Digital classroom

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See also Blended learning | Flexible learning | Flipped classroom | Massive open online courses (MOOCs)‎ | Transliteracy

The digital classroom (see also flipped classroom, blended learning and smart classroom) refers to the "technology-enabled" classroom where student learning and interaction with the instructor and peers is fully supported through strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). As these terms are not well-defined, they are used inaccurately so be aware. The flipped classroom, for its part, is defined as a learning model where students receive instruction online but critique and apply their newly-acquired knowledge in the classroom with their peers. In that sense, the flipped classroom is inherently social but also efficient. Blended learning is a combination of elements of face-to-face instruction and online instruction; online instruction may be provided by using social media, online learning platforms, systems and tools; students work together under the guidance of instructors to apply their new knowledge to complex problems.

In education from K-12 and in the post-secondary years, the digital classroom has come to mean a wide range of initiatives and processes, and may include digital tools and gadgets as a part of the learning space or environment. This space may or may not include digital archives and repositories, remote access to information and communications technologies (ICTs) and access to infrastructure, improved access to education, buildings to accommodate alternative or contested perspectives, peer knowledge communities and knowledge production, and non-canonical material and experiences into formal institutions of education. The digital classroom is often thought to be a virtualization of classrooms where virtual and immersive tools are part of learning structure and the methods associated with learning. This is not necessarily the case, as it depends on the authors and educators who form their own definition of the term.

The flipped classroom is an approach where students obtain exposure to content before their classes through instructional videos and other means. In their classes, students deepen their understanding of content through active learning exercises, activities, labs, and other applications. This approach is known as 'flipped teaching', the 'inverted classroom' and 'reverse instruction'. In the flipped classroom, students experience what would have taken place in a traditional classroom (for example, a content-based lecture) in the comfort of their own homes using modern technologies to assist with self-paced learning (Lage, Platt, & Treglia, 2000).

For information about open digital classrooms that are openly-accessible, see Massive open online courses (MOOCs) or many of its offshoots such as local open online courses.

What technological tools should teachers use in the 'digital classroom'?

  • Will teachers apply new tools in their teaching? What about librarians?
  • How important is it to understand your learners before planning to use various technologies?
  • Did your online planning helped you as a teacher? Is it possible to teach learners without knowing their needs?
  • How might you teach differently next time to ensure any technologies you use are matched to your teaching, and learners?

Examples of technology tools

  • Clickers are student response systems or simply "clickers"; they can be wireless handheld devices that allow students to respond to classroom polls and quizzes, regardless of class size.
  • ePortfolios are online collections that allow you and your students to demonstrate your skills and interests to diverse audiences. Highly customizable, e-portfolios allow you to assemble your work to present to instructors, potential employers and others via login. see ePortfolio resources
  • LMS Learning Management Systems are systems that allow you to present instructional materials (text, audio, video, etc.), interact with students, facilitate peer-to-peer interaction and manage grades within a secure environment.
  • Wikis are collaborative websites which can be edited by anyone. UBC has a CWL-enabled site see 7 Things You Should Know About Wikis
  • Blogs offer a means to narrate your work online. Hundreds of webloggers at UBC are exploiting the simplicity and flexibility of their tools for a wide range of uses: instructors use them to communicate with their students, researchers track their progress and communicate with peers around the world, and project managers post updates and documents. UBC offers blogs at or you can user external sites like or
  • Wimba classroom is a web-based meeting tool that allows you to teach classes online in real-time. Features include chat, audio, video, content display, application sharing, whiteboard and polling. Wimba Classroom can be used inside and outside WebCT Vista. UBC has a site license to Wimba Classroom and support is available from OLT.
  • RSS is a family of web formats used to publish updated content such as blog entries, news headlines and podcasts in a standard format. An RSS file, called a web feed, contains a summary of content from the website or points to fulltext. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with websites in an automated way.
  • Audio/video tools and other digital collections and resources are increasingly engaging, timely and relevant ways to deliver and/or supplement course content. Just a few examples: Audio Rap Guide to Evolution:; Regulatin' Genes YouTube video:; Journal of Visualized Experiments:; DNA Replication YouTube video:
  • Podcasts are audio or video files that are made available for download and playback using a computer or a mobile device such as an Ipod. UBC example: AGRO 490 More information: 7 Things you Should Know About Podcasting
  • Simulations are programs that imitate real life phenomena, systems or environments. see Virtual Chemistry Lab; Virtual Biology Labs (Rutgers); Virtual Soils Processes Project
  • Smart boards are interactive whiteboards that use touch technology to detect input such as scrolling, right mouse-clicks or keyboard detect input. A projector is used to display a computer’s video on the whiteboard, and then acts as a large touchscreen. Smart boards often come with digital pens, which use digital ink and replace traditional whiteboard markers. Here is an interesting piece of research done at UBC regarding the use of Smart boards within the context of building design:
  • Peerwise supports the construction, display and organization of student contributed assessment questions. Students of a participating course develop multiple-choice questions with associated explanations and contribute them to PeerWise. These questions are then available to other students in the course and can be answered for revision purposes, critiqued and discussed, and rated for difficulty and quality. UBC Peerwise site
  • Electronic collections SciFinder With a single source, you can explore scientific information in journal and patent literature from around the world. Google Scholar provides a search of scholarly literature in many disciplines and sources, including theses, books, abstracts and articles.


