About a week ago I approached my PLN on Twitter with this question: “What attributes would you say best describe good quality online educational materials?” Thanks for getting back to me! I divide the attributes I received into three categories:
- those which I consider to be inapplicable to print but only working in digital medium
- those which are media-neutral, applying to digital and print alike
- those which I think are easier to implement with digital tehnologies than print (but still work also on print)
Almost half of the attributes were of the first category, digital-only. Things like responsive design & BYOD, support for peer-editing, integration with Google, video content, and being available as an app.
This tells me that online content has several unique features determining its value. It shouldn’t be strictly compared with print materials. I’ve heard comments like “nothing can beat the feeling of a paper” or “its easier to make quick notes to a page of a book” enough times. No, online educational content has its own good qualities such as the ones mentioned above.
Only a quarter of the responses I got were media-neutral, applying to digital just as well as to print. Examples are being aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy, visually friendly, and arriving at a common goal for learners.
The final quarter of the responses were somewhere in between. Doable in print but somehow more natural or just better as digital. Personalization for topic and pace is a clear example. We can create learning paths in print materials as well, but it consumes a lot of paper & ink. Furthermore, online we can automate parts of personalization and create these paths dynamically.
Driving students to ask questions and engage in interactive tasks (rather than just consume information) is another example: perfectly doable in print but a lot easier to implement in right contexts with computers. Students can be prompted to carry out tasks at apporpriate times by the system/environment they use for accessing the online content.
Often technology changes faster than human habits. That is why this last group of attributes is very important now, on the verge of digitalization. With those we can leverage on practices familiar from using print materials, but little by little bring them to the next level. This way students and teachers can adopt digital materials in small steps, without going all-in.
Flickr image CC credits: Nic’s events