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Moneague College is a small multidisciplinary Tertiary Educational Institution situated in a rural village in the parish of St. Ann, Jamaica. The College was first opened in 1954 and was closed in 1985 due to financial constraints. Initially, the College offered only teacher training programmes. In 1987 the College was reopened and continued to offer Teacher Training and started to offer non-teaching professional courses through the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica (CCCJ). In the teacher training programme, the College offers secondary, primary and literacy education. Community College courses include Hospitality and Tourism Management, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Computer Science, Business Studies, and Psychology.
Moneague College has three satellite campuses located in St. Catherine and St. Mary. The College serves approximately 1500 full time and part-time students from all parts of the Island. However, most of the students are mainly from the parishes of St. Ann, St. Catherine and St. Mary since these are closely located to the College. The College has boarding facilities which cater to the needs of those students from farther parts of the Island. The college has approximately eighty-two (82) lecturers, ten (10) assistant lecturers, thirty (30) administrative and thirty (30) ancillary workers, and
For the purpose to this paper, I will focus on the ICT Department of which I am a member. The ICT department serves the entire school population. At present, twelve (12) lecturers teach in the department, two (2) which are part time. All lecturers have Computer related qualifications. Three lecturers have received training in education technology. Approximately 45% of the lecturers are recent university graduates, and their ages range between 23 and 31. The department offers eight (8) computer specific programmes to approximately two hundred (200) students each school year, and provide support services to the rest of the school population since all students that enter the College in both the Teacher Education and Community College Departments must take an introductory course in Information Technology and Computer Applications.
Most students are mainly from the parishes of St. Ann, St. Catherine and St. Mary since these are closely located to the College. They are all fully matriculated for their course of study. Students are technologically savvy since most of them have laptop computers with 'ready' internet access, and they all must take an introductory computer course in their first semester at the college. Student are motivated to attend college because of their desire for higher education since the job landscape in Jamaica is very competitive; they want to acquire the relevant qualifications to become professionals in their chosen fields; they see it as an opportunity to enter local and overseas universities that the college has affiliations with such as Monroe College in New York, and University of the West Indies in Jamaica; and lastly, the many majority attend because of the close proximity of the college to their homes.
In terms of technology, the college has five (5) computer laboratories, each equipped with at least thirty (30) computers and internet access. There are also hotspots at some locations on campus where students can access the internet wirelessly. The college employs computer llab technicians that serves all laboratories.
An environmental scan helps develop a common perception on both internal and external information which affects the college. This information can be used to help provide a base from which progress can be measured and to gather consensus about where the institution is going in terms of integrating technology in course delivery.
Culture is a particularly important influence to the success of elearning in the college. At present the culture is for lecturers to deliver their lessons using traditional face to face methods of teaching. Also, staff development and training sessions which should help with development of knowledge of technology and how to work with these are non-existent. Lecturers are very comfortable with this since students are passing their courses, hence they do not see a reason to change. This position could be a major barrier to the success of elearning.
It requires a considerable culture change in the college context in order for Lecturers to develop the willingness, readiness and capability to integrate e-learning into their delivery since the success of e-learning will depend on beliefs and attitudes of all stakeholders involved (that is, lecturers, students and management) towards education in general and e-learning in particular (EIU, 2003).Â
Therefore, in order for e-learning to be successful in the college, there must be a culture that supports and promotes e-learning development within the college.Â Also, Lecturers must become developers of learning environments where e-learning is integrated to facilitate knowledge construction.
Resistance to Change
There are skepticisms and fears that surface which result into resistance to change which has significant implications for any new shift to e-learning. The biggest fear is likely to be loss of tenure or replacement by machine (Bates, 2007); many lecturer fear that technology is driving the pedagogy; some older staff fear that younger staff may take their place due the their exposure to new technologies in their training; also, a major concern is that it is very time consuming to plan for and develop elearning materials and activities and there are no rewards for participation.
To overcome the barriers that comes with staff resistance, management may get lecturers to move away from face-to-face teaching by offering reward through teaching grants and recognition of teaching innovation through the
promotion and evaluation processes (Zhou & Xu, 2007) and so on.
