instead, time in class can be spent on active learning activities that really benefit from person-to-person contact, like discussing the material and collaborating on projects.

Designing a flipped course can be a time consuming task because it is a different way of teaching that requires different resources. Lectures have to be prepared and recorded well in advance of class. To really take advantage of the medium, they should not be just a recording of the sixty or ninety minute lecture that you might do in person. To make them most manageable and maximize student engagement, they ought to be divided into six to eight minute segments. Furthermore, new materials and exercises must be devised for all of the in-class time that has been freed up for active learning.

Of course, online-only courses rely on technology to an even more extreme degree. The entire course lives in a virtual space, where best practices are very different (and, naturally, the consensus on what "best practices" are for virtual instruction is always evolving based on the latest research). In designing the class, one must take into account from the very start the advantages, disadvantages, and peculiarities of teaching online.

Deciding where technology fits into your pedagogy and what technologies to use are contingent on a number of factors, like:

  • What you are teaching? Different subject matters may take advantage of technology in different ways.
  • What do you feel comfortable doing? Deploying an unfamiliar technology can be disastrous. If you hope to make a technology central to your class, make sure that you have thoroughly planned out its applications and tested it. Also make sure that you have scoped out your avenues for support beforehand, above all through the DTLI and ASTS.
  • How much time do you have? Putting your syllabus on Chalk or Canvas does not take much time at all. Designing a flipped or online-only course does. It can be a herculean effort and entails much more foresight, preparation, and collaboration than a traditional course (and can also provide a greater payoff).
  • What outcomes do you want the technology to enable? Think carefully about what you want to use technology to accomplish. Is it to produce certain learning outcomes in your students? Reach new learners that you couldn't otherwise? Always take a thoughtful, evidence-based approach to using technology in teaching and learning. If you are thinking about using a new tool or technique, approach it the way that you approach new material in your own field of study. Try to find research supporting its use and describing best practice for your goals, and consult with mentors and colleagues.

ASTS offers periodic workshops that help faculty explore how to promote discussion and engagement, design courses and their assignments, and give students feedback in the context of digital pedagogy. There is also an active wiki where tools, case studies, and perspectives on technology in teaching and learning are compiled.

Other useful resources are listed below.

Starter Guides for Blended Learning

Blended learning is a pedagogical model in which instruction is conducted partly online and partly face-to-face. This can reduce the hours that students need to be in the classroom, or it can offload passive activities like lectures to outside class so that there is more time in class for active learning (the "flipped classroom").

  • How to Flip a Class, a simple, step-by-step guide on designing a flipped classroom. From the Faculty Innovation Center at UT Austin
  • How do I Get Started [with Flipped Classes], a page of advice about flipped classrooms, including strategies for promoting student engagement. From the Institute For Teaching and Learning Innovation at The University of Queensland
  • Flipping the Classroom, a more in-depth account of some of the principles of the flipped classroom. From the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University
  • Flipping your Class, a series of pages that begins by contrasting the flipped approach and the lecture-based approach and goes on to discuss a range of topics, including student assessment; examples of flipped classes are included. From the University of Michigan Center for Teaching and Learning


Online Courses and MOOCs

In an online course, all interaction takes place in the virtual space. A MOOC (massive open online course) is a flavor of online course that is open to participants across the internet (unlike, say, the online courses offered at the Graham School in the curricula for certain professional certificates, which are restricted to students who have been admitted to the program).


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