Week 5: Exploring Digital Solutions—Asynchronous Teaching and Learning Tools (Fall 2021 Webster)


In Week 4, you started to build your own personal learning network (PLN) as a tool to provide ongoing informal support and professional development. Now, we will turn our attention towards integrating appropriate digital technologies to meet our needs in a learning activity. In Week 5, we will explore a number of asynchronous digital technologies that are frequently used in teaching and learning.

Asynchronous digital technologies are ones that allow some form of teaching and learning interaction that is independent of time and location. They allow teachers and students to communicate, collaborate, and share information without a need to be available at the same time, or in the same space. This week we will look at the use of text-based applications to facilitate asynchronous content transmission, as well as interactions between students, their peers, and their teachers. We will explore the use of cloud-based applications to facilitate asynchronous collaboration for learning activities. And we will examine the use of digital video in blended and distributed learning.

In this week’s Technology Exploration activities, you will begin to explore the types of asynchronous tools that might meet your needs for your Technology Integration Activity project. You will expand on these explorations next week as we explore synchronous digital tools, and complete Assignment 3: Exploring Digital Solutions.


Week 5 is divided into three topics:

  • Topic 1: Technology Integration
    • Connecting with Text and Social Applications
    • Asynchronous Collaboration: Cloud-Based Tools
    • Broadcast Tools
  • Topic 2: Technology Exploration
  • Topic 3: Community Engagement

Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this week’s activities, you should be able to:

  • Describe how asynchronous digital text-based and video applications are used to facilitate the transmission of instructional resources in blended and distributed learning contexts.
  • Describe how asynchronous digital text-based, cloud-based, and video applications are used to facilitate engagement and collaboration in blended and distributed learning contexts.
  • Select types of asynchronous digital tools to meet instructional needs based on your own learning outcomes and context.
  • Identify potential current asynchronous digital applications to meet your instructional needs.


Anderson, T. (2009). Social networking. In S. Mishra (Ed.), STRIDE handbook 08: E-learning (pp. 96-101). New Delhi: IGNOU. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20100215072905/http://www.ignou.ac.in/institute/STRIDE_Hb8_webCD/STRIDE_Hb8_Full.pdf

BCcampus. (n.d.). What is Open Education?. BCcampus OpenEd Resources. https://open.bccampus.ca/what-is-open-education/

Cabi, E. (2018). The impact of the flipped classroom model on students’ academic achievement. International Review of Research on Open and Distributed Learning, 19 (3), 202-221. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v19i3.3482 (CC BY 4.0)

Couros, A. [The Brainwaves Video Anthology]. (2014, July 18). Alec Couros at BLC14 – Using social media in education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Tp-hOtokd34

deNoyelles, A., & Raible, J. (2017). Exploring the use of e-textbooks in higher education: a multiyear study. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/10/exploring-the-use-of-e-textbooks-in-higher-education-a-multiyear-study

Desson, C. (2018, June 11). As Google for Education tools enter classrooms across Canada, some parents opt-out. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/episode-401-1.4694935/as-google-for-education-tools-enter-classrooms-across-canada-some-parents-are-asking-to-opt-out-1.4694939

EDUCAUSE. (2012). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2012/2/eli7081-pdf.pdf

eFront. (2016, February 10). Using videos in your eLearning courses [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/AopF8T43Fno

Fisherman, E. (2016, July 5). How long should your next video be? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://wistia.com/learn/marketing/optimal-video-length

Guo, P. (2013, November 13). Optimal video length for student engagement [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://blog.edx.org/optimal-video-length-student-engagement

Khan, S. (2011). Sal Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Knewton. (2011). The flipped classroom: Turning traditional education on its head [Infographic]. Retrieved from https://elearninginfographics.com/flipped-classroom-infographic/

LAT IT Trainer. (2016, November 4). Introduction to G Suite for Education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/UFW-A-2-sM4