Leadership and Management
A leading internal factor which may affect the successful implementation of elearning is leadership and management. These are important in planning and implementing elearning. There is a lack of vision and leadership from key management staff. A strategic plan with a vision is in place but it is unclear as to what management want for the college in terms of elearning in the college. Additionally, the vision was not shared with all members of staff. Major decisions are finalised by top management without consulting the relevant key personnel in middle and non-management positions, as a result, lecturers creativity are stiffled.
There are personnel in the ICT department who can strategically initiate the process of leading the college through the change process if given the opportunity since they all possess extensive ICT knowledge, a few have education technology training, and are also experienced trained teachers.
Strategies for e-learning need to be broad, and include not only the opportunity to improve the quality of teaching and learning, but also the opportunities for institutional development and for reducing lecturer workload. It is also essential for issues relating to funding, as well as those relating to the ICT infrastructure, to be shaped and driven by the overall vision for teaching and learning with elearning. There must to be a clear understanding of elearning. The pedagogy underpinning the strategic planning decisions for e-learning are significant to the successful implementation of elearning in the college.
Studies have shown that elearning will have little effect on learning unless teachers are adequately and appropriately trained. Therefore, lecturers' technological readiness and competence is a point of concern. Almost all Lecturers own a computer which has internet access. At least 80% of the staff has some form of basic computer applications training. Majority of lecturers are competent with using basic computer applications software such as word processing and presentation tools, searching the internet and sending e-mails.Â In contrast, less than 10% of the staff are competent with using videoconferencing tools and virtual learning environments.
If the implementation of elearning at the college is to be successful, teachers need adequate training and time in order to acquire competence to plan for, develop and implement elearning at the college.
Infrastructure and Technical support
For elearning to be successful, the colleges' technological infrastructure and support must be of the highest quality. At present, what is in place would not effectively support elearning, therefore, the infrastructure would have to be upgraded. For example, the college would need to provide more access per student to computers and related devices; high quality hardware (such as servers) and software (such as learning management systems), consistent internet access, interactive boards and laser printers, establish intranets within college, and so on. The college will also need to employ technical personnel to provide support services to staff and equipment. If the necessary infrastructures and support are not in place this could demotivate lecturers and students which may result in the technologies not being used, thus resulting in a failure of elearning.
Strategic funding support is needed to complement the colleges' elearning initiative. The college is government funded. As a result the economic crises that the country is presently faced with, a major point of concern is the level of funding that the college will receive for projects like elearning since the government plans to reduce all public spending. This position will definitely impact on the colleges' ability to plan for the sustainability of the project, thus making it difficult to implement elearning solutions.
Another important external concern as it relates to government policy is that there is not a national elearning policy that regulates how elearning institutions operate. The absence of such a policy may jeopardize the whole scale integration of e-learning. As a result, elearning integration becomes optional, leaving it up to lecturers' personal interest and willingness to adopt it.Â
In order for elearning to be successful in the college, the government must provide more support to learning institutions on the quest to develop appropriate and effective elearning in order to help steer the colleges' strategies in the right direction. The government must also seek to implement elearning policies and programs that encompass the whole spectrum of education and training.
A major external concern is that of competition. The educational landscape in Jamaica is fierce. Over the past five to seven years, the educational ball ground has heated up with competitors from both local and overseas universities, all clamouring for the same market share. Many of these institutions also offer courses using elearning delivery options. Therefore, to remain competitive, Moneague College must develop elearning solutions that are at least on par with or of a higher quality than that of its competitor which may prove to be quite costly.
My vision for the ICT Department of Moneague College is to create the best learning and teaching environment possible for our diverse student population by providing high quality learning through elearning that is engaging and interactive through a blended learning format. Based on Kelly (2007) e-matrix which guides the degree of e-learning that suits the delivery of courses, it is my aim to implement strategies to have the ICT department operate a blended learning framework at least at level three in five year's time.
Elearning will be used to support face to face learning in the ICT department. Fifty percent of class sessions will be delivered using traditional face to face methods, while extensive elearning technologies such as wikis, blogs, podcasts, online discussions, and so on will be used to facilitate the remaining class time. Students will be provided with access to a course management system (CMS) which contain most teaching and learning materials. The CMS can be accessed by students at anytime and any location. Student/lecturer comunication and interaction within the department will significantly improve through the use of electronic mail and other communication tools embedded in the CMS. Additionally, assignments will be submitted electronically,.
