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Many online educators are searching for platforms that are relevant and agile. In the end, agility is maintained via flexible management.  In other words, instructors should be allowed to choose from the tools they prefer in an e-learning ecosystem so that they can configure their own e-learning environment.  Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) may enable educators to have this flexible management in the e-learning environment.

LTI is designed to allow plug-and-play integration of instructional applications within educational platforms, such as LMS.  LTI is an open specification created by IMS Global Learning Consortium.  Before the introduction of LTI, connecting custom learning applications with a learning management system (LMS) was complicated and often expensive.  To accomplish this connection, an organization’s IT department had to assign or hire a developer to integrate each application with the LMS.  This process consumed a great deal of time and had to be revisited with each update of the application or LMS.  Conversely, it is easier to get the tools and platforms to work together (i.e., interoperability) if the LMSs and applications conform to the LTI specifications with their application programming interfaces (APIs).

Currently, most LMSs allow third-party applications to integrate with the platform, but the APIs used by each LMS are different (e.g., Blackboard versus Canvas).  For example, a vendor making an application for video editing would need to develop several APIs for their application so that it could connect with the various LMSs.  By contrast, LTI creates a common API that can be employed by any LMS or application developer.  This common API allows applications to be rapidly deployed within a LMS without hiring experts to make this connection.

More than 100 universities and colleges are actively engaged with LTI, and Western Governor’s University (WGU) is a prime example.  Initially, WGU tried to integrate a variety of learning tools with their LMS, and each tool required separate development.  After standardizing to LTI integration, WGU was able to write a single program to make all of the resources interoperable with their LMS.  The creators of LTI, IMS Global, offer a variety of applications that are certified as being compliant with LTI specifications, including hundreds of tools and 18 platforms.  The applications developed for integration include any tool created to connect to a LMS: library resources, subject-specific tools, authoring tools, etc….

The learning environment becomes more dynamic when learning tools are easily integrated into campus platforms, especially LMS.  Adopting a common approach to interoperability promotes faster integration and lowers the cost.  Ultimately, the LTI approach may allow instructors to build do-it-yourself learning environments that dramatically alter the role of and relationship with IT specialists.  LTI may be the first step toward allowing teachers to create a vibrant and rich ecosystem that is relevant and agile.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2013, August). 7 things you should know about learning tools interoperability. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7099.pdf

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The pedagogical model termed “flipped classrooms” refers to a scenario where homework and lectures are reversed. Typically, students come to class to hear lectures and then go home and complete the application of that lecture (e.g., homework).  In flipped classrooms, students watch a short video before coming to class, and when students come to class, they apply the lessons taught in the short video. This approach allows instructors to use time in class to build skills and for collaboration.

Educators are adopting this model anytime students watch or listen to lectures before coming to class and then do workshops in class. In one approach, teachers may actually set up a series of videos with intermittent quizzes to test knowledge acquisition. A series of videos may help to ensure that students have a certain level of knowledge before coming to class. While potentially helpful in all classes, this approach seems to have a great deal of potential for career and technical classes (CTE).

Career and technical instructors have struggled with e-learning because CTE classes demand that students spend time in workshops and laboratories to ensure they are applying theoretical knowledge. A hybrid approach seems to work well in CTE classes. Further, the flipped classroom is a technique that may help students be efficient and teachers be more effective.

In the traditional classroom, students often focus on transcribing lectures rather than understanding what is being said. A pre-class video format allows students to view the lecture material as many times as they need in order understand the material. Students that need extra time to understand material (i.e., accessibility issues) may find this approach very helpful. In addition, teachers may be able to detect errors more efficiently in this model because more class time is spent on the application of material. Collaboration and informal learning may also be facilitated in flipped classrooms.

The flipped model does require more preparatory work for both the teacher and student. Teachers must be very organized and sequential in this approach. Students must spend time viewing and reflecting on the videos before class. However, students may get frustrated if their technology equipment is slow or incapable of loading the videos (e.g., dial-up internet).

Moving the videos used in flipped classrooms to mobile devices makes this model even more attractive. Students could access lectures anytime, anywhere and just in time for training. Business and industry may actually begin to think about adopting this model for training incumbent workers. Ultimately, this model places more responsibility on students to learn material before class and affords them the opportunity to reflect on and apply this information on their own. Flipped classrooms allow students to master material rather than just being exposed to knowledge.

