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Lesson 6: Digital critical reflection

Using digital technologies

Critical Reflection can be facilitated through various digital technologies in creative and engaging ways. Below are some of the benefits and risks of digital critical reflection as well as digital critical reflection techniques staff and faculty at the University of Calgary have utilized in the past. 

Benefits of digital critical reflection

(Guglietti & Loy, 2021)

Using digital technologies for critical reflection encourages students to personalize their learning and make more connections between their personal experiences and academic learnings. Students are often more accustomed to using online platforms like social media for interpersonal relationships and therefore use digital learning tools in less formal academic or professional ways. This in turn allows students to reflect on their learning in more personal and less rigid ways.

Due to students’ digital familiarity and personalization, asking students to engage in critical reflection online can facilitate a building of community amongst students based on their social presence. This community also becomes more accessible and inclusive as digital tools can work to remedy inaccessibilities present in traditional critical reflection assignments.  

The novelty of being asked to engage in academic reflection through online tools can initially increase student anxiety. However, encouraging experimentation and avenues for student feedback, digital critical reflection can ultimately lead to a more rewarding and memorable learning experience for students.

Risks of digital critical reflection

(Darby & Lang, 2019)

While students are typically familiar with digital technologies, learning a new digital technology can hinder learning by having a difficult log-in or set up process, little compatibility with personal devices, or operation of the learning tool that exhausts students' resources to navigate. To address this, carefully analyze and pre-test the usability of the online tool.

Access around the use of digital learning tools can include lack of access to personal devices, out-of-pocket expenses, disabilities (physical, learning, and otherwise) that hinder engagement with digital technologies, language barriers, and a lack of digital literacy and familiarity. To address issues of inaccessibility, scaffold the technological complexity of assignments over time and consider starting with small changes such as enabling screen readers and closed captioning, utilizing open-source texts as much as possible, and spending time navigating students through new interfaces. For more accessibility strategies please refer to the additional resources below. 

With digital critical reflection, there may be fewer opportunities for educators to connect with, guide, and course correct students as they work through their reflections. To maintain connection, experts recommend regularly engaging in meaningful and visible ways such as answering questions sent by email on a public question and answer forum, posting quick videos addressing potential misconceptions, engaging in discussions students are having online, and holding regular online office hours.

Quick Tip: Before using a new tool, ask yourself whether this tool will address a specific pedagogical purpose or problem. If the technology does not address a problem or align with your desired learning outcomes, leave it out or substitute for another tool (Darby & Lang, 2019).

Digital critical reflection strategies

(Guglietti & Loy, 2021) 

Students are asked to record videos of themselves and their personal narratives. This can include their reaction and engagement with subject matter, connections between their personal experience and academic knowledge, as well as how they situate themselves in the context of a broader phenomenon. Platforms like YuJa or Zoom can be used to make video recordings.

Interviewing each other or content experts, students are tasked with integrating critical reflection into recorded conversations about relevant subject matter. Students can engage in real-time reflection on concepts and anecdotes from their counterpart.

Using social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, students are asked to publicly reflect on and engage in discussion with broader audiences about concepts, ideas, and perspectives they are currently learning. This can be facilitated by creating a separate account such that students’ personal information is not made public by using their personal accounts.

Similar to using social media platforms, students are tasked with recording their reflections publicly. The benefits of using this particular platform include the availability of longer form entries as well as the digital archiving of student’s learning progress that is available to them even after graduating.

Showcasing their artistic works that represent their learning journeys and progressing engagement over time, students are asked to explain and reflect on this journey as they guide others through their digital exhibit. This assignment could be facilitated with a live audience via Zoom or as a recording via YuJa. 

Examples of digital critical reflection

Assessing digital critical reflection

When assessing critical reflection facilitated digitally, there are a few elements to consider:  

Honour creativity

Ensure that your assessment takes into account the creative dimension involved in students’ digital critical reflection.

Scaffold the process

Scaffolding is critical, especially if the reflection is used as a larger final assignment. Break down the process into steps and stages that enable the providing of early feedback. This enables students to receive validation in their creative experimentations and course correct when needed.

Solicit student feedback

Enable a way for students to communicate their concerns and reactions to their learning process, comfort with digital tools, and anxiety surrounding novel assignments. This provides opportunities to identify and address areas of discomfort or inaccessibility before formal assessment.

Additional resources

Designing Online Assessments Learning Module

Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning

View resource

20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course from Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology

By Sheryl Burgstahler

View resources

Inside Higher Ed Article: Beyond Compliance

View resource

Global digital citizen foundation

By Watanabe-Crockett

View resource

Lesson checklist

  • Review benefits and risks of digital critical reflection  

  • Review digital critical reflection strategies  

  • Watch video on digital critical reflection example  

  • Consider tips for assessing digital critical reflection  

  • Check out additional resources 


Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Retrieved from  

Guglietti, M. V. & Loy, K. (2021, August 26). Beyond the essay: Exploring digital spaces for critical reflection. [Digital Presentation]. Teaching Days, Calgary, AB, Canada.  

More lessons

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Lesson 1: Why critical reflection?

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Lesson 2: Designing critical reflection assignments

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Lesson 3: Confronting discomfort and subjectivity