Transitioning from a face-to-face classroom to online or blended teaching provides an exciting opportunity to explore new ways to engage your students through content, interaction, and assessment. Taking on the role of online teacher, you will be using technology tools to support and guide your students through the learning process. Therefore, it is good practice to set aside time on a regular basis to explore the technology tools and approaches that you determine will be most helpful in your teaching and learning.

Creating self-directed learners

Your context

Take some time to investigate professional development...

Online learning affords new opportunities to focus less on knowledge transfer and more on the transformation of students into self-directed learners working individually and socially to construct meaning. Your role is evolving, and you can decide the extent to which you want to explore and integrate new technology tools and approaches into your teaching to support this transformation.

Reviewing where you are now and where you want to be will help you formulate an approach to evaluating alternative technology tools and approaches, and how you can integrate them into your online teaching toolkit.

In the following activity, click on each individual to find out more about how different academic staff members feel about moving into the online teaching arena.

To help you to think about how different academic staff members feel about moving into the online teaching arena, you will now be presented with some thoughts from a variety of example teachers.

Technology guru

"I teach technology and love exploring new and emerging technology tools in my online teaching to provide more engaging experiences for my students. They don't always work, but I can manage this and have a back-up for when they fail."

Open to new technology tools

"I don't mind being exposed to new technology tools in my online classes as long as they have a clear purpose. Please don't make me learn something new just because it is the latest trend in educational technology!"

A foot in both camps

"I like being able to access my courses on my smartphone or tablet, but I still need to sit down at my computer to write. I will even admit to reading and reflecting in a quiet space and writing things out with pen and paper first!"


"Don't make me learn something new! It takes me long enough to put together my course content and to learn the basic settings in the LMS/VLE. I can't imagine adding on extra tools, or even providing grades online!"

Piloting new technology tools

Did you know?

Take some time to review mobile applications that are related to your teaching...

Useful links

Increasing student engagement using podcasts: http://online...

With any new technology tool (even something as simple as a blog), you should plan on implementing a pilot with one class or a small group of students. Piloting allows you to implement a new technology tool or approach on a small, controlled scale to review and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks as related to student learning. This will enable you and your students to get a feel for how a new approach would affect your teaching and student learning.

Always ask for feedback. If you think your students are way ahead of you, think again! They may be struggling with new technology tools, and may not want more 'bells and whistles'. They may just want to get their work done in the easiest way possible.

Consider asking your students if they would like to try a new technology tool in the classroom. They may have access to interesting technology tools or approaches in other classes that are working well, which can naturally lead to collaboration between you and your colleagues. Do not hesitate to ask your colleagues what they are using, and what technology tools they favour in their online teaching toolkits.

In the following activity, consider the questions about exploring technology integration, and click on the 'Hint' button for a prompt. Click 'Feedback' to view our thoughts, and 'Next' to move through the questions.
You will now be presented with some key questions to ask to help you to explore technology integration. Consider each question and the accompanying 'Hint' to guide your thoughts, then continue on to consider our thoughts.

Portfolio activity

Work through the questions on technology integration provided in the activity in...

Case study

In the following audio interview, Simon Pyke, Associate Dean in the...

In the following interview, Simon Pyke, Associate Dean in the Faculty...

Question 1 of 7:

What do you want your students to do?

Hint: Break things down into the three key areas: content, interaction, and assessment.

Our thoughts:

The key to success is thinking about what your desired outcome is for the integration of any technology tool. Think about what you want your students to do, how that supports learning and achievement, and how you are going to support their use of a new technology tool.

Question 2 of 7:

How will you measure their progress/success?

Hint: Think about how you are measuring their progress/success now.

Our thoughts:

Success should be about learning, not mastery of a new technology tool. Provide students with ample time to get used to a new tool; to test it before it is being used in an actual assessment, and to provide feedback on how they feel the technology tool affects their learning.

Question 3 of 7:

What technology tools are available within your LMS/VLE?

Hint: You may not be using all available LMS/VLE features.