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2010a, January). 7 things you should know about flipped classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7081.pdf

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The following list was primarily derived from EDUCAUSE.  They produce a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  Below, I describe the emerging technologies that began to gain prominence in 2007.

  • Digital Storytelling.  Digital storytelling combines a narrative with sound, video, graphics, or other digital content.  The stories usually incorporate an emotional section and are often interactive.  Digital storytelling creates a bridge between purely technical content and fields of study that may not view technology as a natural fit in their programs.  Digital storytelling can improve information literacy, and this application offers a promising platform for e-portfolios (EDUCAUSE, 2007a).
  • Open Journaling.  Open journaling employs an open access model in which the publishing process is streamlined through online submission, review, publication, and archiving.  This approach serves as an alternative to traditional peer-reviewed publishing techniques.  Open journaling provides an infrastructure where students can learn the basics of publishing, communication with journals, the peer review process, and tagging (EDUCAUSE, 2007b).
  • Creative Commons.  Creative Commons is actually the name of a nonprofit organization that offers an alternative to traditional copyright.  From a legal standpoint, original works automatically maintain specific rights.  Creative Commons allows authors to maintain some rights while releasing others; the intent of the company is to increase the distribution of and access to intellectual property.  The freeflow of information has the potential to greatly enhance all aspects of education (EDUCAUSE, 2007c).
  • RSS.  Subscribers of a Real Simple Syndication (RSS) protocol can access online material using an “aggregator” or “reader.” The tendency of most Internet users is to choose primary sources of information.  RSS provides consumers the ability to generate a list of those preferred sources so that updates and information are automatically sent to the subscriber (EDUCAUSE, 2007d).
  • Wikipedia.  This online source is a free encyclopedia that allows anyone to contribute to or edit entries.  Wikipedia was initially launched in 2001, and is one of the most frequented Web sites in the United States.  College students are using Wikipedia as a primary research tool, with millions of articles in a multitude of languages.  Higher education faculty question this resource’s reliability as a research tool because entries are editable and are not subject to expert review (EDUCAUSE, 2007e).
  • Twitter.  This online technology is a hybrid mix of social networking, blogging, and instant messaging from a cell phone.  Users have 140 characters or less to depict their thoughts or convey what they are doing.  Interaction between students and educators can be fostered through Twitter in areas such as metacognition or ideas about an issue (EDUCAUSE, 2007f).
  • Cyberinfrastructure.  Cyberinfrastructure merges human resources, data and technology into one, and this technology is most often used in high power computer hardware and applications.  In education, this tool encourages students and faculty to share methods, tools, and experiences to enhance learning (EDUCAUSE, 2007g).
  • Haptics.  This technology allows users to feel what is happening on the computer screen.  Haptics applications present force feedback to consumers concerning the movements and physical properties of virtual objects displayed by a computer.  This technology allows users to move beyond traditional human-computer interactions, which have primarily been limited to images, data, or words (EDUCAUSE, 2007h).
  • Data visualization.  Data visualization illustrates information visually in a new format.  It is the visual approach that helps one discover relationships and trends that could be advantageous or significant.  This application allows students to process information quickly and see patterns that otherwise they might overlook (EDUCAUSE, 2007i).
  • Skype.  Skype allows consumers to make free phone calls between computers and low-cost calls between telephones and computers by using a voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP).  This technology allows educators to maintain contact between collaborators and colleagues in different locations at a minimal cost, if any.  An additional capability of Skype is to host videoconferencing from distant locations (EDUCAUSE, 2007j).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007a, January). 7 things you should know about digital storytelling. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7021.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007b, February). 7 things you should know about open journaling. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7022.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007c, March). 7 things you should know about Creative Commons. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7023.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007d, April). 7 things you should know about RSS. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7024.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007e, June). 7 things you should know about Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7026.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007f, July). 7 things you should know about Twitter. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7027.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007g, August). 7 things you should know about Cyberinfrastructure. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7028.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007h, September). 7 things you should know about Haptics. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7029.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007i, October). 7 things you should know about Data Visualization. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7030.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007j, December). 7 things you should know about Skype. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7032.pdf

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EDUCAUSE produces a monthly publication that seeks to identify, compile, and review new technologies that show promise in education.  I describe the emerging technologies showing the most potential for education below in chronological order by year; the year 2005 through the present is covered in successive blogs.  The years do not necessarily represent the year of creation but of emergence.

