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Top 5 Articles on Technology

Compiled and annotated by Hui-Fen Chang and Tracy Coyne, members of the DLS Research and Publications Committee.

Hello and welcome to warmer weather! This quarter we focus on technology and how it can impact student engagement, boost learning, change behaviors, and create a sense of community. We hope you enjoy!

Kanzki-Veloso, E., Orellana, A., & Reeves, J. (2018). Teaching qualitative research online: Using technology to leverage student engagement. Distance Learning, 15(2), 5-13.

Using technology to teach graduate students qualitative research skills while simultaneously asking them to learn and give feedback on online applications may seem like a complicated mission but the authors of this article related how they accomplished it with good results. The learning outcomes, designed by three faculty members, included instruction in how to collect as well as analyze data using conventional and electronic means. Students used apps and established an online learning community to help them carry out their tasks.


The instructors used the ASSURE model to plan the assignment (analyze, state, select, utilize, require, evaluate). Students were required to use Google+, GoToTraining, and Blackboard, to complete the assignment. They used discussion boards to post their evaluations of the tools they were using and to share tips with fellow students. Among the apps that students reviewed were: Interviewer Assistant (create interview questions, store photos and videos); Observation 360 (compatible with iPhone and iPad, record observations, create reports); iTalk Recorder (capture and store voice recordings and easily share files); Dragon (transcribe spoken word with good accuracy, edit, and share); ATLAS.ti Mobile (enables management of large audio, video, and text files); MaxApp (tag, collect, and analyze audio, video, text, and photo files). The students initially balked at having to learn new applications on top of completing their regular assignment (i.e. understanding quantitative research) but in the end said that they valued learning about the technology and especially appreciated the online community they created.

Lewis-Pierre, LaToya, & Aziza, Khitam. (2017). Developing and implementing an interactive end-of-life education module using Raptivity and iSpring: Lessons learned. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 18(1), 9-15.

An instructor and learning designer created an interactive training module for first year nursing students using Raptivity and iSpring. The result was improved engagement in learning materials that cover the end-of-life training for these students.


The instructor and learning designer wanted to improve the delivery of end-of-life instructional materials for first-year nursing students at a four-year university. They were able to integrate a number of tools into Blackboard, their learning management system. Specifically, they embedded Raptivity, which provides game-based templates. They chose to use a 3-D museum template with two rooms and four walls. The walls contained the lesson’s text and audio narration of the script was added to accommodate different learning preferences. The instructor also used iSpring which enables the combining of several interactive tools under one application (PowerPoint slides were used along with YouTube videos and interactive quizzes). The students provided positive feedback on using this technology to learn about end-of-life subject matter and the instructor and learning designer, while admitting that a significant time investment was necessary to create such an interactive module, were pleased to offer their students a unique learning experience which resulted in improved engagement with the course content.

Dold, C. (2016). Rethinking mobile learning in light of current theories and studies. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 42(6), 679-686. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2016.08.004

This article reviews the current literature concerning the use of video as an instructional tool for mobile learning.  Rather than focusing on the technical challenges associated with videos, the author places emphasis on the pedagogical issues surrounding distance learning. Topics examined include how learning theories and our understanding of distance learners’ information seeking behaviors, preferences and motivation can offer important insight for designing effective instructional videos that facilitate learning in the mobile environment.    


 In this paper the author touches upon several key pedagogical issues concerning mobile learning and instructional videos. One such concern is learners’ proficiency with finding and using online information. Review of current studies indicates an increased number of students having access to mobile devices, but it also shows that they have a tendency to overestimate their ability and need instruction to refine their online searching skills.  So how can we as librarians reach these mobile users and offer assistance? Videos can serve some purpose, and yet the challenge is how to make videos that are relevant and engaging for learners. Learning theories and research on user preferences and motivation can shed light on developing instructional videos that promote efficient online learning.  For instance, Richard Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning emphasizes the use of multimedia in combining words and pictures in promoting deep learning, and the cognitive load theory which states that people learn better when a multimedia message is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.  In fact, findings from several research studies revealed that students learn better when instructional video is presented in segments and user-paced.  Research studies also showed that overwhelmingly college students prefer quick and easy access to information.  Knowing our learners and their preferences can inform our development of instructional videos that can result in improved engagement of our learners with the video content, and ultimately result in efficient learning.

Cunningham, P. D. (2017). Bridging the distance: Using interactive communication tools to make online education more social. Library Trends, 65(4), 589-613.

This paper offers an overview of existing literature on distance education.  Topics examined include the history of distance education and technologies, as well as the pedagogical foundations of online education, in particular, the behaviorist and the constructivist models of learning.  Cunningham discusses in great length the strengths as well as the limitations of e-learning tools like course management systems (CMSs), learning management systems (LMSs), and e-courses such as the massive open online course (MOOCs) in engaging learners and in facilitating online communication. Seeing learning as a socially constructed activity, Cunningham argues that distance students need to be able to effectively communicate in these e-learning systems in order to develop a learning community and to allow learning to take place.  She concludes the paper by stressing the importance of evaluating the quality and effectiveness of online communication in e-learning systems to help ensure student retention in distance education over time. 


This paper enhances our understanding of the historical background of distance education, the rationale for creating distance education to reach distance learners, and the availability of communication technologies in shaping the development of online learning and education. While distance education provides opportunities to reach distance learners, there still exists the concern about the efficiency of communication in the distance learning environment, particularly as learning is arguably a socially constructed activity.  While technologies like CMSs and LMSs have made online communication and social interaction possible for distance learners, there is a need for more research to assess and evaluate the efficacy of these e-learning systems for effective and efficient communication.  In addition, the author urges instructors to encourage student engagement and communication online. Only by doing so we can better ensure that distance learners can succeed in online courses and programs. This paper will serve an excellent resource for librarians who are interested and/or are new to the field of distance learning.

Cross, S., Sharples, M., Healing, G., & Ellis, J. (2019). Distance Learners’ Use of Handheld Technologies. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 20(2), 224-241.

As handheld mobile devices have been adopted by students in recent years for completing their course assignments, a question arises as to whether this change has resulted in higher quality learning and whether students feel they are more successful when using these devices for class assignments.


The authors examined survey responses from 446 distance learners in the United Kingdom with the goal of determining how students used handheld mobile technology (e.g. tablets, e-readers, smartphones), whether they could learn just as well using handheld devices as they could in a more formal learning environment, and whether they changed their study behaviors. It was found that the more places students used their handheld devices, the greater the variety of tasks were that they attempted. As a result of the increased amount of tasks attempted, students reported that they felt more successful using their handheld device for assignments than they did when using more traditional means to complete their work. The majority of students said that using a handheld device made it easier for them to access resources and 40% said they changed their study behaviors as a result of using the handheld device. However, only one-third of students said they felt their work had improved.

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