Instructional Technology/Low Threshold Applications

Definition of "Low Threshold Application (LTA)"Edit

Steve Gilbert, President of the Teaching and Learning Technology Group (TLT)[1], a non-profit corporation focused on teaching and learning in post-secondary education, has defined a low threshold applications (LTAs) as a "teaching/learning application of information technology that is reliable, accessible, easy to learn, non-intimidating and (incrementally) inexpensive...for purchase, training, support, and maintenance."[2] LTAs can be especially useful in institutions where instructors have limited technical resources or support.[3],[4]

Using LTAs to Design InstructionEdit

Because LTAs are frequently created using "almost ubiquitous technology,"[5] familiar programs like MS PowerPoint, or with relatively inexpensive and easy to learn commercial programs such as the video screen-capture program Camtasia, they do not require a high level of technical skills to create, and the end product is generally in a form which users find familiar and easy to use. It is nonetheless crucial that whatever the ease with which they are created, they must still be based on sound design principles, and the application should be suited to the form the instruction takes. For example, PowerPoint is well suited to instruction with a linear structure, Windows MovieMaker works best with digital video that requires basic editing only, and the relatively inexpensive ($300)[6] Camtasia is extraordinarily effective when used to show and describe activity such as software demos as they take place on a computer screen. Gilbert has also characterized open source and open course resources as RLOs, provided they are available at no or low cost.

Using LTAs to Create Reusable Learning ObjectsEdit

LTAs are a simple tool for creating RLOs. Documents created in Word, PowerPoint, Excel or similar productivity software can simply be saved in their default format and loaded into object repositories and content collections, as can digita vido clips. Animated PowerPoint is especially effective when output in Java, which may be accomplished by a conversion program. Text documents can be protected to a certain degree from unauthorized changes by generating them as PDFs by using Acrobat's document security features; PDFs also have the capability of reducing file size.


Many learning object repositories contain RLOs created using LTAs. Some examples are

  • Wisconsin Online Resource Center[7]
  • MIT Open Courseware[8]

Recommended ArticlesEdit

Calhoun, T. (March 10, 2004). LTAs – Replacements for the Missing “Professional Development.” Campus Technology. Retrieved March 15, 2007, www.campustechnology/article.aspx?aid=38

Gilbert, S. W. (February 2, 2002). The beauty of low threshold applications. Syllabus. Retrieved March 15, 2007, from

Gilbert, S. W. (September 13, 2002). Start by picking low-hanging fruit from the tree. Syllabus. Retrieved March 15, 2007, from

Starrett, D. (March 31, 2005). LTAs to the rescue. Campus Technology. Retrieved March 15, 2007, from www.campustechnology/article.aspx?aid=40168

Recommended WebsitesEdit

Medicine Hat College. Educational Technology Resources. Computer Tips: Low Threshold Applications


MIT Open Courseware

Teaching and Learning Technology Group TLT

University of Delaware, IT Learning Resources. Plug and Play Technologies for Course Enhancement

University of Oregon, Teaching Effectiveness Program. Low Threshold Applications (LTAs) in Education

Wisconsin Online Resource Center