The SECTIONS model (Bates and Poole, 2003) is based on an acronym representing the criteria that should be considered when selecting instructional technologies. It can be used by academic librarians interested in instructional design. It provides useful reflective practice questions to consider when selecting technologies or when advising faculty about their own technology selection. At the strategic and tactical levels, SECTIONS is used to facilitate decisions about information technologies. It helps to evaluate technologies within a given framework of new media. Whether this model is used or not, librarians making decisions should employ a theoretical frame to guide their selection of media or technology; otherwise, they will be tempted by the latest developments even if they are inappropriate.

SECTIONS is excerpted from Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for success by UBC faculty members Tony Bates and Gary Poole (2003):

  • S Students: what is known about students - or potential students - and appropriateness of technology for this group or range of students?
  • E Ease of use and reliability: how easy is it for teachers to use? How reliable and well tested are the tools?
  • C Costs: what is the cost structure of each tool? What is the unit cost per learner?
  • T Teaching and learning: what kinds of learning are encountered? What didactic approaches will meet these needs? What are the best technologies for supporting teaching and learning?
  • I Interactivity: what kind of interaction does this technology enable?
  • O Organizational issues: are there any organizational requirements? what barriers should be removed before tools can be used? What changes in organization need to be made?
  • N Novelty: how new is this technology?
  • S Speed: how quickly can courses be created with this technology? How quickly can materials be changed?"

Seven principles for good teaching practice

This wiki entry was originally excerpted from: by Arthur W. Chickering and Stephen C. Ehrmann And, adapted from Chickering and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, published in 1987. It aimed to answer the simple but important question: "How can students and faculty members improve undergraduate education?" The content is now archived here:

1. Good Practice Encourages Contacts Between Students and Faculty

Frequent student-faculty contact in and out of class is a most important factor in student motivation and involvement. Faculty concern helps students get through rough times and keep on working. Knowing a few faculty members well enhances students’ intellectual commitment and encourages them to think about their own values and plans. Communication technologies that increase access to faculty members, help them share useful resources, and provide for joint problem solving and shared learning can usefully augment face-to-face contact in and outside of class meetings.

2. Good Practice Develops Reciprocity and Cooperation Among Students

Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s ideas and responding to others’ improves thinking and deepens understanding.The increased opportunities for interaction with faculty noted above apply equally to communication with fellow students. Study groups, collaborative learning, group problem solving, and discussion of assignments can all be dramatically strengthened through communication tools that facilitate such activity.

3. Good Practice Uses Active Learning Techniques

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves. The range of technologies that encourage active learning is staggering. Many fall into one of three categories: tools and resources for learning by doing, time-delayed exchange, and real-time conversation. Today, all three usually can be supported with “worldware,” i.e., software (such as word processors) originally developed for other purposes but now used for instruction, too.

4. Good Practice Gives Prompt Feedback

Knowing what you know and don’t know focuses your learning. In getting started, students need help in assessing their existing knowledge and competence. Then, in classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive feedback on their performance. At various points during college, and at its end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how they might assess themselves. The ways in which new technologies can provide feedback are many — sometimes obvious, sometimes more subtle.

5. Good Practice Emphasizes Time on Task

Time plus energy equals learning. Learning to use one’s time well is critical for students and professionals alike. Allocating realistic amounts of time means effective learning for students and effective teaching for faculty. New technologies can dramatically improve time on task for students and faculty members.

6. Good Practice Communicates High Expectations

Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated. Expecting students to perform well becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. New technologies can communicate high expectations explicitly and efficiently. Significant real-life problems, conflicting perspectives, or paradoxical data sets can set powerful learning challenges that drive students to not only acquire information but sharpen their cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis, application, and evaluation.

7. Good Practice Respects Diverse Talents and Ways of Learning

Many roads lead to learning. Different students bring different talents and styles to college. Brilliant students in a seminar might be all thumbs in a lab or studio; students rich in hands-on experience may not do so well with theory. Students need opportunities to show their talents and learn in ways that work for them. Then they can be pushed to learn in new ways that do not come so easily. Technological resources can ask for different methods of learning through powerful visuals and well-organized print; through direct, vicarious, and virtual experiences; and through tasks requiring analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, with applications to real-life situations. They can encourage self-reflection and self-evaluation. They can drive collaboration and group problem solving. Technologies can help students learn in ways they find most effective and broaden their repertoires for learning. They can supply structure for students who need it and leave assignments more open-ended for students who don’t.

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