Six Models for Teaching and Learning with Interactive Technology04 Oct

Interactive technology can: (1) deepen student learning in a course, (2) increase the use of residential classrooms, and (3) expand the reach and enrollment of a seminary. Schools with little interest in distance programs can reap important benefits from the use of interactive technology like wikis and blogs when used in any course. Research shows that interactive technology, when used to support learning outcomes is increasing student learning.

  1. Course Assignment – use an interactive tool for an assignment in a residential course.
    A residential course can integrate interactive technology (web-based discussions, blog, wiki, document sharing) to engage students in creating, demonstrating, and collaborating together. Course assignments can bridge between the classroom and ministry settings with the immediacy necessary to enhance the transfer of learning. Mobile devices that capture real events as they happen (iPhone and Flip video cam) can provide valuable illustrations for class discussion and “case” analysis. Assignments that integrate interactive technology draw students into a course and increase motivation to learn, critical factors in student learning. See Harnessing the Benefits of Interactive Technology for illustrations.

    Considerations – Choose the technology that bests support the learning goals. Use a common interactive tool such as a wiki and repeat the assignment several times before determining if it has been effective. Students may need tutoring on using the technology for a course assignment.

  2. Course Hours – replace a weekly class hour with an online component for each week of a semester. The equivalent of a class period each week of the course would be moved online stimulating interactive learning without the physical classroom. This option is especially valuable if a school has a large population of commuter students. This format is becoming widely used in higher education to expand the number of courses one classroom can support. New programs or added sections of popular courses can be added when classroom sessions are moved online. This blended design capitalizes on the best learning from both online interaction and face-to-face.

    Considerations – Collaborative projects that allow students to engage the class material more in depth are an effective way to use the online component. Usually introduce this new design after a week of class and be prepared to coach students new to this format.

  3. Multiple Site Web Connection – offer courses simultaneously at multiple sites through both face-to-face and web conferencing system. Full feature web conference systems allow students who cannot experience a class session in person to be online listening and seeing the professor (or class) through their computer. It can be beneficial for a professor to rotate between sites providing all students with the experience of face-to-face. Small inexpensive webcams (usually built into laptops) allow students to see the class and professor, and to participate in discussion based on how the professor sets the controls. Commuter students who travel several hours to a class find this option very important to keep them enrolled. Web conference systems function over the internet and can be initiated and accessed from any location. These systems have multiple uses beyond the classroom such as meetings, project collaboration, or faculty search interviews.

    Considerations – Important features include the required internet connection, connection reliability during long sessions, recording and playback, technical support requirements, and payment options (such as month to month or annual).

  4. Multiple Site Live Video– stream real time video between designated classrooms usually linking two locations. Video classrooms often require significant special hardware and extensive high speed connection for each location. Technical support and an class facilitator at each location is very critical. Quality technology that faculty will use and students find meets their expectations are essential. Cuttings costs with lower quality cameras and mics resulted in a video conference system that went completely unused at one seminary.

    Considerations – These systems have become more portable and costs have declined, yet this remains a learning design with significant investment and limited flexibility.

  5. Laboratory Program – create a laboratory-style curriculum where students learn while fully immersed for a sustained period in another context (urban, very remote rural or cross-cultural). For one seminary, a two year MA begins with students living in overseas locations with mentors for the first year. Residential faculty guide students’ learning through online collaborative assignments and web-based communication tools. Students study cultural anthropology and cross-cultural communication while living in another country, fostering authentic experiences that are immediately connected with textbook theory. Students complete their final academic year on campus.

    Considerations – Determine the laboratory locations before choosing the technology. Determine the most reliable technology likely available in each location by the time the program begins. Cell phone reception can be more advanced globally than internet; mobile devices are becoming the technology of choice for many around the world.

  6. Distance Program – full distance learning program where all students live away from campus. These programs are best designed to reach a new student audience and can increase a school’s enrollment and impact significantly. A growing number of young adults prefer not to be a full time student again. They want to learn while remaining in their ministry. Older adults looking to fulfill their ministry calling are limited to a seminary they can access from a distance. Distance learning programs offer these adults the flexible option they need for gaining a theological education. Concerns regarding the quality of learning based on earlier generations of technology have disappeared as experience and research have documented strong student learning with appropriate course design. Significant transformational learning in students is identified in programs with a cohesive and holistic design that incorporates interactive technology.

    Consideration – Distance learning programs make valuable contributions to an institution and are important strategies for schools that desire to reach a broader audience. Technology costs have decreased substantially and new learning applications allow groups to share many costs. Read more about the benefits of distance learning.

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Quote by Evangelical Seminary Dean

“If Meri MacLeod speaks on distance learning, listen. Her mastery of the topic is matched by her enthusiasm. When we were contemplating online education, Meri was the first person I contacted and brought to campus. And now we’re moving ahead. I heartily recommend Meri to any school wishing to move into digital education.”

John V. Tornfelt, VPAA, Dean of the Faculty
Evangelical Seminary
Myerstown, PA

North Park Theological Seminary

“Dr. MacLeod is first an informed and able educator and designer of learning experiences. This is significant. It means that she comes from the perspective that technology supports, it doesn’t drive education.”

Thumbnail-Theo Ed Matters (1)

Linda Cannell
Academic Dean (retired)
North Park Theological Seminary