New eTools for creating online content are reshaping teaching and learning, says Les Howles, a leading expert in multimedia learning. Howles will be a major speaker at the big LERN annual conference in Orlando, Nov. 21-23, 2014.
“Most of these eTools are inexpensive or free. They’re easy to use and allow rapid development of quality eLearning materials,” says Howles, who works for the Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
eTools for online instruction are a growing genre of software applications for instructors and other professionals who want to create engaging content for blended and online courses. Many of these applications are server-based while others are downloadable apps to install on computers and mobile devices such as iPads. Gone are the days when you had to work with a programmer or techie to create engaging online learning materials.
eTools can be used to create a variety of online learning content. For example there are eTools for creating online lectures, quizzes and assessments, interactive multimedia, games and more.
One popular eTool is Voice Thread. Voice Thread allows groups of students and instructors to embed voice comments, images and text into existing online content, providing a highly interactive and collaborative multimedia alternative to text only comments used in many online courses.
“eTools offer new capabilities, making online learning much more interactive and engaging,” says Howles.
One trend we’re starting to see more of is the integration of eTools into course management systems making it part of the online classroom. “Course management system providers such as Blackboard and Desire2Learn are being pressured to better integrate third party eTools for content development as well as the learning resources produced by them,” says Howles. Where this not possible students can access custom produced eLearning content by having it hosted on an organization’s web server or on a vender’s cloud-based repository then linking to it from within the course management system.
“eTools can produce online learning activities that help learners interact with course content in new and more engaging ways to promote deeper learning,” Howles notes. Many well designed eTools incorporate best practices in instructional design through the use of templates and pre-formatted content objects. These applications often include placeholders for text, images, quiz questions, audio, video or whatever content the instructor wishes to include in the learning activity. The ability to easily embed and integrate various content elements to create engaging, media rich and interactive online learning experiences will only get better in the future, Howles predicts. He suggests that the next level of using eTools will make it easy for instructors to curate and integrate content created by others to supplement their own original material. Howles contends that there is new work to be done as we learn how to exploit the pedagogical capacities of these new tools.
Les Howles is a leader in both online education and interactive multimedia design. He is currently the Director of Distance Education Professional Development at the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. He has more than 25 years of experience as an instructor, designer and technology consultant in corporate, government, medical and academic settings. In addition to teaching blended and online courses, he leads project teams in the development of online instructional programs, multimedia applications and other professional development experiences. Les has a graduate degree in educational technology from the University of Oregon and undergraduate degrees in education and educational psychology. He has been a frequent presenter at national, local and regional conferences, as well as a guest speaker at various universities. Howles will be a major speaker at the big LERN annual conference in Orlando, Nov. 21-23, 2014.