Ask yourself, “Will it help you achieve your learning objective “better, faster, safer, easier, or cheaper?”
I have had the opportunity to with thousands of online faculty and to observe hundreds of thousands of online students in the SUNY Learning Network (SLN). From that vantage point I can sense/feel the increased interest in and usage of audio and video-enhanced online instruction/communications/interaction. And at work I feel it too. Skype and elluminate meetings, workgroups, and collaborations are a regular thing now. I see a definite trend away from purely text-based interaction in the world of online teaching and learning from both faculty and students. And though that certainly does not mean that text-based communications will disappear, there is something about audio and video communications in instruction that significantly enhances the experience for faculty and students in terms of creating more engaging content presentation, and enhancing interaction, collaboration, and feedback. (My friend Phil Ice has done some research on this. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.137.2582&rep=rep1&type=pdf). In my efforts to explore what it really means to be learner-centered as an online educator in my own online instruction, I have come to the conclusion to really do that, I have to let go and let students be engaged and express that in ways that are meaningful to them and their lives. This is not as easy …or comfortable as it sounds. I would probably be characterized as one of the most learner-centered online instructor by friends and colleagues …and yet I struggle – so I know how hard it is.
I also feel that an LMS that locks down and controls access and ownership of student content is problematic and contributes to my frustration and struggle. I mean if we are asking them to generate content, then why does their access to their content go away at the end of the term? How can you call a tool a blog if they don’t own it, can’t personalize it, it is NOT public AND it (and their content) gets taken away at the end of the term – and so on… This tension I feel between the LMS and student-created content is one of the main reasons I teach mostly “outside the box” and have been presenting everywhere I can about teaching and learning in the cloud: http://prezi.com/yyzcr9_btox6/teaching-learning-in-the-cloud/
I always tell the faculty I work with NOT to get attached to “tools” as they change, get bought and killed, or just disappear… I tell them to be fearless and that there are tons of tools, so that if one goes away there are others to take its place http://www.appappeal.com/web-2-0-application-world-mosaic/ I tell them that you need to start with a learning objective, NOT the tool, and you just need criteria to evaluate tools – Does it help you achieve your learning objective “better, faster, safer, easier, or cheaper?”