Considering the circumstances of the environment in which the college operate. In order to achieve this goal, much work and effort is need from all stakeholders involved. In the first year of the project, the barriers that would hinder the success of elearning will be addressed. Firstly, A team comprising lecturers, administrative staff, and technical expertise (maybe internal or external) must be formed to initiate, lead and oversee the implementation of the whole e-learning system. A strategic plan will be created and must be agreed on by all. Also at this point upfront investments must be solicited since funding is essential to catalyze requirements for a successful elearning solution. In the second year, the focus will be on training lecturers to use and develop e-learning tools and materials. Over next years, the ICT department will progressively move towards the third level of the ematrix.
The rationale that dictates this vision is that the college needs to remain competitive by improving the quality and quantity of learning and teaching; meet the changing challenges of the knowledge society; and cater to the increasing demands from students for flexibility of delivery. Students are already immersed in technology, therefore, the use of modern methodologies in the classroom is a natural move towards enhancing the learning process.
As information technology advances, quality is taking on new meanings throughout the education sector since many schools are now expanding their teaching environments through the internet, virtual classes, and so on, in order to effectively cater to the demand for higher education locally and worldwide. Implementing a blended solution will add value to courses offered and bring about an engine for economic growth for the department, thus help the department remain competitive.
Information and communication technologies presents new educational paradigms and models which has an increasing impact that affects the way we live, work and play as well as the ways in which we access information, communicate and learn. A blended approach with the use of effective and appropriate technologies can improve pedagogy and delivery paradigms that are required by learners.
Many of our students find it extremely difficult to attend school due to financial constraints. On many occasions, students have echoed their wish to attend school fewer days out of the school week. Also, there are some people wish to continue their educations but do not live within driving distance of a college and don't find it feasible to relocate. A blended approach is a viable alternative for these students as it would allow for flexibility where they could stay at their remote location at times and continue their studies, thus cutting down on cost.
Through a blended approach, students in the ICT department will experience marked changes in course delivery through the use of new technologies which will be highly interactive and student centered. Guri-Rosenblit(2005) asserts that these new technologies have the potential to provide new exciting possibilities to improve the quality of the study process. Students will see increased asynchronous and synchronous interactions between student/lecturer, student/student, student-content, and student-outside resources via a course management software (CMS) that supports teaching and learning. In addition, the (CMS) will organise the content of instructions, organise students grades, provide forums for chat and discussion in addition to class time and to provide link for easy access to libraries and other information resources. Web 2.0 tools such a wiki, blog, and postcast will also be incorporated in the CMS to support and extend face to face sessions. The level of communication between lecturer and students will also improve through the use of e-mails on a regular basis.
Implementing e-learning will create several changes in the department. Firstly, there has to be a shift from 'instructivist' to 'constructivist' delivery methods where knowledge is constructed by learners through an active, mental process of development. Learning will become an active mental work, not passive reception of teaching as with traditional methods. Students will be builders and creators of their own meaning and knowledge.
Secondly, there will be a move from lecture to student-centred learning activities instruction in which students become active and interactive learners primarly through the use of a combination of technology-driven resources via telephone or video conferencing or computer mediation, via email or audio and video chat, and new technologies of the Internet and multimedia such as course management tools, web 2.0 tools - wiki, blogs, podcast, videoconferencing and so on. Bates (2007) asserts that these new technologies are not merely enhancing the teaching and learning environment, but fundamentally changing it.
Lectures workload will have to be reduced since more time will be needed to develop elearning course materials and provide effective and efficient support for elearning activities. Additionally, class sizes must be reduced since lecturers will now spend more time to interact with students. As a result, the college will have to recruit additional staff to effectively cater to the needs of students.
ï‚•ï€ a shift from a focus on local resources to global resources; and
ï‚•ï€ an increased complexity of tasks and use of multi-modal information.