Matel-Okoh, D. (2017, November 9). Avoid viewer drop off: Why video length matters [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://vydia.com/avoid-viewer-drop-off-video-length-matters/

MediaCore. (2012, December 21). Flipping the classroom: Explained [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iQWvc6qhTds

Richards, G., McGreal, R., & Stewart, B. (2010). Cloud computing and adult literacy: How cloud computing can sustain the promise of adult learning . Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2149/3037 (CC BY 2.5 CA)

Rudd, J., & Rudd, J. (2014). The value of video in online instruction. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 13. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1060143.pdf

Shimabukuro, J. (2010, June 28). Live lecture better than video lecture? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://etcjournal.com/2010/06/28/4656/ (CC BY 3.0)

University of Ontario Institute of Technology. (2019). E-textbooks. Retrieved from https://guides.library.uoit.ca/etextbooks/libraryopen

Woolfitt, Z. (2015).The effective use of video in higher education. Retrieved from https://www.inholland.nl/media/10230/the-effective-use-of-video-in-higher-education-woolfitt-october2015.pdf

Topic 1: Technology Integration

Connecting with Text and Social Applications

Text for Transmission

Text is one of the earliest known tools for teaching and learning. The written word can be used to transmit knowledge and perspectives on skills and issues. But it can also be an interactive tool, allowing students to hone their skills and demonstrate their mastery of a learning objective. The media for creating written artifacts have evolved from cuneiform tablets to papyrus, slate-and-chalk, ink-and-paper, and now digital writing tools.

The transmission of knowledge remains a primary use of text-based digital tools in education. Some examples include static digital documents such as PDF files, web pages, and text-and-image based infographics. More dynamic tools for digitally transmitting text are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to traditional textbooks, such as interactive electronic books, or e-books.

The use of digital text tools increases the ease with which we can provide our students with access to resources. It also increases the range of students who can access learning opportunities through additional affordances that are not available through print media.


Review the page on Open Textbooks from BCcampus and the article on e-textbooks from deNoyelles and Raible. As you do, consider the following questions in relation to your own context:

  • Do you plan to incorporate text-based resources in the Technology Integration Activity you will design and develop throughout
    this course?
  • Do these resources highlight any benefits or strategies that you could leverage?
  • What tools could you use to leverage those benefits?
  • What challenges might you face to realize those benefits?
  • What might be some of the drawbacks of using digital text-based resources?
  • How are open textbooks different from e-textbooks?

Text and Social Platforms for Interaction

Text is also frequently used to facilitate two-way and multi-way communication and interaction. One of the text-based interaction platforms most frequently encountered in both blended and distributed learning is the discussion forum. Discussion forums allow teachers and students to engage in reciprocal conversations without being in the same time or place. They are typically also controlled environments, where participants are isolated from those who may not formally be a part of the learning group.

Social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, and others) are increasingly being used to facilitate text-based interactions, and to add multimedia elements to interactions between students, teachers, and the wider community as appropriate.


Watch in The Brainwaves Video Anthology’s (2014) Using Social Media in Education, as Alec Couros discusses how social media is being used in formal and informal teaching and learning.

Couros, A. (2014, July 18). Alec Couros at BLC14 – Using social media in education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tp-hOtokd34&feature=youtu.be

As you watch the Alec Couros video, consider the following questions as they relate to your own context and your Technology Integration Activity project:

  • In what ways have you experienced the use of social media in your teaching or learning?
  • How might you incorporate social media tools into your Technology Integration Activity?
  • What challenges might you face?

Of course, one of the biggest drawbacks to using social media in education is the potential of privacy issues that are frequently cited as a reason for steering away from using such tools. We’ll be taking a more detailed look at this elsewhere in this course, when we discuss ethical and legal aspects of technology integration.

