One of the most obvious trends on university campuses in
recent years is the increased use of technology to support
instruction and learning. Integration of technology into teaching
and learning, however, remains the single most important information
technology challenge confronting universities around the globe.
Simply attaching technology to existing classroom instruction
or converting instruction to use technology may yield some
benefits; however, it does not necessarily enhance learning.
For instance, posting a syllabus or lecture notes on the Web
may allow students to access the material in a more convenient
manner, but the Internet is used only as a medium of delivery.
Instructors need to redesign instructional content to take
advantage of the possibilities that technology offers. In
other words, teachers should incorporate technology that can
add value to the traditional classroom activities. To provide
value added technology-delivered instruction, instructors
might want to consider the following suggestions that use
technology as a supplement to classroom activities:
- Using computer simulations.
- Connecting students from different universities in order
to exchange information on group projects.
- Using videoconferencing to connect people from the private
or public sectors to interact with students in the classroom.
Technology can be used as a supplement or replacement to
a traditional lecture course. This article will focus on the
discussion of implementing technology as a supplement, using
seven principles for good practice in undergraduate instruction.
Lessons learnt about the use of technologies will also be
Implementing technology as a supplement
Any given instructional strategy can be supported by various
technologies and vice versa. However, some technologies are
better than others and add more value to the instructional
strategy. Chickering & Gamson (1991) specified seven principles
for good practice in undergraduate instruction that have been
widely implemented in higher education and are now considered
best practices in and out of classrooms. Using these seven
principles as guidelines, the following are some of the technologies
I use in classrooms:
- Good practice encourages student-faculty contact.
It is important for instructors and students to have frequent
interaction. This not only allows the instructors to know
where the students are, but also enables the teachers to
help the students when difficulties arise. As a result,
students become motivated and involved in the coursework,
knowing that the instructors care about their progress.
Instructors usually have office hours during the week. Email
can be used as a means to provide student-faculty contact
outside these hours even if the instructors are not physically
in their offices. I use email to facilitate questions from
students in large classes or those who don’t have
an opportunity to ask questions after class (e.g. students
who need to leave quickly). In addition to email, listserv,
chat room and videoconferencing are also effective technologies
that can be used to encourage student-faculty contact.
- Good practice encourages cooperation among students.
Learning is enhanced when students
work cooperatively. Email again can be an effective tool
to generate communication among classmates when they are
not physically together. I also use threaded discussion
forums via Web Course Tools (WebCT1)
to generate discussion topics and have students post their
responses when they wish within a deadline. Chat rooms allow
students to interact in real time when they need to discuss
a certain aspect of their courses. Videoconferencing permits
students to interact in real time when discussing a project.
- Good practice encourages active learning.
Students learn more when they are actively engaged in learning.
Using computer simulations in or out of class engages students
in a deeper exploration of the concepts and allows them
to acquire a better understanding. I provide Java applets
simulations on the Internet for students. I also require
students to search for information on the Internet that
is not available in the local library, thus forcing them
to become actively involved in making choices and judgments
about what they require for their projects.
- Good practice gives prompt feedback.
Frequent feedback on small units avoids misunderstandings
that could be addressed prior to feedback on larger units.
Email allows person-to-person feedback, while listserv allows
me to provide feedback to a group of students as well as
comment on projects and other group activities. Instructors
can put tutorial questions on computer programs that provide
immediate feedback to students based on their responses
to the questions.
- Good practice emphasises time on task.
Good time management skills are crucial for both students
and professionals. Technology can maximise time spent on
studying by making the process more efficient. For example,
students can learn some aspects of the course at home or
work, and they can ask instructor questions or communicate
with classmates without commuting to and from campus. This
allows learners to fit more study time into their busy schedules.
- Good practice communicates high expectations.
When instructors communicate their high expectations to
the students clearly, students will try harder and learn
more. Listserv gives me the opportunity to communicate my
expectations to students on assignments, projects and exams
clearly. Publishing students’ work on the Internet
stimulates interest in working harder on a project because
the students know that the finished project will be available
for others to examine.
- Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of
Each student is an individual who possesses different talents
and styles of learning. Learning is enhanced when instructors
take this into consideration when implementing teaching
strategies. Existing multimedia resources (e.g. graphics,
audio, animation and video) can be used to support different
methods of learning. Students can choose to learn in the
ways they find most effective.
Lessons learned on the use of technology
When the use of technology is based on the seven principles
for good practice in undergraduate instruction, it helps enhance
students’ learning. However, it is important to ensure
that the technologies are implemented effectively to provide
the desired results. Some of the lessons I have learned on
implementing technologies include the following:
- Let students know how often email will be accessed. I
provide fast feedback to students, and promise a fuller
response later if required.
- Personalise email communications by using students’
- Inform students that having computer access to email
and the Internet is important in the course.
- Ensure that all students have some way to access the
Internet and address any issues that might arise (e.g. hardware
differences and software problems).
The following are feedback from some students on aspects
of my approach that stood out as being most influential to
- “Answers questions promptly and was very accessible
as far as e-mailing questions.”
- “She was easily approachable and responded promptly
- “Postings on the Net. Prompt in responding to questions
- “She tried to encourage discussions online and
answered emails promptly.”
- “She responded quickly and readily to all online
When technology is appropriately used in instructional environments,
it will have a strong, positive influence on students’
learning. Technology offers instructors excellent tools that
can benefit students. However, not every use of technology
helps enhance student learning. Instructors need to examine
the use of technology as a supplement to their teaching strategies
to ensure that it actually adds value to the course. By using
the seven principles of good practice as a guideline to implementing
technology in the classroom, teachers can be confident that
they are creating a good learning environment for their students.
Chickering, A.W. & Gamson, Z.F. (Ed.). (1991). ‘Applying
the Seven Principles for Practice in Undergraduate Education’. New Directions for Teaching and Learning. Vol. 47.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
1 WebCT is a multi-featured online
course development and presentation server available to faculty
at the University of Victoria at no charge.