Our thoughts:

Take time to explore the reporting and marking features of your LMS/VLE, as these features are often overlooked. They are the simplest components to use for building a technology-enhanced personalised learning environment. Also check to see if any social media components are available within your LMS/VLE.

Question 4 of 7:

What technology tools are available outside of the LMS/VLE?

Hint: Your institution may be piloting other technology tools or approaches.

Our thoughts:

Your institution may be piloting new technology tools, or supporting a variety of tools that you can use to integrate into your online teaching. Also check to see what technology tools your colleagues are using and how they have gone about the implementation process. Ask around to see if any pilots are being carried out, and what the results of those pilots are.

Question 5 of 7:

Where is training available for new technology tools?

Hint: You don't need to reinvent the wheel! Check for all available resources before you embark on a new endeavour.

Our thoughts:

Check with your institution for workshops, webinars, and documentation to support the technology tools you are considering. Think about joining a technology user group, or attending conferences and workshops related to online teaching and learning.

Question 6 of 7:

How will you test out the use of any new technology tools?

Hint: Get your students involved in the testing process.

Our thoughts:

Always plan to pilot any new technology initiative. Give students plenty of time to explore the new technology tool and collaborate on scenarios which outline what a successful implementation would look like. Be sure to set a policy for any new technology that you implement, and leave room for student feedback. Report on your successes and failures so that others can learn from your efforts.

Question 7 of 7:

What back-up plan do you have in place?

Hint: If something fails, what will you put in place?

Our thoughts:

Always have a back-up plan! It can only take one small project failure for students to become hesitant in embracing a new technology tool or approach in online learning. Create a contingency plan for content, learning activities, and assessments so that you can move forward with student learning in the event of a technology failure.

For every new technology tool or approach you consider, remember to take time to review your course and programme learning objectives and write out your understanding of how this new tool or approach will foster student learning and support your objectives.

Your context

Take some time to investigate professional development opportunities and training related to emerging technology tools at your institution.

Did you know?

Take some time to review mobile applications that are related to your teaching discipline, and survey your students to see which apps they use most in support of their online learning. Consider creating a separate discussion forum in your online class where students can recommend and discuss potential mobile app use within their courses and overall programmes.

You can review the top 25 mobile applications used in education on the Edudemic site at

Useful links


Duration: 30 minutes

Work through the questions on technology integration provided in in this section, applying them to your own online course.

Use the attached document to record your responses, or complete the relevant page of your Teaching Online portfolio.

Case study

In the following interview, Simon Pyke, Associate Dean in the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Adelaide, discusses the introduction of iPads in his department.

Simon Pyke
Associate Dean in the Faculty of Sciences, University of Adelaide

The decision to introduce the iPad was one which was fortuitous in many ways. We had been looking at curriculum redesign over a period of about a year or so, and the Apple iPad just happened to pop up at a very opportune time for us. Why did we go with that particular platform? I'll be honest and say that number one, it was the shiny new device of the time. But the more important reasons are they're highly portable, and we were looking particularly from the point of view of students actually using it as a replacement for paper-based textbooks. So rather than lugging around 10kg worth of paper, they could lug around 750g of a really powerful little device. It's also a highly connected device, allows students to connect both with us and also with each other very easily, and the IT infrastructure at the university was terrifically helpful in doing that. It's also a very creative device. So, at the time when we started there were a plethora of fantastic apps that the students could use, and of course the number just keeps growing at a ridiculous rate.

Also, the accessibility of the device. So we were looking particularly to try and replace paper-based textbooks with e-books, at the time. And that was a significant consideration for us because when we started off down this road, none of the textbooks that we were using were available electronically. That was September of 2010. By the time that we launched in February 2011, all of our first-year texts were available online or in e-books.