Optional Reading: Extend Your Understanding

Read Terry Anderson’s chapter on “Social Networking” in STRIDE Handbook 08: E-Learning (2009, pp. 96–101) for a more in-depth discussion of what exactly social media are, and some of the challenges and recommendations for using them purposefully and effectively as teaching and learning tools.

Asynchronous Collaboration: Cloud-Based Tools

The modern web allows us to do far more than carry on text-based or multimedia conversations asynchronously. Cloud-based applications now allow us to share access to, and work collaboratively with others on, a wide range of interactive media.

Cloud storage simply means storing files on distributed servers that can be accessed from anywhere, by anyone who has been granted permissions on that resource. Cloud applications are much like desktop applications, except that they are also stored on and run from distributed servers, and accessed from any device with an Internet connection.

One of the most popular suites of cloud-based applications is the Google Apps suite (G Suite). Google Apps include word processors, spreadsheet applications, multimedia presentation applications, and a whole host of other productivity tools. One of the benefits of cloud applications like the Google Apps suite is that not only can they be accessed from anywhere, but they can also be accessed by multiple collaborators at the same or different times. This means that teachers and students can collaborate on he same resources whenever and wherever it is convenient to do so.


LAT IT Trainer gives us a quick overview of what G Suite for Education is, and some of the benefits of using Google cloud-based tools for collaboration in blended or distributed learning contexts.

Watch LAT IT Trainer’s (2016) Introduction to G Suite for Education.

Source: YouTube, LAT IT Trainer

As you watch the video, consider:

  • How many of the Google Apps have you used in your teaching or learning?
  • How might you integrate cloud-based storage and applications into the Technology Integration Activity that you are going to design and develop?
  • What might be the challenges you would face to integrate cloud-based storage or applications into your learning activity?

Google’s G Suite for Education is not the only player in the cloud-based collaborative applications game. Microsoft’s Office 365 suite now also integrates cloud-based application access with collaborative features, as does Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite. A number of prominent learning management systems, such as Edmodo, Schoology, Apple Education, Brightspace by D2L, and Canvas have also integrated cloud-based collaborative applications.

It should be noted that there are some ethical issues whenever new technology is introduced in the classroom.

The CBC article and podcast “As Google for Education Tools Enter Classrooms across Canada, Some Parents Are Asking to Opt-Out” (2018) highlights the concerns shared by many parents of young learners.

Optional Reading: Extend Your Understanding

How do cloud-based storage and applications impact the digital literacy skills needed by adult learners? If you have the time, and you would like to take an in-depth look at this topic, review Griff Richards, Rory McGreal, and Brian Stewart’s (2010) comprehensive report, Cloud Computing and Adult Literacy: How Cloud Computing Can Sustain the Promise of Adult Learning (CC BY 2.5 CA).

Broadcast Tools

Video production used to be time-consuming and expensive—putting it beyond the reach of most teachers as an educational technology tool (aside from using pre-made videos). That has changed. Most of us now own at least one relatively high-quality video camera,and have access to a basic production suite (most likely an app on your desktop computer, tablet, or phone). And it is easy to access media streaming and serving capabilities thanks to the availability of services such as YouTube and Vimeo. As a result, the number and variety of educational videos available has skyrocketed in recent years.

Using video to broadcast instructional content has become cost-effective, and can significantly increase learner engagement. There is a range of tools available to help you create instructional videos, from “screencasting” tools such as Screencast-O-Matic to professional quality e-learning authoring suites such as Adobe Presenter or Camtasia Studio. Different screencasting software packages allow you to edit your production to fix up both the video and audio; include titles, introductory music, and other sounds; overlay video; replace the narration (or provide a second audio stream in another language); etc. There are even applications that will help you and your students create completely animated presentations, such as PowToon.

