The diversity of teaching technologies for online education offer exciting new opportunities for instructors and online students. The following topics introduce you to several types of online technologies and provide summaries with more information. Whether you are just beginning to incorporate technologies into your teaching or you are a seasoned practitioner interested in learning more about the newest tools, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) has staff and programs to assist you.

Getting Started with Technologies


CAT provides video and/or audio webcasting for undergraduate courses. With 11 lecture halls fully equipped for video streaming, 37 classrooms equipped for audio podcasting and the availability of portable equipment, CAT can meet your needs in a variety of ways. Please visit the BruinCast webpage for further details.

Personal Response Systems

Classroom Clickers, also known as Personal Response Systems (PRS), Classroom Response Systems (CRS), or Student Response Systems (SRS), are used by faculty across campus to faciliate real-time interaction in the classrom. Currently the most common clicker used by faculty on this campus is iClicker.

Digitized Online Media

Making visual media available online through digitizing is one of the most popular teaching resources on the UCLA campus. The videos you have placed on reserve can also be available for students to view directly from their course website, depending upon license agreements and copyright allowances. To request digitizing services, please call the Instructional Media Collections & Services office at 310-825-0755 or visit the IMCS Digital Content FAQ for usage and other information.

UCLA Common Collaboration and Learning Environment (CCLE)

The UCLA Common Collaboration and Learning Environment (CCLE) supports instruction and research with a common digital environment for faculty, students, and staff. Based on the open source course management system Moodle, the CCLE is the product of a collaborative group of schools, divisions, campus departments, and central units. For more information about the CCLE project at UCLA, please visit the CCLE Information Site.

Screencasting, Podcasts, and the Flipped Classroom

In blended and online instructional environments, screen capture technologies offer new and exciting learning resources for students. Faculty at universities such as Duke, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have pioneered the use of screencasting software to provide supplemental learning material for students and the general public. Lecture capture or screencasting software (such as Echo 360 or Camtasia) creates digital recordings of classroom activities and makes them accessible to students via the computer or portable media players. Depending on the software, these “podcasts” or “screencasts” may be audio-only or also include video of the lecture and/or instructional presentation. Some programs also may be paused or manipulated by the student.

Data suggests that students show positive responses to podcast learning resources, citing convenience and flexibility as key advantages. Self-reporting studies indicate that the incorporation of screen capture technology does not affect class attendance and offers the potential for more active engagement during the class period. It is recommended, however, that faculty consider students’ technological competencies and access to digital equipment in course design.

The improvement of media devices and software has similarly facilitated a reassessment of pedagogical strategies. Screen capture technology is vital to the “flipped classroom” model, in which students view short pre-recorded video lectures at home and participate in interactive activities during class sessions. The repurposing of class time for guided discussion, student-led projects, and hands-on exercises is thought to encourage active and peer learning, and give instructors the opportunity to identify and discuss errors.

Capturing Media at UCLA

UCLA offers video streaming and/or audio podcast for undergraduate courses through BruinCast and campus events through WebCast. The CAT Media Lab offers further resources on Camtasia (the software program used to produce screencasts), digitizing audio and video, iMovie and Premiere (video editing software) and instructional media production.

The most popular software for creating a digital recording of computer screen output (which captures activities on the screen) and audio narration - what is known as a "screencast" - is Camtasia for PC and Mac and Screenflow for Mac only. Both are available as a free 30-day trial. For recording narration (particularly if you step away from the computer), a headset can improve clarity. Logitech and Plantronics headsets have performed well in testing. If you would also like to include video, one option would be to use a webcam. In recording videos using a webcam, you can choose to use the built-in microphone or, for better audio performance, a separate desktop microphone.

Your course may also require a tablet device and 'whiteboard' software designed to capture content that would otherwise be presented visually on a classroom blackboard/whiteboard. Wacom tablets can be found here. Models vary based on the the size of the ‘writing area’ and the precision of the device. You will also need to use a draw/paint application on the tablet. Popular free software includes Krita and Artweaver.

