Life by Design

The Impact of Technology on Online Education

Posted on: April 1, 2011

Today, instructors who are looking into online education may or may not be well aware of the vast array of technological tools available for the function of online courses.  The value of these tools which include:  LMS (Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard, Sakai, and Moodle), Discussion Board forums, wikis, email, blogs, video lectures, YouTube, synchronous collaboration tools, webinar and online chatting apps all help to create one of the most essential functions of online learning, and that is, to build a community of online learners.  These tools also increase learner engagement, which inspires and encourages the learner to rediscover their natural love for learning and ignite the curiosity that is still present about things unknown.

For a new online instructor, the exposure to these tools can be overwhelming and daunting and may deter the instructor from moving to an online format.  The key is to try just the essentials the first time around.  Those essentials would be:  email communication, Discussion board forums and the grade book.  With each version of the course, learn another tool that will add another dimension to your course.  But always remember, the content is what is most important.  All the enticements of the technological tools are secondary to the content and the instructor’s responsibility to build a close-knit community of learners.

We have to keep in mind that online learning opens the door to students who may have disabilities of various kinds; so again, the technological tools increase accessibility and usability of information.  Tools like, Text to Speech, Close Captioning for videos, and font and design tools that can build and simplify the appearance of websites for these students.  Building online courses that are both usable and accessible increases the success for all learners.  In their article, Cooper, Colwell & Jelfs (2007) make a compelling argument that by making elearning both useable (effective, efficient and satisfactory in a specific context of use) and accessible, which allows the learning system and environment to adjust to the needs of all learners, everyone wins.

As I move forward with course design myself, I am particularly excited about Learning Management Systems that are modeled after Social Networking sites because they are intuitive, fun and excellent at building communities.  I also think blogging, webinars, online chatting and having classroom lectures in virtual worlds such as Second Life and other SIM environments are exciting possibilities.  From what I have learned, the more you learn about technology, the more you can learn.  Challenge yourself to try something new each day, and before long the courses you design will be amazing, educational and support your students in rediscovering their natural curiosity and love for learning.

For instance, this video shows a fascinating animated look at the role of antibodies in our body.  Media like this certainly engages the learner and tells a story that no words can!

Click here to view:;jsessionid=qQe1JtsRQ+h8BltDfNlOPA**?action=2&discussion.ascdesc=ascending&discussion.listtype=threaded&resid=19623


Boettcher, J. & Conrad, R. (2010) The Online teaching Survival Guide. Josses-Bass.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231–245.

CTE Online (2010) Antibody Animation.  Extracted from:;jsessionid=qQe1JtsRQ+h8BltDfNlOPA**?action=2&discussion.ascdesc=ascending&discussion.listtype=threaded&resid=19623


11 Responses to "The Impact of Technology on Online Education"

Hi Deborah,

I really do like your blog–everytime I visit I end up feeling so tranquil. Somehow the color, design and organization of the site are very appealing and calming to me. 🙂

As I reading your post, I began to think about the true impact of technology on online learning and you know what? I’m not entirely sure we can adequately measure the impact. Technology is ever evolving, isn’t it? You mentioned “the more you learn about technology, the more you can learn.” How true that is! Because new technology tools are being rapidly introduced, our learning and use of these tools have to increase. Right now, technology’s impact on e.learning is huge. The potential is even larger, I believe.

Hi Sandra,

Thank you for your feedback about the tranquility of my site. That’s a good thing in this world where catching a breath and relaxing is becoming more and more difficult to do.

I think your statement is true, in that we can’t measure the impact of technology. I was thinking about this and have an idea. I would like to know your thoughts. We can’t really have online courses without technology and the only way we can measure effectiveness on online courses is through interactivity on the site. The use of rubrics is the best way we can measure that interactivity. So, perhaps in a somewhat indirect way we can measure the impact of technology. This would make for an interesting research study!

Thanks again for your thoughts!

I hadn’t thought about it like that…but that is correct. Good rubrics will help us determine how well the learner met the assignment’s expectations. So by extension, they can help us measure the impact of technology.

There is so much to study in the world of e.learning. Serena had said earlier this term that she is thinking of pursuing a PhD in instructional design. I would love to do that as well and study multimedia in particular. Another topic of interest for me is media literacy. But alas…I am so busy at work right now, I can hardly complete my assignments in this program! How will I ever manage a PhD program?

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you that there are so many things to keep up with. Just yesterday, I heard about VoiceThreads new M/5 video commenting tool. There are all kinds of applications for use in our online projects.

Like yourself, I am thinking of where to go from here educationally. I don’t think I’ll do a PhD as I work in University research already and really don’t want to go further with that, but maybe another degree in multimedia or new tech applications…something! Still haven’t figured it out. If you hear of something, let me know.

I already know I couldn’t take on a PhD program with my current work level.

Take care,


Hi Deborah,

I have to agree with everything that you said in your post this week. I spoke about very similar things on my blog post as well. Your statement, “I also think blogging, webinars, online chatting and having classroom lectures in virtual worlds such as Second Life and other SIM environments are exciting possibilities” reminded me of something that my students and I talked about in a class not too long ago. We were talking about virtual malls We talked about how it would be odd that if everything, including classrooms, turned into virtual reality how odd it would be. They even joked around about how if they could “virtually” hold up the store and steal the money in the cash register, would their online persona go to “virtual” jail? (OK, they are high schoolers; they thought this was hysterically funny).

Anyhow, interesting thoughts about the virtual classrooms.

Nice post!


Hi Serena,

Wow…that’s interesting about your students thinking of virtual theft and jail!! I have never taken it that far! :0)

Thanks for your comments….before I forget, here’s a new tool I heard about yesterday you might like: VoiceThread M/5 which is a new video commenting tool. I can think of all kinds of applications for online learning with this one!

Take care,


Hello Deborah,

I agree completely with you that “the technological tools increase accessibility and usability of information.” And that it is important that “With each version of the course, [an instructor should] learn another tool that will add another dimension to your course.” It seems very difficult to keep pace with the technological changes, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. I guess professional learning networks are part of the answer – hmm Do you have any advice?

Andrea Hildreth

Hi Andrea,

I agree that it is very difficult to keep up with how fast things move. I rely on my Google Reader feeds from places like Educause, Mashable, New Media Consortium and the TED talks to help me keep up. Also, listening to co-workers often gives me new things to look into….everyday there’s something new! I just try to explore one new thing each day and when I am designing something I try one new thing…for instance take a look at Voice Thread’s new M/5 video commenting. It’s really cool!




Thank you – I just added Mashable and New Media Consortium to my Google Reader. They are very valuable resources! Also, I remember getting an e-mail from Voice Thread about something new; however, I did not follow-up (I meant to explore it LATER – I think I need an 8th day of the week called “Laterday” – ha ha).


Hi Deborah,

Is not technology wonderful? We can bring together so many different people and meet the needs of so many different types of learners. This course has opened my eyes to so many wonderful ways to enhance my teaching in an online environment. Some of the tools which I feel will assist me when in an online environment includes: wikis, blogs, video streaming, podcasting, and skype.
By the way, I enjoyed the video. How else would an instructor be able to expose students to this type of information without the help of video technology? How exciting.


I agree that technology leverages our potential to relay information. I personally really like the options we have and want to help others feel more comfortable with it all.

Thanks for your response.

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