Its Contribution Towards Student Learning Education Essay

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ITs contribution towards student learning is a hotly contested topic much has been said about its benefits and drawbacks throughout the years, so before discussing how IT can contribute to student learning it is important to define what does it mean. Over the years learning done through IT has been given the name of E-learning. (Clark & Mayer, 2007) describe some of the earlier definition of E-learning as "Instruction delivered on a computer via internet or CD-ROM" off course in today`s world we know that's not the case, much has been changed since that definition, (www.jisc.ac.uk/elearningprogramme) describe E-learning as "it is still widely used to refer to the application of technology to learning. However, the term 'technology-enhanced learning' is gaining favor since it emphasizes on how technology adds value to learning by enabling Connectivity to information and to others, Greater choice over the time, place and pace of study, Knowledge-sharing and co-authoring across multiple locations, Opportunities for reflection and planning in personal learning spaces etc".

E-learning Proposals

E-learning is a process, now we will discuss how this process contributes towards student learning and what are its impacts, advantages and disadvantages. Currently business school has a version of VLE (Virtual Learning Environment - Blackboard (DUO)) installed, It is used across the university but mainly in relatively limited ways, for example to share lecture slides, send email messages and to allow students to submit assignments online. Following E-learning proposals will look to improve student learning as well as the competitive position of the business school.

Social networking style format including blogs & wikis

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are among the websites rated for most frequent visits by (www.forbes.com), the ease of use made these sites a household name, according to a survey conducted by (www.jisc.ac.uk) 85 % of UK students log into their social networking account while on campus. All this data suggests that students are very much familiar and comfortable with social networking style format, this can be used to huge advantage by any educational institution. (Hoare, S 2007) in his article quotes Sara Knight e-learning program manager of jisc "We found social networking and instant messaging being used to support researchers working off-campus, as well as allowing students and researchers to create their own interest groups and academic communities in areas like bio-medicine". Social networking format will give users (students, teachers, and IT staff) a wide range of options which they currently don't have; new format could not only improve communication between students and teachers but also amongst students. Similarly blogs and wikis both demand involvement of multiple users and this can only strengthen the communication between students and teachers.

Advantages

Social network for university / business school

Interest groups

Wiki

Blogs

Disadvantages

It requires constant involvement from staff (teachers and IT department).

Time consumption for system update.

Money consumption for system update.

Conclusion

The biggest advantage of new format is that it will connect all the students from all years and disciplines together. In many cases new students initially find it hard to communicate with their seniors because there is no official means for that and in most cases new students get to know their seniors through social networking e.g. parties, sports etc., with this proposed format new students can easily socialize with senior students of the same discipline and even get guidance from them. It will allow Students to make interest groups on this system e.g. "IT developments"; all interested students can join and discuss the topic. Teachers can use blogs to involve relevant students into constructive discussions that will help their learning. This system also allows Wikis which are getting common in most universities, because it promotes teamwork.

Overall advantages outweigh the disadvantages of implementing this new format, and according to (Leidner, 1995) it is in accordance with "The Cooperative model of learning" which states that learning occurs as individuals exercise, verify, solidify, and improve their mental models through discussion and information sharing. (Flynn, 1992) defined cooperative model as "whereas instructor-led communication is inherently linear, collaborative groups allow more branching and concentricity". The chief argument for this proposal is facebook itself as it was created by a Harvard university student Mark Zuckerberg so that students and teachers can interact with each other (Phillips, 2007).

Audio & Video Lecture recordings

In not so distant past academics used chalkboards to convey their message to students, and in response students had to write every word straight away for later revision, but as technology developed so did the methods of delivering it, audio and video lectures are the next logical step in students e-learning evolution. Research done by (Clark, 2007) indicates that there are no practical learning differences between a digital and face-to-face delivery. However, in some cases, computer-delivered training resulted in more effective learning than classroom learning. Following graph shows the results of (Clark, 2007) study.

Figure 1.1

(Clark, 2007) further argues that learning is much more effective with audio and video aid rather than words (lecture notes).

Advantages

Enhanced student learning (Clark, 2007).

Improve the image of business school.

Effective use of IT.

Disadvantages

Increased cost on business school.

It requires constant involvement from staff.

It requires constant involvement from IT team.

Possible staff discontentment -

Students might feel that attending lectures is not necessary anymore.

Conclusion

On the surface of things, it looks like there are more disadvantages that advantages gained by A/V lecture implementation, but the advantages are so massive that implementation of this proposal seems in the best interest of students and of business school. According to (Leidner, 1995) implementation of A/V lectures fulfills two models of learning objectivism and cognitive information processing model.

(Summary of all learning models appendix 1.1).

