39 questions to ask when choosing media for teaching and learning

January 30, 2015 Tony Bates
© bewareofimages.com, 2011

© bewareofimages.com, 2011

Yeah, 39 questions is a lot, but then there is a lot of things to take into consideration. I pulled together the key questions for consideration from Chapter 9 (just published) of my open textbook, ‘Teaching in a Digital Age.’

Take a look at them, then tell me:

(a) what have I missed

(b) what you would leave out

(c) if this is a futile exercise

These questions should be used in conjunction with Chapter 9, and address a real context that you may be facing, such as designing a new course.

It is recommended you work through each question one by one, possibly making notes of your answers. It is also recommended that you do this in a fairly systematic manner the first two or three times when faced with a possible choice of media for a whole course or program. This could take a few days, allowing time for thinking. Some questions may need to wait until other questions have been answered. It will likely to be an iterative process.

After you have worked through the questions, give yourself a day or two if possible before thinking about what media or technology will best fit with your course or program. Discuss  your thoughts about media use with other instructors and with any professionals such as an instructional designer or media designer before the design of the course. Leave yourself open to making more final decisions as you start designing/developing and delivering the course, with the option of checking back with your notes and more details in Chapter 9.

After the first two or three times of working through the questions, you will be able to be less systematic and quicker in making decisions, but the questions and answers to the questions should always be in your head when making decisions about media for teaching.


1. What is the mandate or policy of your institution, department or program with respect to access? How will students who do not have access to a chosen technology be supported?

2. What are the likely demographics of the students you will be teaching? How appropriate is the technology you are thinking of using for these students?

3. If your students are to be taught at least partly off campus, to which technologies are they likely to have convenient and regular access at home or work?

4. If they are to be taught at least partly on campus, what is – or should be – your or your department’s policy with regard to students’ access to learning technologies in class?

5. What digital skills do you expect your students to have before they start the program?

6. If students are expected to provide their own access to technology, will you be able to provide unique teaching experiences that will justify the purchase or use of such technology?

7. What prior approaches to learning are the students likely to bring to your program? How suitable are such prior approaches to learning likely to be to the way you need to teach the course? How could technology be used to cater for student differences in learning?

Ease of use

8. How intuitively easy to use is the technology you are considering, both by students and by yourself?

9. How reliable is the technology?

10. How easy is it to maintain and up-grade the technology?

11. The company that is providing the critical hardware or software you are using: is it a stable company that is not likely to go out of business in the next year or two, or is it a new start-up? What strategies are in place to secure any digital teaching materials you create should the organisation providing the software or service cease to exist?

12. Do you have adequate technical and professional support, both in terms of the technology and with respect to the design of materials?

13. How fast developing is this subject area? How important is it to regularly change the teaching materials? Which technology will best support this?

14. To what extent can the changes be handed over to someone else to do, and/or how essential is it for you to do them yourself?

15. What rewards are you likely to get for using new technology in my teaching? Will use of a new technology be the only innovation, or can you also change your way of teaching with this technology to get better results

16. What are the risks in using this technology?

Cost/your time

17. Which media are likely to take a lot of your time to develop? Which could you do quickly and easily?

18. How much time do you spend preparing lectures? Could that time be better spent preparing learning materials, then using the time saved from delivering lectures on interaction with students (online and/or face-to-face)?

19. Is there a possibility of extra funding for innovative teaching or technology applications? How could you best use that funding?

20. What kind of help can you get in your institution from instructional designers and media professionals for media design and development?

21. What open educational resources could be used for this course? Could you use an open textbook, thereby saving students the cost of buying textbooks? Can the library or your learning technology support group help identify potential OERs for your course?

Teaching/educational factors

22. What are the desired learning outcomes from the teaching in terms of content and skills?

23. What instructional strategies will be employed to facilitate the learning outcomes?

24. What unique pedagogical characteristics of text will be appropriate for this course, in terms of content presentation and skills development?

25. What unique pedagogical characteristics of audio will be appropriate for this course, in terms of content presentation and skills development?

26. What unique pedagogical characteristics of video will be appropriate for this course, in terms of content presentation and skills development?

27. What unique pedagogical characteristics of computing will be appropriate for this course, in terms of content presentation and skills development?

28. What unique pedagogical characteristics of social media will be appropriate for this course, in terms of content presentation and skills development?

29. What really must be done face-to-face on this course? (Are you sure? Think about it!)


30. In terms of the skills you are trying to develop, what kinds of interaction will be most useful? What media or technology could you use to facilitate that kind of interaction?

31. In terms of the effective use of your time, what kinds of interaction will produce a good balance between  student comprehension and student skills development, and the amount of time you will be interacting personally or online with students?

Organisational issues

32. How much and what kind of help can you get from the institution in choosing and using media for teaching? Is help easily accessible? How good is the help? Do they have the media professionalism you will need? Are they up to date in the use of new technologies for teaching?

33. Is there possible funding available to ‘buy you out’ for a semester and/or to fund a teaching assistant so you can concentrate on designing a new course or revising an existing course? Is there funding for media production?

34. To what extent will you have to follow ‘standard’ technologies, practices and procedures, such as using a learning management system, or lecture capture system, or will you be encouraged and supported to try something new?


35. How important is it to enable learners to network beyond a course, with others such as subject specialists, professionals in the field, and relevant people in the community? Can the course, or student learning, benefit from such external connections?

36. If this is important, what’s the best way to do this? Use social media exclusively? Integrate it with other standard course technology? Delegate responsibility for its design and/or administration to students or learners?

Security and privacy

37. What student information are you obliged to keep private and secure? What are my institution’s policies on this? Who would know?

38. What is the risk that by using a particular technology your institution’s policies concerning privacy could easily be breached? Who in your institution could advise you on this?

39. What areas of teaching and learning, if any, need you keep behind closed doors, available only to students registered in your course? Which technologies will best allow you to do this?


Previous Article
Chapter 9 on choosing media now published
Chapter 9 on choosing media now published

The first draft of the whole of Chapter 9 on Choosing and Using Media in...

Next Article
Deciding on appropriate media for teaching and learning
Deciding on appropriate media for teaching and learning

This is the final section of Chapter 9, Choosing and using media in...