Of course, not all instructional videos are created equal. Videos that are boring are not likely to engage the learner. Nor are videos that are too long. Recent research has revealed an inverse relationship between the length of a video and the likelihood that learners will even watch it at all! The ideal target seems to be around 5 minutes in length. Two things happen the longer you go beyond that point:

  • Increased likelihood the target viewer will not watch any of the video
  • Decreased likelihood your viewers will remember your key points

Resources: Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement

Read Philip Guo’s (2013) “Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement” to see what researchers found when analyzing the length of instructional videos and the amount of time students spent watching them in edX mathematics and computer science courses.

Ezra Fisherman’s (2016) “How Long Should Your Next Video Be?” provides some updated statistics on the relationship between video lengths and engagement levels.

Daniel Matel-Okoh’s (2017) “Avoid Viewer Drop Off: Why Video Length Matters” provides some useful guidelines on the optimal video length for various prominent platforms, including Facebook, Instragram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Pitfalls of Instructional Video

It seems that our students can learn just about anything they want to from instructional videos. But that does not necessarily mean that video can always replace access to a teacher. Aside from the potential for our students to engage with low quality or inaccurate videos, the one-way broadcast of instructional videos means that students do not get feedback to reinforce their success, or to help remediate their mistakes.

  • How would you address this concern if you were to integrate video resources into a learning activity?

Optional Resources: Extend Your Understanding

Rudd and Rudd (2014) examine “The Value of Video in Online Instruction.” A slightly older article, Shimabukuro’s (2010) “Live Lecture Better than Video Lecture?” (CC BY 3.0), compares student perceptions and performance when learning from video recordings of lectures to those of students in traditional live lecture college classes.

Tips for Using Video in Online Learning

Watch eFront’s (2016, February 10) short video for a good list of tips for using video in blended or distributed learning contexts. As you watch the video, consider:

  • How might you use video to engage learners in the Technology Integration Activity you will be planning and developing?
  • What tips or strategies will you need to consider in your context?
  • What challenges will you face in integrating video?
  • Will you be creating your own instructional videos?
  • Where might you turn for help overcoming your challenges as a teacher if you plan to integrate existing instructional videos
    or create your own?

Watch eFront’s (2016) Using Videos in Your eLearning Courses.

Source: YouTube, eFront

Optional Resources: Extend Your Understanding

Looking for some more detailed information on the range of uses of video resources in education, as well as tips on how to use video as effectively as possible? Check out Zac Woolfitt’s (2015) The Effective Use of Video in Higher Education.

You may also be interested in Zak Woolfitt’s blog, where Woolfitt often posts about new ideas in educational technology and video in particular.

Using Video to Flip the Classroom

One way to mitigate the lack of feedback when using instructional videos is to actually use videos to help you increase the amount of interaction between teachers and students. This can be done by “flipping” the classroom.

Flipped classrooms are ones where new content is presented to students outside of regular class time using instructional videos. Because students have already viewed the new content at their own pace, classroom time can be spent collaborating with teachers and peers to clear up misunderstandings and apply the concepts being explored.

Watch MediaCore’s (2012) Flipping the Classroom: Explained for a succinct overview of what a flipped classroom looks like.

MediaCore. (2012, December 21). Flipping the classroom: Explained [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/iQWvc6qhTds

As you watch the video, consider:

  • Could a “flipped” classroom approach be the right way to incorporate video resources in the Technology Integration Activity you will be designing and developing?
  • What challenges might you face? And how will you approach those challenges?

Optional Resources: Extend Your Understanding

If you have the time, and would like to learn more about the flipped classroom approach to using video in education, check out EDUCAUSE’s (2012) 7 Things You Should Know about Flipped Classrooms. Knewton Infographics provides an even more comprehensive look, in infographic format, at the benefits and considerations to keep in mind when flipping the classroom. Salman Khan, creator of the Khan Academy, has a TED Talk video worth checking out from 2011, called Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Khan, S. (2011, March). Sal Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education

For a recent perspective on what research tells us about the impacts of flipped classroom models on academic achievement, and about students’ perceptions of flipped classrooms, read Emine Cabi’s (2018) IRRODL article “The Impact of the Flipped Classroom Model on Students’ Academic Achievement” (CC BY 4.0).

