"How to" Guideline series is coordinated by Helen
Mongan-Rallis of the Education Department at the University of Minnesota
Duluth. If you have any questions, comments,
or suggestions to improve these guidelines please me at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using Computers to Assist in Teaching and Learning
Developed by Helen Rallis, based on input from UMD faculty, updated January
Ways in which faculty are using computers to assist in teaching and learning:
To replace writing on the chalkboard/white board/overhead:
- Instead of writing on the board, instructor or a student takes notes on
the computer and projects this onto the screen so the whole class can see
- Enables the students to read what has been written more easily than
- This can then be saved as a record of class (summary of class discussion
or group work) then e-mailed to the whole class or posted on the course
- Students can work in small groups and use laptop computers to take notes
on their group's discussions (replacing the use of poster paper or handwritten
overhead transparencies). When they share their group's findings with
the whole class, they copy their work to disk and bring it up to the front
of the class to project using the instructor's computer.
PowerPoint - to replace slides, pre-prepared overhead transparencies, and
- Creating own presentations for class.
- Creating own presentations for class and uploading these to course web page.
- Using presentations that come on CD with textbook.
- Having students create PowerPoint presentations to give presentations in
class and for presenting assignments
- Creating presentations but printing them out and creating overhead transparencies
of the slides (where faculty member does not have access to a computer in
the classroom or does not feel comfortable with giving PowerPoint presentation).
Course web pages:
(Either using TopClass course management system or faculty member creating
own site using PageMill or other web-authoring software).
- Having a collection of pages for each course (a course site) that includes
some or all of the following: syllabus, class schedule, assignments, links
to readings, on-line class discussion, posting of student work, on-line testing.
- Outside of class:
- Required readings (having students read specific web pages as assignments).
Especially useful: on-line journals (e.g. ISTE).
- Student research (for sites on specific topics)
- In-class use:
- Instructor integrating web sites into teaching of lesson (projecting
sites on to the screen)
- Having students use specific sites during class, either working in groups,
using their laptops, or in computer lab, with one or two students per
- Having students integrate web sites into class presentations (so that
as students present to the class, they project the web site onto the screen
and use this as part of their presentations)
Online discussion forums:
Using TopClass, Web Crossing, or Tom Bacig's board.
- Students to continue class discussions outside of class
- Outside "speakers" can join in class discussions online.
- Using folders within the discussion forum, students can "meet"
online to do group projects.
- Distance education classes can meet online.
Student created web pages:
- students creating on-line portfolios of their work
- class developed "clearinghouse" on particular tasks or topics
- as a means of students sharing their work with peers (for group assignments)
or with the instructor.
Class e-mail alias:
- For instructor to provide updates and reminders to students.
- To e-mail students copies of work developed in class (e.g. instead of writing
on the board, instructor or a student takes notes summarizing class discussion
or group work, and then this is e-mailed to the whole class).
Obstacles to/concerns about using computers as teaching and learning tools:
- Room arrangement/size makes it difficult to bring in a computer cart or
for all students to be able to see the screen.
- too light so screen can't be seen (no blinds/curtains).
- can only turn all lights on or all off. All on is too bright, and all
off is too dark (students can't see instructor, each other, and/or their
- No ethernet connections for students, so they cannot access the Internet
during class for purposes of group or individual work.
- InFocus projector controls locked in cabinet and instructor doesn't have
key; too time consuming to have to get key before every class.
- No permanent InFocus projector in class, so instructor has to check one
out each time.
- No time to pick up check-out computer carts before class (especially for
instructors with little time between classes).
- InFocus projectors on carts are not always ready to use (cables are not
attached or may be missing).
- Because of variety of InFocus projectors, instructors may not be familiar
with using all of them and thus have difficulty configuring their laptop to
work with the projector.
- Resolution of Mac Computers with most of the InFocus projectors is not very
- Takes to long to set up the equipment if instructor have to bring own laptop
and connect it. This is an issue for instructors who have back-to-back classes
in different rooms or who have to wait for another class to leave the room
before they can go in and set up for their class.
- Connection to Internet may be slow or unreliable. Instructors need to be
able to make connections to access course site, outside sites, and UMD server.
- Quality of web sites: Students are still not discerning consumers and are
not differentiating between reputable and poor sites.
- Students' over reliance on the Internet for research (many not using the
library at all).
- Students are plagiarizing work from the Internet.
Accessibility and equity issues:
- Not all students have access to the Internet off campus (and even on campus)
and are thus being disadvantaged by classes they place heavy emphasis on use
of the Internet.
- For some commuters from outside of the region in rural areas dialing UMD
or their Internet Service Provider is a long-distance call and thus becomes
- Not all students are comfortable using computers (in and out of class).
- Creating computer based materials for class is very time consuming, especially
for beginning users.
- Learning the necessary skills and keeping up-to-date is very time consuming.
- Even once an instructor has a course web site online, maintaining it is
time consuming (especially checking to see that external links are working
and monitoring online class discussions).
- over reliance or inappropriate use of computers as a teaching tool can compromise
teaching (and learning) effectiveness.
- Colleagues perceive its use as attempts to be "showy" or spoon
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