Tools for Online Learning
Online learning tools are any programmes or applications which can be accessed via the internet to assist in teaching and learning.
There are a number of types of application which can be used to enhance learning or give access to information. Below are some of the most popular ones, but the list is endless:
- Search engines – an application such as Google or Bing which will enable learners to search the internet for information.
- Video sharing – an application such as YouTube or Vimeo where videos can be uploaded and accessed freely.
- Presentation graphics – an application such as PowerPoint (installed on university computers) or Prezzi (online) which can be used to produce presentation slides to support oral presentations.
- Public social networking sites – applications such as Facebook or Twitter which allow messaging or news items to be posted to enable people to keep up with project progress.
- Business social networking sites – applications such as LinkedIn which enable your CV and profile to be uploaded to enable business engagement and networking.
- Cloud-based storage – sites such as Google Docs and OneDrive which allow documents to be uploaded and shared.
- Blogging/vlogging – sites such as Blogger and WordPress which enable journals and articles to be written and shared publicly; a vlog is a video blogging site.
- Collaboration tools – applications such as Slack which enable group work, planning, sharing of information and task allocation.
- Word-processing – an application such as Word (installed on university PCs), Word online or Google Docs which can be used to write reports and assignments.
- Databases – an application such as Access (installed on university PCs) allow data to be stored, sorted and catalogued for future use. Specialist databases used on university PCs or online can be used for specific purposes, e.g. Endnote (PC and online versions) to store bibliographic references.
- Video-conferencing – tools such as Skype which can be used to hold meetings face-to-face via computer or mobile phone.
- Wikis – sites such as Wikipedia which are collaborative encyclopaedias.
- Messaging apps – apps such as WhatsApp which can be used to message friends. Instagram is used for sharing images.
- Note-taking – applications such as OneNote or Evernote which can be used in lectures to take notes, which can be organised and include links to online materials.
- Spreadsheets – applications such as Excel which can be used to analyse numeric data and present it in graphical form.
- Online noticeboards – apps such as Padlet and Pinterest which can be used to post messages and images to gather ideas.
- Learning Management System (LMS) – e.g. Blackboard, a repository for student related materials such as course materials, reading lists, assignments.
Best Practice Tips
- Consider your learners: how tech-savvy are they? Most will be able to use a word-processor and email, but may need teaching how to use new apps.
- Are there any common apps which are encouraged by the university (these will be on the app hub when you log in)?
- What is the task? If the task is new, then learning to use new technology may be too much at the same time. Consider using new technology to assess rather than teach when introducing a new technology.
- If the application is necessary, e.g. Word, Endnote, build the teaching and the use of this into teaching sessions and assessment.
- Consider the audience: for example, a one-to-one or one-to-many audience could require a journal/blog shared between the learner and tutor, essentially private or shared; many–to–many could include a wiki to which many people can contribute and share ideas.
- Focus on the learning outcomes and not the technology. If learners are struggling then allow them to use something simpler, i.e. instead of Prezi, allow the use of PowerPoint with which most learners will be familiar.
A comprehensive list of learning tools can be found here.