The Efficacy of Digital Learning Content and Tools: Essential Points to Consider
Educators worldwide have leveraged digital technology in teaching and learning as it can significantly aid teachers and students. However, teachers and students must be wiser in leveraging technology, particularly in selecting digital learning content and tools. Considering the importance of digital learning content and tools in a face-to-face, online, or hybrid classroom, I elaborate on how educators evaluate these two essential parts. This issue is pivotal in the coaching program, so educators know how to adopt appropriate digital learning content and tools in their institutions and classrooms. What aspects should be considered to evaluate digital learning content and tools before implementing them in the classroom? This point addresses the ISTE Coaching Standard 3 (Collaborator), especially point 3C, how coaches partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption.
What are Digital Learning Content and Tools?
Digital Learning Resources (DLRs) refer to digital resources such as applications (apps), software, programs, or websites that engage students in learning activities and support students’ learning goals. There are three categories of DLRs: digital academic content tools, digital productivity tools, and digital communication tools. DLRs, as defined here, do not include the hardware or infrastructure needed to use the digital resources.
Digital academic content tools include software, applications (apps), programs, or websites that offer academic content resources or engage students in activities to learn academic content or skills, including, but not limited to, language and literacy content or skills. In English language learning, for example, technology development has impacted academic content, including various digital modalities (Netto-Shek, 2017). Digital productivity tools cover software, applications (apps), programs, or websites that students use to plan, document, organize, and analyze content. They do not contain academic content. Digital communication tools include software, applications (apps), programs, or websites that students use to communicate, collaborate, network, or present information. They do not contain academic content (Zehler et al., 2018).
Essential Points to Consider
The evaluation of the quality of these resources plays a significant role in designing and implementing engaging educational content. Mhouti et al. (2013) believe evaluation instruments designed for the digital learning resources are needed for three reasons. First, the design of multimedia learning materials is frequently not informed by relevant psychology and education research, so accessing various digital learning resources is easy. Second, some resource repositories use quality metrics to order search results to mitigate this search problem. The efficacy of this technique is directly dependent on the validity of the evaluation tool used to generate the quality ratings. Third, quality criteria for summative evaluations can potentially drive improvements in design practice.
Other than four aspects (academic, pedagogical, didactic, and technical quality), educators should consider other aspects when using digital content for teaching and learning (National Library of New Zealand, 2022), such as aligning information to learning needs, being selective in what digital content to use for what purpose; being honest, ethical and responsible with others information to abide by legal requirements; using individual and collaborative practices to benefit learning and considering the target audience — students, teachers, and the school community. Moreover, educational decision-makers must evaluate the time, cost, learning curve, and long-term usefulness of fully integrating technology (Screencastify, 2022; Wightman in Koç, 2014). In particular, Wightman in Koç (2014) focuses on software and hardware tools.
Therefore, some instruments for examining and evaluating digital learning content and tools have been developed. These instruments can be used before or after bringing digital learning content and tools to the classroom. To illustrate, Mhouti et al. (2013) suggest an instrument for examining and evaluating the quality of digital learning resources, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Four Dimensions of Digital Learning Resources Quality
(Mhouti et al., 2013)
Another example is from Brendan Wightman, a Cambridge trainer experienced in technology integration, suggesting that several common factors must be considered in evaluating software and hardware tools (Koç, 2014). The instruments can be seen in Figures 2 and 3 (Software logistical and hardware evaluation framework and Software pedagogical evaluation framework).
Figure 2. Software logistical and hardware evaluation framework
Figure 3. Software pedagogical evaluation framework
Moreover, some critical evaluation surveys are also developed by Schrock (2022). Her web page includes forms for teaching the process, articles for learning about the aspect of literacy, and a list of bogus sites to showcase that all things on the Web are not real.
Overall, evaluating digital learning content and tools is essential in designing more interactive and engaging materials in this digital era. Coaches and educators should consider critical aspects before and after incorporating digital learning content and tools into the classroom. This wisdom in leveraging technologies leads to developing some evaluation instruments, which will improve the quality of the teaching and learning activities.
ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Coaches. https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-coaches
Koç, S. (2014). Evaluating technology use in the classroom. https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2014/06/03/evaluating-technology-classroom/
Mhouti, A. El, Nasseh, A., & Erradi, M. (2013). How to evaluate the quality of digital learning resources ? International Journal of Computer Science Research and Application, 03(03), 27–36. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260392089_How_to_evaluate_the_quality_of_digital_learning_resources
National Library of New Zealand. (2022). Digital content — finding, evaluating, using, and creating it. How to find quality digital content. https://natlib.govt.nz/schools/digital-literacy/strategies-for-developing-digital-literacy/digital-content-finding-evaluating-using-and-creating-it
Netto-Shek, J. A. (2017). Technology-based English Language Instruction Technology-Based English Language Instruction. In M. K. Kabilan, R. M. R. A. A. Aziz, & J. A. Netto-Shek (Eds.), 21st Century Learning & English Language Education (Issue July, pp. 1–20). USM Press in collaboration with MELTA.
Schrock, K. (2022). Critical Evaluation of Pieces of Information. https://www.schrockguide.net/critical-evaluation.html
Screencastify. (2022). A Complete Guide to Implementing Tech in Schools, Classrooms. https://www.screencastify.com/blog/20-tips-for-implementing-tech-in-schools-and-classrooms
Zehler, A. M., Yilmazel-Sahin, Y., Massoud, L., Moore, S. C., Yin, C., & Kramer, K. (2018). National Study of English Learners and Digital Learning Resources. https://tech.ed.gov/files/2018/10/matrix-digital-learning-resources-supports.pdf