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Knowledge Center: Enhanced Learning with Education Technology

Knowledge Center: Enhanced Learning with Education Technology

Educators should focus on determining how technology can enhance the productivity of schools and universities.

Whether it's a smartphone, a tablet computer, a laptop, a gaming system, or even a plain old desktop machine connected to the Internet, technology has become an indispensible part of daily life for students.

For educators, the challenge is to find ways to harness that technology in a way that improves student learning and educational productivity.

Understanding the Implications of Online Learning for Educational Productivity, a report issued earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, provides some initial guidance to educators looking for ways to use technology to improve the productivity of their institution.

Rigorous research about how online learning affects productivity is lacking, the report points out, but it does identify nine applications of online learning that may be pathways to improved productivity in schools.

  • Broadening access. Technology gives students a chance to enroll in courses that their school otherwise could not afford because of low student demand locally. This especially benefits rural schools that can't justify hiring teachers that would serve relatively few students, the report says.

  • Engaging students in active learning. Online learning enables schools to offer group and individual work in place of lectures, "enabling motivation and deeper learning," the report says.

  • Individualizing and differentiating instruction. Online courses offer flexibility to support the varied learning needs of students with different abilities, or to accommodate a student's personal needs, such as family travel, athletics, performances or other time-specific commitments.

  • Personalizing learning. Online learning enables students to use their personal interests to decide the direction of their education. "Personalized learning can tap students' innate curiosity and help them deepen their learning," the report says.

  • Maximizing student and teacher time. Online access enables schools to have students carry out some routine activities (e.g., skills practice, test preparation) independently on a computer instead of having teacher-led instruction. "Proponents of these models claim that this use of online learning allows class time to focus on activities and discussions that take greater advantage of teacher skills and real-time interaction with students," the report says.

  • Increasing the rate of learning. Online learning enables individual students to move through material at their own pace. "A focus on identifying what students already know and what they need to know, and tailoring instruction based on this information to meet student needs may make instruction more efficient," the report says.

  • Reducing salary costs. Online learning has the potential to increase the number of students served by a teacher, and teachers can spend more of their time on instruction rather than "ancillary duties of school-based teachers such as classroom management and hall and lunch duty," the report says. "Focusing teacher time on instruction is one way teachers may serve more students and ultimately reduce the number of teachers needed to maintain comparable student outcomes."

  • Reducing facility costs. Students do not necessarily need to have classrooms when taking part in online learning, so education institutions may not require as large an investment in constructing learning spaces. "By substituting classroom instruction with online instruction, the need for physical space can be reduced," the report says.

  • Realizing economies of scale. Schools may be able to leverage some of the financial investments associated with online learning by reusing digital course materials, the report says. Once an online course is developed, digital resources can be reused at a relatively low cost. Educators will need to continually change courses to make sure materials are up to date, but the costs of doing so may be minor compared with publishing revised editions of books.

Kennedy, staff writer, can be reached at [email protected].

Related Video

Watched this video from the Department of Education to learn more.

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