One of the things that I think is really exciting about the platform is that as we started to explore what we could do with the platform, and we were really upfront with the students. We gave the device, we gave the device to the students, let me make that clear, with no strings. So we said, 'Here's the device. Work out how to use it as best suits your particular needs.' And so they have done some incredibly creative things, and taken apps that were never designed for education and have shared with us the way that they're actually using a range of really interesting and novel ways of thinking about how they learn and how they connect both their lives and also how they connect their learning. So yes, we're playing catch-up with the students a lot. It's fun.

How has the iPad improved the learning experience is a really interesting question, and it's certainly one that we've been very aware of as we've progressed through this project, because when we started we weren't really sure whether it would make a difference to student learning. We did anticipate that it would change the student experience, but whether or not it impacted on student learning we really didn't know. One of the things that certainly has come out now over three years, is the students have adapted to the device just so readily. In fact, even our mature students who were really quite scared of the device in many cases now view it as an essential part of how they engage with us as learners.

In terms of the types of things that we're expecting from students, the beauty of the device is that it allows students to explore. So they can be sitting in a face-to-face classroom and they can explore an idea in real time. They can go in whatever direction they like. They're not bounded by what I tell them to do. So they have the opportunity to expand their own learning. They can learn at their own pace. So they're very much in control of where they go. Now, has that actually impacted upon their learning? Very difficult to say, but we certainly know they're much more engaged with their learning than they have been previously.

One of the things that the iPad has allowed on the inclusivity front is it gives every student a voice. So we use a lot of Web 2.0 tools. So we allow students the opportunity to contribute, and in an open classroom, and my classes are large, 300 plus students. So trying to get 300 voices heard inside a class is very, very hard, but if you actually use the device as a means to input feedback, so they are providing feedback to me as the teacher, every student can do that, and we can actually then look at the sum of all of their feedback, and we can actually draw out points, and we can carry on both a live conversation while we're also carrying on a virtual conversation at the same time. It's been a challenge to maintain cohesion because of the fact that students can actually go off piste very easily. And so trying to actually make sure that we keep coming back to central points and we keep reinforcing central ideas has been a really important part of me learning how they'll actually operate in that environment.

From the point of view of collaborative, the iPad is absolutely brilliant. It is designed to be a collaborative tool, and as the tool keeps evolving we keep finding new ways of allowing students to share, both in real time but also asynchronously as well, and also in a live classroom setting they can be collaborating virtually at the same time as they are having a conversation face-to-face with a different group of people. So it's certainly changed the classroom dynamic.

How has the technology transformed the educator? Well, that very much depends on the educator, I've got to say. The technology itself is just a tool. So what you do with it is very much down to the creativity and the drive of the person who is actually the teacher. So, I've been fortunate that I've had some very good people around me who've suggested what sounded like pretty whacky things when we first thought about them but we've given them a go and we've put aside the ones that don't work, and we eventually learned how to engage with our students in a different way.

Integrating the new tools into the curriculum, for me, was actually quite straightforward because I was actually in the middle of designing a new unit of study when we made the decision to adopt the iPad. So I was actually almost at the point where we were ready to launch this new course that I was writing, and so I pulled back and had the opportunity to go, 'Okay, how would I use technology in this new space?' So the very first launch of this brand-new course was technology-enabled from day one. So for me it actually was a challenge because I was playing catch-up and trying to design new activities using new technologies very much as that class was actually running on a week-by-week basis, but it was not challenging because I wasn't trying to retrofit a technology on to an existing course. I was very lucky. I was doing brand-new design.

That has been a bit more of a challenge for some of my colleagues who are layering technology on top of existing courses, and added to the fact that not every student in their class has a device. So that has meant that they're not able to do as many of the things that I have been able to do. In terms of staff adaption to this, yes, there are always staff who are more willing and more on the early adopter type of edge of the curve than those who are later on, but it hasn't been a significant problem for us in many ways, and to some extent, particularly in our very large first-year courses, we have actually had the luxury of choosing people who were receptive to using the technology. As the technology has filtered up into higher year levels and we've actually started to be able to show that there is actually impact and real change to the student experience, then some of the initial scepticism has actually, and it was not great, but that scepticism has diminished as time has gone on.