  • Social Bookmarking.  Bookmarking occurs when a user saves the URL address of a Web site to a local computer.  Social bookmarking takes place when a user saves a bookmark to a public Web site and “tags” each location with keywords.  The ability to tag information resources with keywords and access these bookmarks through the Internet has the potential to alter how individuals find and store information.  Knowing where information is found may become less important than knowing how to retrieve information using a collaborative framework designed by colleagues (EDUCAUSE, 2005a).
  • Clickers.  Class size and human dynamics have traditionally restricted student engagement and feedback (e.g., a limited number of students dominate the interaction).  Clickers help to more efficiently facilitate engagement and interaction, which can be modified to any discipline and most teaching environments (e.g., small groups or partners).  A clicker is a small device that uses radio frequencies to communicate with a centralized computer in a classroom setting, such as the teacher’s or presenter’s computer (EDUCAUSE, 2005).
  • Podcasting/vodcasting.  Podcasting describes any hardware and software amalgamation that automatically allows audio files to download to an MP3 (i.e., Motion Photographic Experts Group Audio Layer 3) player.  This ability allows users to listen to or watch digital media content at their convenience.  Educators can use Podcasting as an asynchrounous learning tool that students can use anywhere, anytime.  If users add a video to a Podcast, then it becomes a Vodcast (EDUCAUSE, 2005c).
  • Wikis.  Wikis are powerful tools to promote collaboration.  The term “wikis” refers to Web pages that an individual can view and alter through Internet access and a Web browser.  This technology supports group collaboration and asychrounous communication (EDUCAUSE, 2005d).
  • Video blogging.  Similar to a blog, a video blog (vlog) employs video instead of text or audio.  Obviously, educators can use this technology to record lectures or special announcements.  In some instances, video blogs are used as an outlet for self expression or opinions (EDUCAUSE, 2005e).
  • Blogs.  A blog is simply an online journal, and viewers of a blog can respond.  The  technology is similar to e-mail.  Students usually employ blogs to complete assignments and for self expression.  Educators use blogs to support teaching and learning, promote dialogue, and express ideas or opinions (EDUCAUSE, 2005f).
  • Augmented reality.  Augmented Reality focuses on real space or objects and uses contextual data to expand students’ knowledge of that space or object.  It differs from virtual reality in that it does not generate a simulated reality (EDUCAUSE, 2005g).
  • Instant Messaging.  Instant Messaging (IM) allows for real-time communication through mobile computing devices or personal computers using the Internet.  IM now supports communication in the form of text, audio, video, images, and other attachments.  While IM has been around since the late 1990s, the functionality of IM is now ubiquitous with the advent of many new applications and mobility.  Learners using IM appear to feel connected with the faculty and peers in a way that is difficult using other multimedia.  Higher education has the opportunity to embrace this new medium of communication that requires little cost (EDUCAUSE, 2005h).
  • Collaborative Editing.  Collaborative editing allows several individuals to edit a document simultaneously.  In other words, this tool allows a user to edit a file or observe someone else editing the file in real time.  This technology is similar to instant messaging in that changes are seen instantly, and it resembles a wiki in that all participants can delete, change, or add content.  Collaborative editing provides a good platform for supporting groupwork in a distance learning environment; students can work together despite being separated by time and space (EDUCAUSE, 2005i).

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005a, May) 7 things you should know about social bookmarking. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7001.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005b, May) 7 things you should know about clickers. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7002.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005c, June) 7 things you should know about podcasting. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7003.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005d, July). 7 things you should know about wikis. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7004.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005e, August). 7 things you should know about videoblogging. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7005.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005f, September). 7 things you should know about blogs. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7006.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005g, October). 7 things you should know about augmented reality. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7007.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005h, November) 7 things you should know about instant messaging. Retrieved from  http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7008.pdf

EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2005i, December) 7 things you should know about collaborative editing. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7009.pdf

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