Online discussion forums

Computer conferencing is a widely used function of (CMC) computer-mediated communications (Rourke & Anderson, 2002) and most common form of computer conferencing is discussion forums (Sandor & Harris, 2007). Many academic believe that unlike in the traditional face-to-face delivery of tertiary education where spontaneous and somewhat unstructured conversations can take place, which are encouraged as crucial to student engagement with the process of learning, discussion through computer conferencing is generally more reflective, asynchronous and structured in nature (Dixson, Kuhlhorst, & Reiff, 2006; Sandor & Harris, 2007; Stodel, Thompson, & MacDonald, 2006).

Advantages

Enhance student learning.

Improves teamwork between students.

No time or place restraints.

Tool for assessment.

Enhances business school`s image.

Disadvantages

Financial cost of implementation.

Highly time consuming for teachers.

Requires high maintenance from IT department.

Conclusion

This proposal is probably the most time consuming for staff (teachers & IT department) but the rewards are countless in-terms of student learning and business school`s image enhancements. During the course of this research for online discussion forums one thing became clear that all the top ranking universities in the world already use discussion forums to enhance student learning (www.google.com), implementing this proposal will put this business school in line with all the others who already are benefiting from it, which will improve the competitive position of business school. In contrast to the traditional face-to-face classroom approach to learning, peer learning is based upon the understanding that student to student interaction promotes students' engagement with course content and thereby deepens learning (Kear, 2004) which is in accordance with "The cooperative model of learning" (Leidner, 1995). Below is a traditional model of online discussion forum (Sandor & Harris, 2007).

Figure 1.2

One of the main limitations of this model is that, it requires a constant and high amount of input from the teacher, which can put an unfair amount of pressure on the teacher and hinder the learning process.

(Sandor & Harris, 2007) put forward a new concept of online discussion, in which a student takes on the dual roles of content expert and facilitator of the forum, with other students invited to participate and interact with the facilitator and other students on predetermined content of interest. This model positions the student expert/facilitator at the centre of the learning event and the instructor, one step removed from the process, as overseer of the dialogue. Diagram below explains the process.

Figure 1.3

This new model of online discussion has the potential to reduce the instructor's forum related workload, though a prudent instructor would remain abreast of the dialogue to offer timely support and guidance if required (Wozniak & Silveira, 2004).

Virtual staff

The concept of virtual staff is that during working hour's teachers and IT staff should have an online presence so that any student can easily access it from anywhere. The reason behind this proposal is to free students from the geographical boundaries of the business school. This will give students more incentive to seek advice from teachers when in need. Virtual staff includes messaging service, voice and video chat capabilities.

Advantages

Removal of geographical boundaries.

Easy adaptability.

Enhances the image of business school.

Disadvantages

Financial cost of installation.

Possible staff discontentment.

Requires high maintenance from IT department.

Conclusion

This proposal signifies the true value of IT`s contribution towards students learning, by giving students the freedom from geographical restraints. Like any other proposals this one also has its limitations, teachers will be on the sharp end of the stick, they will have to adapt to this new system and most of them might show displeasure towards it and that may get in the way of student learning, but on the other hand this can be advantageous for teachers as-well as this proposal will also give them freedom from geographical restraints. The main aim of this proposal is to simplify the process of communication between students and teachers, students can gain instant assistance virtually from their teachers rather than booking an appointment, waiting in line and in some cases re-booking because of time restraint. This proposal will eliminate the need of physical presence and encourage students to communicate freely.

Feedback

Feedback is an integral feature of effective and efficient teaching and learning, and can be one of the most powerful ways in which to enhance and strengthen student learning (Black & William, 1998).

Feedback is one the most important part of any students life, (Laurillard, 1993) described the importance of feedback as "action without feedback is completely unproductive for a learner". Currently business school has very limited ways of providing feedback, i.e. seminars & formative assessments, (Sadler, 1989) argue that the purpose of feedback should be to equip students gradually with the evaluative skills that their teachers' possess. This proposal integrates traditional feedback system with IT, by two methods.

Online examination Feedback

Examination feedback consists of numerical values which only indicate the level of achievement, what it does not show is how a certain student achieved it. Students should be given detailed feedback on their examinations so that they can access their performance more accurately. This will help students see how teachers have marked their exams, why have they achieved a certain grade and above all what can be done to improve it.

Online examination & assignments Sample papers

Students are given guidelines on how to achieve exemplary grades in assignments and exams, currently business school`s online library stores previous years examination papers to give students an idea of examination pattern but there is no feedback about what a perfect answer should look like. This proposal explores the possibility of providing students with real life examples on how to achieve these grades by giving students the freedom to access other student's assignments once they have been assessed by teachers, so that they can compare themselves to other students who have performed better than them. This will not only help students realize their mistakes but also encourage them to achieve what others have.

Advantages

Improve student performance.

Disadvantages

Financial cost to business school.

Increased workload for teachers.

Plagiarism issues.