Learning Management Systems and CCLE

In the last decade, educational institutions have increasingly adopted learning management systems, or LMS, as their primary method of online instruction. LMS (or course management systems, learning management systems, learning content management systems, and virtual learning environments) are software applications that serve as platforms for organizing and delivering online courses or instructional content. LMS can be designed to supplement blended or traditional courses, and to include components such as student registration, discussion forums, video lectures, online assignments, learner analytics, and interactive assessments in online courses. Some LMSs are designed to emphasize social networking capabilities and offer a secure platform for peer collaboration and instructor feedback. Popular LMS software includes Moodle and Blackboard.

Research into instructional design and pedagogical practices in LMSs have yet to be fully developed. Critics of LMS claimed that software lacks flexibility and collaborative Web 2.0 tools which give students control over content and learning. Research studies suggest that instructors overwhelmingly use content distribution and administrative tools while utilizing interactive learning features less frequently. Critics argue that using LMS as a storage facility for course content fails to engage students in active and collaborative learning. These findings owe, in part, to earlier systems, which were designed to increase instructional efficiency rather than effectiveness.

The demand for e-learning, innovation in online pedagogical models, and the exponential growth in open source has led to a new generation of LMS. As the CEO of Moodlerooms (which offers the open-source LMS Moodle) wrote in 2012, LMS software increasingly offers technologies which facilitate course creation, content management and access, as well as social and interactive environments. Earlier versions of LMS software, which focused on administrative functions and management of learning schedules, curricula, and learning materials, has come under pressure from competitive open-source systems. “Open-source” software is computer software whose source code can be freely distributed and modified at no cost and for any purpose by the general public. Open-source software is often developed through collaborative projects and offers a virtual architecture or dynamic template for new programs. Across the market, however, LMS software – both open-source and proprietary – are increasingly offering interactive tools to facilitate the integration of new media (Web 2.0) and peer interaction. Early studies suggest that LMS can be used to promote learner-centered curriculums, and encourage student investment in the learning experience.

UCLA’s course management system, the Common Collaboration and Learning Environment (CCLE), is based upon Moodle. Information on developing and using CCLE and Moodle is found here.

Web 2.0, Evolving Technologies and FERPA

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a term popularized in 2004 by Dale Dougherty of the publishing and consulting firm O’Reilly Media. While it developed outside the academic or instructional context, the term has caught hold in pedagogical vocabularies for online instruction. As Dougherty and O’Reilly described it, Web 2.0 refers to new version or generation of web technology made possible by cumulative changes in how the web is used and designed. Unlike the static pages of earlier systems, Web 2.0 functions as a platform for the sharing and networking of interactive and user-generative content. Examples of Web 2.0 technologies include social networking sites, blogs, wikis, folksonomies, video sharing and podcasting, tagging and social bookmarking, and aggregator/feed readers (RSS/Atom). In Web 2.0, social networking sites create a traversable and publicly articulated network and interactive community.  

The Function of Web 2.0 Tools in Online Education

Supporters argue that the central principle behind Web 2.0 is the power of the web to harness and disseminate collective intelligence through networking, user engagement and blogging. The success of blogging has been dependent on the expansion of a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary). RSS allows someone to link not just to a page (as is the case with a hyperlink), but to subscribe to the page and receive notifications when content is changed. RSS also provides a customizable platform outside the original web page to view and organize content. RSS aggregator software (such as Feedly or Digg) collects updates from the websites/feeds to which a user has subscribed and publishes them in a web-based, desktop or portable client. Another example of social software relevant to online instruction includes e-portfolios, in which users create a dynamic, reflective, and multimedia record of work/achievements for a project, class, or degree program. These are meant to serve a variety of exhibit and learning functions within a password-protected system. University and educational institutions are leading the development of new digital tools for online or hybrid learning (see, for example, projects at UCLA’s Institute for Digital Research and Education and George Mason University’s Center for History and New Media.

Experts debate the role of Web 2.0 in course instruction and learning strategies. In wider discussions on the role of higher education in the age of the “network society” and “digital culture,” some scholars point to the value of teaching creativity and innovation through 21st century skills. Other supporters argue that user-generative content and learning networks support constructivist theories of learning. The use of Web 2.0 tools provides students with the opportunity to collaboratively negotiate knowledge and to contextualize learning within an emergent situation and supports pedagogical models which emphasize learning as an active process of constructing knowledge. Web 2.0 software is inherently participative and encourages learners to be active and interactive. Other potential benefits of Web 2.0 tools include: provide flexible “anytime, anywhere” learning; allow students to self-publish and construct knowledge; give access to large amounts of content; and extend learning to traditionally excluded groups such as the disabled and global community.

