Top Three Questions to Ask before Choosing EdTech Tools for the College Classroom

Before investing in innovative tech, here’s what you should know to see increased benefits for professors and students.

GUEST COLUMN | by Holly Owens

At the start of the Covid pandemic, I saw many college professors rushing to use a variety of edtech tools when making the major transition to a fully virtual learning environment. Yet, due to this unprecedented global crisis, time was of the essence and in-depth training for these tools was scarce, making it hard to determine exactly which tech option would prove most beneficial for professors and students alike.

When evaluating an edtech tool, it’s essential to keep in mind that technology should not replace pedagogy. While professors can sometimes be apprehensive initially when introducing new tech into the classroom, leveraging crucial technology within the learning process helps students to acquire and reinforce knowledge many hours after a lecture has ended.

‘When evaluating an edtech tool, it’s essential to keep in mind that technology should not replace pedagogy.’

When identifying which edtech tool to use, I recommend leveraging the Clear, Relevant, and Meaningful (CRM) evaluation method as a best practice. Ask yourself the three key questions below prior to making any investment in costly tools.

1. Is the goal of the edtech tool clear?

Ensuring the tool in question provides clear and concise guidelines for use, including where to go for support and how to get started for professors and students is essential. Also, check to see if any accessibility guidelines are in place that can aid learners with special needs who need certain accommodations and if the tool is fully inclusive. This means the tech tools you choose to implement in your classroom should include all learners, no matter their background or level of understanding.

2. Is the tool relevant?

If the tool is not something that will help your students gain applicable skills for their current or future careers in a variety of industries, then your answer to using it should be a hard no. It’s also important to see if the vendor who maintains the tool updates it regularly and listens to consumer recommendations as the feedback cycle for edtech tools is critical for ongoing functionality and continuous relevance in the college classroom.

3. Is the edtech tool meaningful?

The tool must provide meaning to your students and assist them in learning on a deeper level, rather than just using this type of technology for the sake of having something innovative that is available in your toolset. In other words, when you decide to use an ed tech tool it should be a seamless integration that enhances your content. The tool should promote engagement while simultaneously reinforcing key concepts. It’s key to ensure the tool adds value to what is already happening in your classroom.

There are several free edtech evaluation rubrics available from EdTech World, Learn Platform, and Western University that can help professors make informed decisions based on various criteria for themselves and their student’s individual needs.

Using edtech tools in your classroom, something I rely on heavily as Adjunct Professor in the Touro College Graduate School of Technology Instructional Technology Program, can increase student engagement, streamline workflows (e.g., grading), and address social and emotional challenges. While the pandemic has brought many challenges, it’s also highlighted how vital it is to utilize edtech tools that work well for all end users and that teaching in the current and future educational climate requires that edtech and pedagogy are seamlessly integrated to provide the best learning experience possible.

Holly Owens is an Adjunct Professor at the Touro College Graduate School of Technology, where she teaches as part of the Instructional Technology program and works full-time as a Senior Instructional Designer with Academic Partnerships. She has over 15 years of experience in education in various roles, including high school educator, instructional technologist, and podcast host. Holly has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in education and instructional design at various institutions, including the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Coppin State University, and Northern Virginia Community College. She also hosts a podcast, EdUp EdTech, a go-to resource to stay updated with the latest and greatest edtech tools.

  • raymond rose


    Holly: I liked the list of questions to ask when evaluating an ed-tec tool, but you missed one. And, while the other 3 are important, the missing one, is about civil rights. Section 504 regs want every digital resource to be reviewed for accessibility prior to purchase. Many higher ed institutions do already include an accessibility review prior to purchase, but you need to state that. IMHO

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