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Strengths of Educational Resources White Paper

Date: 
October, 2014
Abstract: 

With an onslaught of many new technologies and new uses of technology in education to provide alternative methods for instructing students, many educators were left wondering when it is appropriate to use technology for instruction in higher education. A slew of research suggests the circumstances under which technology improves, maintains, or even hurts learning outcomes, but many of these studies compare the new method of instruction to a “traditional” method in which a lecturer talks at students during class time, holds office hours, and provides little additional support. The problem with this type of comparison is that many other non-technological interventions are available to improve upon the “traditional” method, so while the technological method might be an improvement, it is not necessarily the best method.

Now that technological resources are more commonly used at universities to provide online instruction to on-campus students, educators are asking under what circumstances it is best to use technology and when it is best to rely on peer interactions and instructors. Research on successful uses of technology, peers, and instructors in education is abundant, but direct comparisons between these use cases are uncommon. This report analyzes the successful cases from this literature and inductively determines the strengths of these educational resources. Then this report integrates this information to predict how educational resources could be best applied in courses. Though a meta-analysis would be preferable, predictions about which resource is better than another for a specific function in education (e.g., whether technology or peers are better at providing constant, instant feedback) are all that can be supported without additional research. Pressing research questions on the effective use of these educational resources are also identified.

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