Conclusion

This proposal is probably the most sensitive of all, mainly because it puts a lot of strain on teachers to deliver constructive feedback but there is clear evidence in (Gibbs & Simpson, 2004) that constructive feedback enables learning by providing information that can be used to improve and enhance performance. Second part of proposal allowing students to access previous marked papers for feedback purposes raises an important issue of plagiarism which business school takes extremely serious, but on the other hand this proposal will give students an enormous amount of feedback that can be extremely beneficial, looking at the benefits of this proposal it should be strongly considered by the business school, and in respect to plagiarism business school already has a system in place to deal with that.

Critical analysis

One thing is certain that IT`s contribution in student learning is undeniable, and most academics believe that its advantages outweigh its disadvantages (Clark & Mayer, 2007; Leidner, 1995; Flynn, 1992; Clark, 2007; Rourke & Anderson, 2002). There are some major limitations in e-learning as (Tsai, 2009) points out that one of the most criticized features of e-learning is the lack of face-to-face interaction with the teachers. Proposal # 4 "Virtual staff" not only eliminates this problem but also (Tsai, 2009) reduces the anxiety of some students regarding asking / answering questions in a traditional classroom. (Romiszowski, 2004) criticizes that in the e-learning environment, instructors shift from being the primary source of students' knowledge to being the manager of the students' knowledge resources. E-learning material preparation is very time consuming as (Doughty, Spector and Yonai, 2003) found in a 2003 study that faculty and support staff spent almost twice as many hours providing online versions of courses compared to traditional delivery.

To realize the full benefits of e-learning proposals discussed in this report business school has to take into consideration a lot of factors, and most important of that is the time required to adopt this new system. There will be opposition for these new proposals from both students and teachers but it is the job of business school to help them realize the potential benefits that will come with these changes; teacher's opposition is understandable because most of the proposals put a lot of pressure on them and they require a lot of effort but considering the rewards it is worth it. Student`s opposition will be for the obvious reason i.e. they will have to adopt to a new system even though all the proposals given above are very user friendly, it is human nature that change takes time so business school has to give these proposals time before they start yielding their benefits. E-learning is believed to be the fastest growing sub-sector of the $2.3T USD global education market, with the market for online higher education expected to grow to $69B USD by 2015 (Hezel Associates, 2005). To see how e-learning can improve the position of the business school (Ashurst, 2010) uses porter's five forces analysis to determine the competitive intensity and therefore attractiveness of a market.

Figure 1.4

Potential Entrants

E-universities (open university)

Top schools (Harvard, Cambridge etc.)

Industry Rivalry (Rivalry against existing customers)

Brand / rankings

Physical facilities

Reputation of faculty

Networks / relationships

Relevance - eg business projects

Career impact

Suppliers

Academic staff

E-learning vendors

E-information providers

Buyers

Strong regional brand

Competitive local market

Highly competitive international market

Beneficial for organizations

Substitutes

Professional bodies

Consultancies

E-information providers

Business school is utilizing e-learning at a minimum level and by using portfolio analysis (Chaffey, 2009) we can see that currently it is being used as a support. The aim of proposals mentioned in this discussion is to move towards strategic so that business school can utilize the full benefits of e-learning.

Figure 1.5

Future usage

Current usage

High

Low

Low

High

Support

Key operational

Strategic

High Potential

Second proposal A/V lecture recording is the one that will be quiet costly as it requires hardware installation throughout the business school and also software integration with the current system, this proposal will also put a lot of strain on IT department, but this proposal is the one that will put this business school in line with all the major universities which are already using this technology. Image and reputation are considered vital for any institution`s long term future, proposal discussed in this report will not only help business school realize the benefits of e-learning but also help achieve a competitive position among the top universities around the world.

Appendix 1.1

Stakeholder analysis

In an organizational context, a stakeholder is a constituency of an organization; in the same sense the stakeholders of e-learning are those that are affected by it (Thompson and Strickland, 2001). Diagram below enlists all the stakeholders in e-learning (Ashurst, 2010).

Stakeholder Analysis

Stakeholder group

Perceived benefits

Changes needed

Perceived resistance

Commitment ( current & required)

Anti

None

Allow it to happen

Help it happen

Make it happen

Students

No geographical restraints, access to unlimited knowledge, enhanced learning, no time restraint, networking with peers, rapid access to staff.

New system

Requires different skill than traditional learning, requires motivation and commitment

Alumni

Access to university, update on current / upcoming events.

New system

None

Teachers

Broader audience, fast and easy, no geographical restraints, assessment tool, positive impact on learning,

New system

Increased workload, more responsibility, increases feedback, and requires technical sophistication.

Admin staff

Create new learning opportunities, expand into distance learning, and strengthen market position.

New system

Financial cost, staff discontentment.

Employers

E-learning is becoming increasingly popular, students have high technical skills.

Employers integration into university system

None

Microsoft / other vendors

Appendix 1.2

Table of the top 10 risks and related actions

Risk

Action Required

Diagram or picture helping explain key aspects of the business solution

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