The presence of technology in the modern classroom is a reality that is here to stay. Rather than struggle, dismiss, or merely live in conflict with it, instructors and students can leverage tech tools that enhance education and unlock new possibilities for improved teaching and learning. 

Here are three “best practices” to improve learning with technology: 

  1. Leverage Adaptive Learning 

  1. Utilize Simulations 

  1. Incorporate “Small Teaching” Surveys 

Leverage Adaptive Learning 

The term “adaptive learning” has become a buzz word in higher education. Educause defines adaptive learning as, “…one technique for providing personalized learning, which aims to provide efficient, effective, and customized learning paths to engage each student” (Moskal et al., 2017). It is essentially learning that is designed specifically to address each student’s unique level. This can take many different forms but in general, it’s best to look for solutions that assess a learner’s individual knowledge base within a particular subject; then that data is used to create a customized learning path appropriately catered to each student. This creates economies of scale for both students and instructors, given that barriers to learning can often be attributed to the lack of time with, or personalization of, content. In short, meeting each student’s unique scholarship needs can occur on a much more personalized scale with adaptive learning. 

Utilize Simulations 

It is no secret that there is a movement toward teaching real-world applied skills, particularly in Business and STEM disciplines. Often, this includes course outcomes, learning objectives, and ultimately curriculum, which are tied directly to practical skills held in high demand by industry employers. Aligned seamlessly with this trend are simulations that provide unique scenarios often requiring students to take a different approach, mimicking what happens in business and technology careers.  

These complex, industry-based situations may not be easy, or even possible, to re-create in the classroom. Work-integrated learning, Cooperatives, Service-Learning, Clinicals, Internships, and other forms of applied learning are becoming the norm, and there is often a disconnect between traditional (including online) classroom curriculum and the type of learning that happens on the job. Simulations are an important and well-suited tool to help bridge this gap. Three standout benefits of simulations are: 

  • Simulations provide students with the opportunity to “experiment” or even “fail” in a safe environment 

  • Simulations are possibly the closest thing to a video game that students will experience during their formal education, resulting in familiarity and comfortability 

  • Practice makes perfect – with simulations, students can try over and over until they achieve their goal, resulting in greater time on task, and ultimately, better learning 

Incorporate “Small Teaching” Surveys  

In his best-selling book Small Teaching, James Lang inspires instructors and educators to incorporate lessons using what he calls “prediction”. He establishes that, “With prediction we move beyond the foundational act of memorization into more complex cognitive territories…predictive activities prepare your mind for learning by driving you to seek connections that will help you make an accurate prediction” (Lang, 2016, pp. 49-60).  

So, how do we utilize predictive activities in this manner? One way is use surveys with students. A brief online search will reveal many of the (often free) technology tools available for incorporating surveys into class curriculum. There are scores of different tools available for a variety of applications that can be utilized in nearly every class modality (synchronous, asynchronous, in-person, online, hyflex, etc.). Not only do these predictive surveys tend to enhance learning, but they also increase engagement, which is something that every student and instructor can benefit from. 

Final Thought 

A final, but important point worth mentioning is that when it comes to embracing technology in education, your “attitude often determines your altitude”. In other words, we tend to get the best result when we are open to new ideas and do not resist change.  

In my work with hundreds and thousands of college students and instructors from around the United States, I have observed that those who believe they can learn new a technology often have a much easier time doing so. Conversely, those who feel forced into it or believe that they cannot learn something new tend to struggle and give up more easily.  

So, if all else fails, find a friend or colleague who is tech-savvy and ask them to help teach you the basics. This will boost your confidence and get you started off in the right direction. You will likely be amazed at how willing others are to help you and how this can become an asset to your education. After all, we are in the field of education to learn, grow, and ultimately help each other succeed.