The computer technologies highlighted here have been used in the development and implementation of blended courses at University of Alberta. View our discipline-specific case studies to see these technologies in action.
This is not a comprehensive list of all the web-based and installed applications available for educational purposes. Instructors choose tools that align with the intended content delivery and active learning activities of the blended course and are subject to contextual elements, such as subject area, student profile, classroom logistics, etc.
Technology is integral to blended learning. For example, course instructors create and curate online multimedia, manage a course website (LMS or otherwise), use presentation tools in the face-to-face environment, and communicate with students at a distance. Also, students engage with online multimedia, use software applications for activities and assessments, and collaborate with peers away from the classroom. Technology should maximize learning in the face-to-face and online environments yet be inconspicuous, because too much focus on the technological tool itself can detract from the learning activities. A blended course does not need to be overloaded with technology to be effective.
The simplest video lesson is either a webcam screencast or a narrated PowerPoint slide presentation screencast. From this starting point, creativity and complexity increase with elements, such as webcam/screen capture combination, animations, digital whiteboard applications, and more. There is a direct correlation between creativity and complexity with the time and expertise required by the person creating the video lesson.
Screencast-O-Matic is a web-based screen and webcam recorder that is free, easy to use, and compatible with both PC and Mac. It captures the screen, webcam, or both, and otherwise lacks most of the features found in other screen recorders, such as Camtasia. The free version has a 15-minute recording limit and watermark in the lower left corner. Recordings can be saved as mp4 files or uploaded to YouTube. The Pro version has more recording, editing and sharing features for $15 per year. Screencast-O-Matic tutorials.
Here is an example of a video created using Screencast-O-Matic:
Camtasia® by TechSmith is a screen and webcam recorder, plus editing tool that is powerful yet relatively easy to use; however, the entry level user will require time and practice to develop proficiency. The record function captures what is happening on the computer screen, or regions of the screen, and can integrate the webcam. Screen video, cursor and microphone are imported into their own tracks, so they can be edited separately. Video footage can be split, deleted and stitched, while the original footage is saved. The audio tool enables noise removal and leveling. Other elements, such as existing videos, photos and music can be incorporated. Advanced components and effects, such as callouts, embedded hyperlinks, interactive quizzing, and green screen are possible. Videos can be exported in a variety of file formats for upload to an LMS, embedded in a PowerPoint, upload toYouTube, etc. The cost for Camtasia Studio® for PC is a one-time fee of approximately $400. Camtasia® for Mac is a one-time fee of approximately $132. Educational pricing is available. Camtasia tutorials.
Here is an example of a video created using Camtasia®:
Audacity® is an open source software application for recording and editing sounds. In the context of education, it is useful for creating audio lessons (podcasts) or the audio component of a video lessons. It is compatible for PC and Mac, is easy to use, and is rich in features such as noise reduction and tempo control. Sounds can be imported, edited and combined with other files or new recordings. Sounds can be exported in a variety of file formats. Audacity® source code was created, and is continually updated, by volunteers. The website has an online manual with tutorials. Audacity tutorials.
Yeti is a professional, reasonably priced external USB microphone. While a computer’s embedded microphone can be used for narrating screencasts, an external USB microphone can greatly improve audio quality. Yeti provides studio-quality results, requires no software, and is compatible with a PC or Mac. Different pattern settings adjust to the direction of incoming sound (i.e. directly in front, right/left, front/back, or 360 degrees). Additionally, Yeti features a mute button (to pause mid-recording) and a headphone jack (to listen to the recording in real time while it is being recorded).
YouTube is a free video sharing website. It is also a Google company, which means that anyone with a Google account has a YouTube channel.
Vimeo is a video sharing website that is not free (there is a limited free version); however, it also does not run ads with its videos. Vimeo Plus is $70/year, and Vimeo Pro is $219/year.
Learning Management System (LMS)
eClass (powered by Moodle) is University of Alberta’s LMS. An LMS is an online space for interaction between instructors and students for any course, whether distance, face-to-face, or blended. In addition to sharing multimedia (audio, video, and text-based), it is also a space for discussion forums and assignment submission. Instructors can organize the pages/tabs to be aligned with the structure of a course, in terms of time blocks (modules, weeks, etc.), assessments, and so on. eClass Knowledgebase (tutorials and articles).
Other website creation software, such as Google Sites, can be used to create a course website; however, it may lack the robustness of a LMS.
eClass Live (powered by Adobe Connect) is University of Alberta’s web conferencing application, a tool for synchronous meeting between instructors and students at a distance.
PowerPoint by Microsoft may be the go-to software for creating presentation slides; however, there are other options, such as Keynote (Mac only), Google Slides, and Prezi. Also, software to create animation-style presentations include PowToon, VideoScribe, and GoAnimate.
In-Class Teaching Tools
Applications such as Squid and Explain Everything combined with device sharing applications, such as Mirroring360 and Vysor, enable instructors to teach from every corner of the classroom. The instructor’s device becomes a small virtual whiteboard as it is wirelessly shared onto a projection screen or large digital whiteboard, such as a SMART board. For example, an instructor can demonstrate a math equation solution by handwriting with Squid on a device, while students follow along on the SMART board. Later, the Squid note can be saved as a PDF or image and shared with students on an LMS or otherwise.
- Squid (formerly Papyrus) is a free handwritten notes application for an Android device. Other similar applications are available for Apple devices. Handwriting is done with a finger, active pen, or passive stylus with the same fluency as regular paper. Notes can be exported as PDF files or images.
- Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard application for presentation by instructors, and it also functions as a screencast and collaboration tool. It costs $5 per month with educational pricing for multiple licences available.
- Mirroring360 by Splashtop® is an wireless media streaming application that mirrors any device to a computer. It costs $15 for a one-time license (per computer, unlimited devices). The website has setup instructions for various devices.
- Vysor is an application that puts the window of an Android device onto the screen of a laptop or desktop computer, making the keyboard and mouse functional. Pricing options are $2/month, $10/year, a one-time fee of $40.
Google Docs is a word processor, part of the free web-based software suite offered by Google. Users (instructors and students) can easily create and edit documents, share them with others, and work collaboratively with others in real time, including in class.
Another application that can allow aninstructor to mark up a document that will be viewed by students in class is PDF Annotator application (for purchase, PC only) or the annotating feature of Preview (included with Mac).
Here is a sample of a PDF document that has been annotated by the instructor during class time and then later uploaded to the LMS site:
Student Response Systems
Student response systems are designed to increase student engagement and interaction in a face-to-face classroom. In a typical student response system scenario, an instructor poses a question to an entire class and students respond individually and anonymously using a remote device, such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop. Common applications include:
LaTeX is a free document preparation system commonly used in math, physics, and languages with symbols. It is not a word processor, as the writer uses plain text and is not concerned with layout and formatting. CodeCogs is an interactive interface to generate LaTeX or MATHML format mathematical equations. Annual pricing is based on number of equations generated.
WebAssign is an online instructional system with assignment and assessment features aligned with textbooks from academic publishers in the STEM disciplines. Basic online access fees are charged per student per course.
Crowdmark is an online collaborative grading platform. Instructors can upload and administer assignments, which students can complete remotely. Also, graded assessments (online or paper based) can be returned to students virtually. Contact the company for pricing.