Keeping Up: Pacing Teaching Methods with Technology

March 6, 2024

On December 13th, 2011, the original iteration of this blog was written and published by our former Vice President of Business Development, Kathy Miller. It centered around her reflections on technological advancements in communication and collaboration in education in the early 2010s. She included examples like 'desktop sharing software' (applications like Zoom, Teams, and Google Meet in today's world) and 'free education resources' (which we now know to be social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter).

Now, in 2024, it's clear we are in another critical moment in communication, collaboration, and education as new technologies driven by AI's explosion disrupt old methods of virtual teaching. AI chatbots like ChatGPt, Gemini, and Bing are now tools that can help supplement learning, especially in adult education. The virtual training and education landscape has exploded in popularity and is here to stay.

Technology will evolve exponentially in this digital age, where an Internet-less world is far behind us. We can’t control how much or how little this technology will aid us or transform our learning experiences. But no matter how much technological advancement we see in this lifetime, education will always require a human touch for students to feel seen, respected, and encouraged to succeed.

The following is an updated version of the original blog, with fresh takes on Kathy’s reflections to match the current times.

In 1963, Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corp., observed the rapid pace of developing technology and predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would approximately double every two years. The past decades have generally maintained this pace of technical innovation, now known as “Moore’s Law,” which yields twice the speed at half the cost.

In education and training, advancements also seem to follow Moore’s Law. In the last few years alone, we’ve witnessed great technological leaps. The global pandemic forced educators to quickly shift to a virtual classroom environment so that students could learn from the safety of their own homes. Classrooms continue to adopt this model and incorporate the latest technologies – and it’s especially convenient for continuing education and working professionals with busy schedules.

And yet, the discourse among educators rarely revolves around the actual technology. Instead, they are more concerned about online collaboration and community. What it looks like to build social interaction, mentor online, foster collaboration, build a virtual community of practice, and create a better “instructor presence” in an online classroom.

Instructors and educators are less concerned with the technology – which will be different in two years anyway, according to Moore’s Law – than with sustaining the “academic atmosphere,” the interpersonal dynamics, and the classroom camraderie. Critics of distance and the Blended Learning model point out that, by moving a portion of training online, there is a harmful reduction in the teacher-student and student-student interaction. This was a source of much discussion at the conference – how instructors can continue to support those relationships while adopting more efficient and effective technologies.

Strengthening Your Student Relationships

Here are some suggestions for strengthening instructor interactions in your blended training:

Master the technology, but stay focused on the students. Students are much more susceptible to disengaging in a virtual setting versus a real one. If you’re the deployment leader, facilitator, or MBB, you must be completely fluent in your chosen technology so that students are not distracted by it. For example, if you frequently use desktop-sharing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, take the time to learn how to navigate the screen, conduct polls, share the controls, and utilize the chat function. Familiarizing yourself beforehand helps minimize distractions and enhances the learning experience.

Find as much free stuff as possible. Figure out the best apps for collaboration and sharing and use them for creating content, asking and answering questions, and encouraging interactions. Check out free platforms like Slack, Discord, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and consider how you can incorporate them into assignments and class communication. Consider having your students do “teach backs” via YouTube to share with the class. This exercise is valuable on several levels:

  1. It forces the students to understand the material well enough to teach it.
  2. It’s easier to review than a paper.
  3. It creates content that can be repurposed and used with future groups.

Many software platforms also offer “virtual whiteboards” that everyone can access and use. Incorporate these tools during live sessions to illustrate concepts, solve problems, or gather ideas from students.

Give feedback often. Implementing online assessment tools like Google Forms allows instant grading and a good idea of where each student is in the learning process. Use these assessments to provide personalized feedback and adjust your lessons as needed.

Don’t run from the technology – embrace it. Large Language Models like ChatGPT can feel daunting and even downright terrifying. While they can serve as incredibly valuable tools for aiding instructors and students in the classroom, it's imperative to anticipate the many ways your students could utilize the software – including the bad and the ugly. Think about how you would coach a belt that doesn't fully grasp the skills they're reiterating because they took a shortcut with this technology. Establishing best practices from the start will help you clarify expectations for your belts as they move through the training and certification.

Engage the students by gamifying your lessons. Integrating gamification elements into your virtual classroom helps increase student motivation and participation. Consider platforms like Kahoot!, which help you design quizzes and challenges, or go more in-depth with simulations that can solidify a student’s knowledge of the material.

Don’t just encourage participation – expect it! Prepare students to participate in calls or collaboration sites by giving them firm expectations of what they must demonstrate. Using collaborative tools such as Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, or other learning management systems (LMS) is an easy and effective way to mandate participation. Create shared documents, spreadsheets, or presentations where both instructors and students can contribute when possible. Then, you can set up discussion forums within those LMSs to encourage students to keep the conversation going by asking questions, sharing insights, and engaging in peer-to-peer learning.

Don't Let the Technology Distract You

The soft stuff is still the hard stuff, regardless of how advanced the technology becomes. Technology innovation will continue, perhaps at the speed of Moore's Law. But we cannot let the new and shiny technological toys blind us to the basics of solid instruction. How we support students in the learning process will always be the most important input into the learning transfer function.

Regardless of the venue and technology, we will still instruct students and expect them to demonstrate their knowledge. Adult students will still want to learn from one another and feel the camaraderie of a cohort. It will be up to us to maintain the pace of innovation in teaching methods to match the pace of technological innovation.

Use Technology to Empower Your Continuous Improvement Program