Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance

The use and value of appropriate learning technologies

What can I do?

  • Use technology to connect students with content and practical resources
  • If you choose to use technology in your unit, go for the 'less is more' approach
  • Asychronous—but dynamic—online discussion forums benefit learning

What is this about?

What's the evidence say?

Using technology in your teaching can enhance student achievement, but also their attitude. Discussion forums are an easy and useful way of using technology to support student learning. Discussion forums work best when the design is asynchronous and the discussion focuses on the application of knowledge.

It is recommended to include at least 3 for the following features:

  • Moderated or monitored by educator
  • Educator participation
  • Posing a complex task (i.e., application question or debate) to encourage interaction
  • Structure to what is expected, following a specific format and rubric
  • Student/educator having regular interaction
  • Collaborative interaction among the discussants such as teamwork
  • Providing orientation/training (i.e., scaffolding) on how to conduct the discussion prior to the instruction
How to create a discussion forum

The findings are robust across STEM and non-STEM subjects, and undergraduate and postgraduate students.

How does it work? Technology, computer-based tools, can provide support for cognition and scaffold metacognitive skills and other self-regulated learning strategies such as planning and goal setting. They also allow for the same level of collaboration and peer-to-peer discussion as face-to-face instruction, but, in some cases, allow students to delicately consider their points of view and their arguments.

What's the underlying theory?

Where does the evidence come from?

The findings related to using technology to support learning is based on high-quality research.

There are a number of meta-analytic studies that inform this evidence summary, but all score high on the INSPIRE measure of quality. The only consistent concern related to the quality of the meta-analyses are high heterogeneity statistics, suggesting that another, as yet unexplored factor might be contributing to the finding. However, these are several studies informing this summary, which gives us confidence that any unexplored factors are likely not the main contributor and that technology has a genuine effect on learning.


Darabi, A., Liang, X., Suryavanshi, R., & Yurekli, H. (2013). Effectiveness of online discussion strategies: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Distance Education, 27(4), 228-241.

Schmid, R. F., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Tamim, R., Abrami, P. C., Wade, C. A., ... & Lowerison, G. (2009). Technology’s effect on achievement in higher education: a Stage I meta-analysis of classroom applications. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 21(2), 95-109.

Schmid, R. F., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Tamim, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Surkes, M. A., ... & Woods, J. (2014). The effects of technology use in postsecondary education: A meta-analysis of classroom applications. Computers & Education, 72, 271-291.

Tamim, R. M., Bernard, R. M., Borokhovski, E., Abrami, P. C., & Schmid, R. F. (2011). What forty years of research says about the impact of technology on learning: A second-order meta-analysis and validation study. Review of Educational Research, 81(1), 4-28.

Additional Resources