Self-reporting studies, however, suggest that students have positive responses to virtual interaction and Web 2.0 technology. Similarly, instructional training, campus computing resources and institutional infrastructure support interactive learning outcomes in Web 2.0 tools. 

Challenges to Integrating Web 2.0 Tools

Preliminary concerns about user-generated content point to questions of quality and the traditional roles of expertise and scholarly authority. Despite positive perception studies with students, Web 2.0 tools remain problematic for populations without regular access to a private computer and cable internet connection, or those without existing technological skills. Similarly, the integration of Web 2.0 activities offers special challenges for instructors. There is considerable debate on whether online teaching increases instructional workload. While there is some evidence that the amount of interaction with students does increase, other studies conclude that time requirements are difficult to measure.   

FERPA and Student Privacy

A further concern for Web 2.0 applications is the security and privacy of student information. Under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), student records are confidential and protected. The use of social media tools in the classroom, however, has sparked debate on the specific regulations and spirit of FERPA protections. Some experts suggest that FERPA applies only to information in the possession of or controlled by the institution and therefore excludes student work posted on public or third-party Web 2.0 applications. Nevertheless, educators interested in integrating social media into the classroom are recommended to follow policy guidelines to ensure student privacy:

  • Inform students (in the syllabus and during introductory discussion) that the course will include public social media platforms outside the university learning management system (LMS) and password-protected programs. Provide information regarding FERPA regulations and suggest that students read privacy documentation for third-party sites used in the course. Give students the opportunity to speak with you individually regarding privacy concerns.
  • Allow or require students to participate in Web 2.0 tools under a pseudonym or alias (this should not be the students’ initials or other identifying information). Students should not be required to post personal information on a public site. Some educators recommend that instructors provide alternative assignments for public work.
  • Do not post evaluations or grades of student work on public sites.
  • While it is not clear whether FERPA regulations require that students under the age of 18 require parental consent to post public work, it is recommended that instructors consider this in their guidelines.

For more information on FERPA policies at the University of California, see FERPA 101 and UCLA FERPA Training.

Clickers and Laptops in the Classroom

In the last three decades, the use of audience response (AR) systems or clickers (otherwise known as “handsets” and “zappers” in the UK) has grown dramatically at both large and small educational institutions. Clicker technology enables students to interact and respond to instructor questions via a small remote keypad. The system immediately collects the answers and displays aggregate data on the classroom projection screen for class discussion. Modern clickers usually have a 10-digit numeric keypad and several other accessory buttons, and are purchased or loaned to students for the duration of the course. Clicker technology has been incorporated into small- and large-size courses, in a variety of disciplines and across a diversity of student populations.  Typical questions serve a variety of content, process and metacognitive goals. The most common uses of clickers include: assessing students’ knowledge and comprehension of course material; peer instruction and other active learning techniques; administering tests during lecture; gathering feedback on learning strategies; recording student attendance. 

A number of studies suggest that clickers improve student learning outcomes, particularly in exam scores and student comprehension. Reviewers, however, note that recent research has not been sufficiently systematic to prove conclusive. In 2007, Martyn conducted a study that compared learning outcomes resulting from the use of clickers versus other active learning methods such as class discussion. While perception survey data found that students perceive value in the clickers, there was no statistically significant difference in learning outcomes. Research on student and faculty attitudes indicates that students typically support and recommend clicker technology in the classroom. An important consideration in incorporating AR systems, however, is the additional cost of purchasing a clicker handset. The UCLA Center for the Advancement of Teaching offers assistance with using clickers in the classroom.

The value of other student uses of technology in the classroom, particularly laptops and mobile devices, are more contentious. As more students bring laptops to college classrooms, faculty have increasingly questioned whether mobile devices are effective tool for promoting student learning. Evidence from recent studies indicates mixed results from laptop use: students who use laptops receive slightly higher grades, but students report that laptops (both their own and those of their peers) are distracting to course material comprehension. Faculty are advised to communicate a laptop policy and determine whether a laptop-free zone best supports learning goals.