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Strategy and Planning

When incorporating any technology into a learning environment, it is important to be thoughtful about the technology’s purpose, its potential impacts, and what support is available. This page presents some key considerations for purposefully introducing or using any technology in your learning activities.

Instructional Strategies That Integrate Technology

Sometimes technology is used to demonstrate knowledge in a straightforward way, such as with online quizzes. Other times, it is a means of collaboration, as in online meetings, crowdsourcing, and shared cloud documents. Still other times, it is used to deliver content and build knowledge in unique and varied ways, as with recorded lectures and student-centered, or constructivist, learning opportunities such as collaborative note-taking. Of course, there are times when using and understanding technology is the learning goal; for instance, using ArcGIS software for spatial analysis in public health. When thinking about integrating technology, consider these questions:

  • What is it that you want to achieve?

  • How (with what pedagogy) do you want to achieve it?


Remember, technology should never be used just for technology’s sake, but always with a purpose.


The instructional designers (IDs) at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) can offer advice on integrating technology and teaching strategies in your courses. Your ID will start with your objectives and work backward to see what specific functional (student or teacher-centered, collaborative or independent, critical or creative, applied or theoretical, etc.) and technical needs there are, and which tools can best meet those needs. A prime example of this type of matching of learning objectives to technology tools is the Learning Asset Technology Integration Support Tool (LATIST) from George Mason University, where you can view research, explore tools in relation to Bloom's taxonomy and learning objectives, and see applications of various tools.

Below are some instructional strategies, each with an abbreviated list of examples, that might benefit from technology integration.

  • Authentic Learning

    • Gathering and/or interpreting informatics or other metrics through databases or handheld devices

    • Project planning and execution using everyday digital resources (spreadsheets, flowcharts, slideshows, proposals, etc.)

    • Video (real-time or recorded) of locations and environments not accessible to everyone

  • Building Community: Keeping Learning Social

    • Class discussion forums set up by topic or left unstructured

    • Connections with other courses, subject-matter experts, and/or the global community through synchronous and asynchronous events

    • Social media beyond the course site, with optional hashtags to contribute to or follow

  • Collaboration

    • Real-time or anytime, anywhere brainstorming or writing assignments using online tools like Microsoft OneNote (part of Microsoft Office 365)

    • Small group discussion using synchronous video conferencing (e.g., Zoom) or asynchronous tools (e.g., wikis or discussion forums for a closed group)

    • Students working together on structured projects with employed technologies, roles, and equitable responsibilities determined by available resources, time zones, environments, and/or personal circumstances

  • Communication

    • Asynchronous student-to-student, faculty-to-student, and student-to-faculty communication using the discussion forum

    • One-way faculty-to-student asynchronous communication using the class email and announcements tools

    • Polls, surveys, and other tools to capture asynchronous student feedback

    • Online meetings during synchronous regular class sessions, LiveTalks, and online office hours

  • Meaningful Feedback

    • Formative video or audio feedback (with transcripts) on an assignment draft that serves as an opening to personal communication, providing a student incentive to continue their progress or a reason to pause to seek further clarification

    • Peer assessment tools, where students’ grades are determined by an automated combined score of their classmates’ evaluations, which also allow for comments

    • Written assignments returned through the online grade book with in-line constructive critique

  • Scaffolded, Structured Learning

    • Note-taking templates and annotation tools that allow hyperlinking to online resources

    • Optional, stand-alone, recorded lectures that review key concepts or other background knowledge

    • PathFinder or other simulated activities that allow for knowledge application, reflection, and multiple attempts toward a successful demonstration of learning

  • Self-Assessment

    • Automatically graded quizzes that allow multiple attempts, and where hints are optionally given on individual questions

    • Digital portfolios with student-designed touchpoints, or milestones, that include reflections and evidence of their learning

    • Rubrics linked to assignments, to help guide the successful completion of activities

  • Student Choice and Autonomy

    • Multiple accessible formats of a recorded lecture, including video, audio, transcript, and corresponding PDF presentation

    • Online sign-up sheets for group works based on topics, meeting times, degree programs, or other personal interests

    • Polling, including upvoting, to find points of confusion and allow student-directed learning

    • Varied options for demonstrating knowledge such as developing an activity to teach others, sharing a link to a recorded presentation, or submitting an essay

  • Supporting Resources

    • Digital databases and e-Reserves

    • Linked websites, electronic journals, recordings

    • Search tools specific to a discipline

  • Visualization

    • 3D imaging and virtual reality bring enhanced perspectives and further comprehension of an object or place

    • Online maps, such as Google Earth, can be augmented with data and other media

    • Tools that will convert and synchronize data displays, such as Microsoft tables and charts


In addition, technology can be used to transform in-person activities for the online classroom. One example is the moderated debate or small group discussion, which used to be possible only in person, but now, thanks to Zoom and other video-conferencing software, can happen online in real-time using features such as breakout rooms. Another example is an exercise in a physical lab, which can, with the proper support and planning, be transformed into a virtual simulation or a collaborative exercise with hybrid components.