In order to realize the vision, several changes must be made within the department and by extension the college. There is a need for the development of a strategic plan for the ICT department that ties into the overall strategic plan for the college. To support the value of strategic planning for elearning, Bates (2010) asserts that successful planning requires the development of compelling visions and goals for the use of technology within institutions. The strategic plan will propose strategies, costs, and timelines. It will also be used as a guide to plan for the development and implementation of a successful elearning solution at the college, at the same time create strategic excellence and competitive advantage, and ensure systemic change, innovation, and sustainability. Most importantly, the vision must be clear and succinct. It must be easily understood and shared among stakeholders so all can work towards a common goal in order to turn the vision into a reality.
The success of the e-learning initiative depends as much on the people and culture of the college as it does on the technology used. It requires a significant culture change at the college in order for lecturers to develop the willingness and capability to integrate e-learning into teaching and learning. Therefore, in order for e-learning to thrive in schools it requires a culture that will support and promote e-learning development within the college.Â
A few lecturers in the department are adequately equipped to develop quality e-learning course materials. Others lacked the understanding of educational theory underpinning e-learning. Adequate staff development and training sessions must be designed for lecturers and other relevant personnel in order to acquire competence to plan for, develop and implement elearning at the college. therefore appropriate training and development sessions must be implemented. This notion is supported by Bates (2007) who outline that e-learning requires substantial up-front planning and development of materials before a course or program is ready for delivery. To overcome the barriers that comes with staff resistance, management must implement staregies to get lecturers to move away from face-to-face teaching . For example, offer reward through teaching grants and recognition of teaching innovation through promotion and evaluation processes. Additionally
"Part of providing an environment of support for e-learning is the establishment of an IT infrastructure that makes teaching with the aid of technology a painless and simple extension of normal practice" Kelly (2007). The technical support and physical infrastructure has to be ugraded in order to adequately support elearning. This includes upgrading desktop and or laptops, mainframes, servers, networking devices, internet access, content management system and so on. Bates (2000) cited that large universities such as UBC spend up to $4 million to $5 million and year to develop and maintain the necessary campus technical infrastructure. Guri-Rosenblit (2005) purports that setting up an appropriate infrastructure for the effective utilization of the ICT in any university or college requires large investments since for example, computer hardware is still quite expensive, and its rapid change and the need for its frequent replacement increase the expense entailed. Much investment is needed for the provision of the infrastructure and technological support if elearning is to be effective at the college.
To ensure the quality of elearning, the college will need to employ adequate human resource to manage the change process since this type of expertise is not readily available at the College. Bates (2000) purports that even more than the physical infrastructure are the people required to make the physical infrastructure work. Therefore, the college must recruit experience staff such as instructional designers, Web programmers, multimedia designers, and so on for example to ensure that the elearning solutions are of the highest quality and standard. Also, to ensure quality, Bates (2007) recommends a team approach to the design and development of elearning programs involving all stake holders.
To develop a quality elearning solution it requires substantial investments to support the design over the next five years. Due to the present financial situation of the Government, since the college is Government funded, the college and the ICT department by extension, must find creative ways to generate revenues to offset this cost.
Implications of findings for policy and practice
The findings indicate a range of implications which the MOEC might wish to consider for enhancing e-learning in primary schools, including the following:
Establishment of a comprehensive e-learning policy
Initially it is necessary for MOEC to establish a comprehensive official policy for primary education, which would determine the role and potential of e-learning, its educational value and the length and type of classroom use.Â This view is in line with a European Commission research (2006) suggestion that MOEC needs to clarify its educational vision for ICT.Â It is this researcher's opinion that the absence of a national e-learning policy jeopardizes the whole scale integration of e-learning, as on the bottom line this means that integration remains optional, leaving it is up to teachers' personal interest and willingness to adopt it.Â The study suggests that MOEC should clearly inform teachers about the context, aims and rationale of DIAS before integrating into schools.
