Integrating Technology Tools to More Actively Engage Students

By Dr. David E. Proudfoot, Senior Research Fellow

As an instructor of an online course, you may be thinking that you do an effective job of integrating technology. More than likely, this is an accurate reflection. Oftentimes online instructors make use of technology tools that are limited to providing them and students with the up-to-date primary source material, collecting and recording data, and providing an opportunity for demonstrating understanding via multimedia. We should not limit ourselves to these tools and should expand our knowledge in order to plan and prepare for instruction that uses technology resources that can impact learning and engagement. This blog seeks to introduce collaborative online tools and provide an overview of a commonly used model for technology integration in order to help online instructors routinely design coherent instruction which leverages technology tools.

Technology Integration

Collaborative Online Tools

With an array of video conferencing technologies available, instructors should think through and ultimately decide how they want to use video conferencing as a collaboration tool. Important questions during the planning process may be, “Which video conferencing tools are accessible to me and my students?” and/or “Would this learning activity best be conducted as a web conference or a webinar so that students can deepen their understanding of the intended learning?” Web conferencing is the use of the Internet to conduct synchronous, two-way audio and video communications between participants in two or more locations. Typically, each participant utilizes his or her own computer to connect to the web conference. Participants use Voice Over IP (VOIP) or a personal phone connection to provide audio. No special hardware is necessary to conduct a web conference. Similarly, a webinar uses participants' personal computers and the Internet to connect. However, webinars are typically one-way, though some allowances may be made for participants to ask questions. There may also be a live audience in the room with the presenter during a webinar, sometimes referred to as a hybrid conference, but the live audience is not necessary. Engagement tools such as polling or the ability to ask questions may be incorporated.

Framework for Technology Integration

As we use the SAMR model to integrate technology, it is important to note that the intended learning outcomes and the design of our learning activities or assessments may or may not change. The SAMR model refers to these changes (as a result of technology integration) as “transformations.” Disclaimer: As online instructors, we are required to adhere to the learning objectives of our courses. However, we may have some flexibility in making changes to some learning activities and/or assessments. It is important that proposed changes to learning activities and/or assessments be reviewed by appropriate personnel and approved before finalizing and publishing your syllabus for students. The SAMR model should be thought of as a spectrum rather than a ladder or staircase. On one end, technology is used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional tools (enhancements), and on the other end, technology enables experiences that were previously impossible without it (transformations). If you enjoy cooking, you could think of this difference as seasoning a traditional family recipe versus creating an entirely new, original dish.





It’s All About the Focus and Purpose of the Activity

Additional note: The SAMR model was created by Dr. Ruben Puentudura. It has become a widely accepted model in K-12 education as a means for helping students become 21st-century learners. Additional background and exemplars of the SAMR model in K-12 can be reviewed in Dr. Puentudura’s paper.


Ohio State University (2018). What are the differences between video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars, and webcasts? Health Sciences Library. Retrieved from

Rainford, J. J., Sinclair, T., & Pike, D. (2015). Widening the (out)reach: The potential use of interactive webinars to extend widening participation beyond local geographical boundaries. Widening Participation & Lifelong Learning, 17(4), 105–115. doi:10.5456/WPLL.17.4.105

Zoumenou, V. v., Sigman-Grant, M., Coleman, G., Malekian, F., Zee, J. K., Fountain, B. J., & Marsh, A. (2015). Utilizing technology for FCS education: Selecting appropriate interactive webinar software. Journal Of Family & Consumer Sciences, 107(3), 33–40.

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