Topic 2: Technology Exploration

The range of asynchronous educational technologies presented this week is by no means exhaustive. It is meant to showcase some of the types of technology already in common use in blended or distributed learning contexts. New types of asynchronous tools, and specific applications that fall under each category, are constantly evolving.

For this week’s Technology Exploration, we’ll turn our attention to exploring current applications that you might want to incorporate into the Technology Integration Activity you will be designing and developing for EDDL 5101.

Activity 1: Experimenting with Asynchronous Educational Technology Tools

You have already identified the topic for your Technology Integration Activity project. Now it’s time to start thinking about the specific types of tools that you might want to integrate.

By the end of the next week, you will be asked to prepare and post an online presentation about the technologies you plan to integrate, how you chose those technologies, how they will be used as instructional tools, and how to use those tools (technically). For now, let’s focus on determining if there are any asynchronous technologies that might meet your needs. Answer the following questions:

  • What are the learning outcomes for the topic you have chosen for your Technology Integration Activity project?
  • Which learning outcomes could you target through the integration of digital tools?
  • How could you use text-based asynchronous tools to meet your instructional needs?
  • How could you use cloud-based applications?
  • How could you use video resources?
  • Are asynchronous digital tools the right fit for your teaching and learning needs in this activity?
  • How will you use your own critical evaluation checklist to help you choose the right type of technology, and the right current application?

Choose the type of asynchronous tool that you are most likely to focus on in your Technology Integration Activity project (or that is the most critical to your needs, if you plan to include more than one type).

  • Compile a list of current tools or applications for that type of technology (i.e., Adobe Presenter or PowToon, if you plan on creating your own instructional videos).
  • Give those tools a “test run.” Try them out and record your thoughts on which tools might best meet your instructional needs, and your ability to actually leverage the tools.

Prepare a post to share your answers to the questions posed in this Technology Exploration activity. Share the list of potential applications you have compiled. Feel free to share the “fruits of your labours,” and post an example of something you have created when trying out the applications! You will be engaging with one another’s posts as part of this week’s Community Engagement activities.

Topic 3: Community Engagement

Activity 2: Discussion Questions

Your instructor will post questions in the course discussion forum related to this week’s topics. Respond to these questions, and check out (and reply to) some of the responses posted by your classmates. Feel free to use the course forum to post any thoughts or questions you may have related to this week’s readings and activities.

Activity 3: Share Your Initial Tool Choices

Share the post that you have prepared after completing this week’s Technology Exploration activity on your portfolio. Be sure to check out and comment on some of your classmates’ posts.

  • Did any of your classmates choose similar tools to yours?
  • Did their posts provide you with any ideas, or solutions to potential challenges that you might face?
  • Can you provide any tips or ideas to your classmates?

Week 5 Summary

This week, we looked at three of the most common types of asynchronous digital tools used in teaching and learning. We explored some of the uses of text-based applications for asynchronous communications, cloud-based applications for asynchronous collaborations, and video applications for broadcasting instructional resources. You took the time to carefully examine whether either of these types of technology might meet your needs as you design and prepare your Technology Integration Activity project. In the next week, we will take a look at how synchronous digital technologies are commonly used in blended and distributed learning contexts. You will also complete Assignment 3: Exploring Digital Solutions—where you will prepare and share an online presentation to demonstrate the digital tools that you have decided upon for your Technology Integration Activity.


University of Ontario Institute of Technology. (2016). Learning module: eBooks in the elementary classroom—Benefits of eBooks. Retrieved from http://guides.library.uoit.ca/c.php?g=33133&p=210168

Young, N. (Host). (2010, June 8). 401: Google for Education [Radio program]. In M. Parise (Producer), Spark. Toronto, ON: CBC. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/401-google-for-education-1.4694935

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