Enhancing teachers' technological confidenceÂ
A variety of studies indicate that technology will have little effect on learning unless teachers are adequately and appropriately trained (Silverstein et al., 2000; Sandholtz et al. 1997).Â This survey's findings indicate that primary teachers need to receive technological training that will raise their confidence in using ICT tools in their teaching.Â Specifically, this study suggests that primary teachers need adequate training and time in order to develop competence when working within the DIAS context, especially for using synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration tools (e.g. Videoconference, Virtual Whiteboard).Â MOEC acknowledges this need and plans to provide a training programme in order for teachers to learn how to make best use of DIAS tools.Â However, this study suggests that training should be offered during working hours, in order for more teachers to be able to participate and benefit from it.Â
Combining the "e" with the "learning"
The study has provided evidence to support the view that if e-learning is to be effective, teachers need to conceptualize in depth how they can combine the "e" with the "learning".Â The literature clearly indicated that: "It is not technology, but the instructional implementation of the technology that determines the effects on learning" (Collins, 1996:146).Â The current study suggests that MOEC's training programme should be based on a series of stages that will help teachers to progress gradually from familiarization with DIAS tools to the integration of e-learning into their daily teaching practices.Â
The added value of e-learning
The study findings indicate that even if teachers receive training in how to integrate e-learning into their teaching they will be willing to change their practices only if they are convinced of the value of e-learning.Â "The knowledge, beliefs and attitudes that teachers haveâ€¦ shaped what they choose to do in their classrooms and explain the core of instructional practices that have endured over time" (Cuban, 1993:256).Â The study confirms that it would be beneficial if teachers could be informed about worldwide research evidence indicating ICT's "relative advantage" (Rogers, 2000) and the positive effect e-learning can have on students' achievements.Â
Planning with technology
Fishman and Pinkard (2001) observe that the focus should move from "planning for technology" to "planning with technology".Â Consequently, the philosophy, aims, goals and objectives of the school must be used as a guide for the vision, goals and objectives of the technology programme (Craig, 1996; Cuban et al., 2001). Â However, as with any new policy planning, interest groups must be dealt with within the policy process, otherwise they will use everything in their power to manipulate the policy to meet their own objectives (Haddad, 1995).Â Therefore, this study suggests that policy planning should not be imposed through a top-down strategy, but rather that teachers should actively participate in decision making.Â The evidence indicates that teachers need to have the space to express their views on how they regard this new innovation, and what they need in order to integrate it into their teaching.Â This can be fostered through cooperation between MOEC and the teachers' association (POED).Â Â Â
Cross-curricular integration of e-learning
Evidence from other studies has indicated that e-learning practices are more likely to happen when there is coherence among curriculum, assessment, instructional materials and instructional guidance (Kozma, 2003).Â The findings from the present study support the view that teachers might be more motivated to integrate DIAS if this is embedded into the curriculum.Â The cross-curricular integration of e-learning requires teachers to have access to specific and practice-oriented materials and activities for all the curriculum subjects.Â
Students learning with technology
Over a decade ago, Laurillard (1995) explained that there was a need to move the learning emphasis from "learning for technology" to "learning with technology".Â However, in order for primary students to be able to learn with technology, they first need time to learn how to use ICT tools.Â Therefore, this study suggests that it might be helpful if all grades have an ICT lesson that will help students to develop basic ICT skills.Â Gradually, as students develop their ICT skills and move from lower to upper grades they may be encouraged by teachers to go beyond the drill and practice activities to higher-order uses of ICT tools.
'There is no e-learning without the "e" ' (EIU, 2003).Â Undoubtedly, the first ingredient for integrating DIAS into schools is high quality infrastructure, technical support and maintenance.Â MOEC is already in the process of upgrading schools' infrastructure by providing more computers per student, high quality hardware and software, internet access, interactive boards and laser printers, and by establishing intranets within schools.Â However, the findings of this study indicated that the lack of continuous technical support could demotivate many teachers from using DIAS.Â BECTA research (2004) confirms that when there is a lack of technical support and maintenance teachers tend to avoid using technology in the first place.Â Therefore, the present study suggests that it will not be enough for MOEC to invest only in the provision of the infrastructure.Â It could be more productive for MOEC to spend less money on infrastructure and keep a high budget for technical maintenance.Â In order to afford the necessary technical support, MOEC could cooperate with a reliable ICT company which will commit to provide schools with in-time technical support and maintenance.Â Â Â Â