Planning for Technology Integration

Learning can be enhanced by technology when its integration is planned for and the system, device, or tool is used as part of an instructional strategy. The technology’s introduction in a course, provided there is a basic understanding of the technology, should blend into the background unless learning or applying the technology is one of the curriculum’s goals. It is fine to plan an activity that will entail a small learning curve to introduce technology, but faculty and student efforts should be valued and ultimately go toward the learning objectives and educational goals. Stay away from the tempting distractions of bells and whistles! And there should be resources or other technical support readily available to help students overcome any technology learning curve. Always remember that students’ energy should go toward learning the course materials, not the technologies.


So how does this happen? How does the technology blend into the background, yet still support the instructional goals? You can begin by following these steps:

  • Familiarize yourself with available technologies. There is not necessarily one specific tool that is always the best option for a particular instructional strategy or goal. When considering tools that might benefit a course or individual activity, a good starting point is to learn what is available. An introduction to several tools that are readily available to your students can be found on the Technology for Teaching at the Bloomberg School of Public Health page. When you examine any technology, keep the following in mind:

    • For any on-campus technology, is it available only in specific classrooms? If so, you will need to work with the course management specialist in the Operations Office for room scheduling and/or use the Computer Lab Scheduling Request Form.

    • Is the system or tool accessible to everyone? All software and apps provided to Bloomberg School faculty and students meet digital accessibility standards. Beyond that, you still need to examine potential restrictions due to residency/country, software policies (for instance, can the software be loaded on school-owned devices?), licensing costs, and other potential barriers.

    • Will using the tool maintain student privacy? See the University’s Policy on Family Educational Rights And Privacy (FERPA) and consider, beyond FERPA, the potential impact of requesting students leave behind another digital footprint. Faculty are strongly encouraged to avoid using tools that require a student login, beyond those sanctioned by the University and School.

    • What are the end-user requirements and terms of service? Are the end-user requirements feasible for all students in the course? A program that must be installed on a computer, for instance, may not work as well as an application that can work inside a web browser. Consider avoiding tools without mobile options, or emphasize the requirements in the course syllabus which should be read and agreed to before the course begins.

    • Is the technology intuitive or will it entail a learning curve for most individuals? Make sure you are comfortable with the technology and consider searching for reviews and even side-by-side comparisons with similar technologies.

    • What support, or help, systems are in place? For on-campus technologies, will the School’s multimedia or other instructional technologies staff provide training and/or assistance? For online technologies, are you prepared to help students, or are you satisfied with the user guides and/or help forms and contacts for support? Faculty teams can create guides and share these with students, but it is always better to point students directly to existing guides on a company’s website, which are, theoretically, updated regularly, user-friendly, and searchable. See the Technology Support at the Bloomberg School of Public Health page for University-sanctioned hardware (e.g., classroom podium computers) and software applications.

  • If you have selected one or more technologies for an activity, include an introduction to the chosen technologies before their application in your course’s design. In your introduction, consider sharing relevant resources (e.g., help guides), sample activities, and examples of finished products. Consider building an FAQ relevant to the technologies and/or final products (for instance, on how to get a shareable web link for a resource built in an online app). You could even set up a discussion forum for students to ask and answer each other’s questions about the technology.

  • If students are selecting their own technologies, guide them by explaining what the purpose, end goal, and/or product should be. It is important that you communicate to your students what it is they should be doing with the technology. As faculty, you do not necessarily need to approve a student-selected technology, but you should provide some direction to make sure students’ time is spent wisely. For instance, if you are asking that student groups create a lesson that can be shared with their class, make sure to specify if it should be one that can be delivered online as well as in person.

  • Communicate your expectations as part of the instructions for any activity using the technology. If there is an end product, is file size or file type important? Will students be asked to edit or modify the demonstration of learning? (Not all tools allow the same level of editing, especially if they are free.) Will students be asked to share a link with faculty and/or the class instead of uploading a file? Will you require students to make a final product digitally accessible (especially important if they are sharing it with the class)?

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