As an instructor for teaching effectiveness, and a part of a learning-solutions team, a component of my position is to test usability of many distance education technologies within my institution’s environment.
Given that our team works with instructors to provide instructional technology, teaching effectiveness strategies, and online education to instructors and staff, we base technology adaptation from assessment of technology competency. My department is uniquely positioned in that students are actually faculty, and tend to have at least some level of technological competency. What is more, faculty, staff and students come very specifically to our institute for technology training needs. This is an advantage over a subject specific professor or student who does not recognize a training need, but rather views technology adaptation as a means to an end. As an example, a biology instructor or student might require the use of a wiki as part of a collective community tracking the migration route of a species. In this example, neither the instructor nor student would be focused on the wiki itself more than the community tracking of migration patterns. Typically, when a student approaches my institute, it is either by choice or recommendation to understand a technology tool just for the sake for the tool itself. That said, technology training is intentionally learner-centered, and elicits student discovery and construction of knowledge through cooperative, collaborative, supportive, and individualistic learning environments (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015).
Given a rich history of computer use and video gaming, students within the institute increasingly seek social and competitive learning environments. From this, courses are developed and/or redeployed with learning that has a social and competitive gaming components. Based on assessment, students do not wish to participate on Facebook with classmates, but expect to have a social community that is singularly dedicated to the course. We have not yet brought in any virtual worlds such as second life, but have indeed created communities of learning.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.). Charlotte, NC: Information Age.