The real definition of homework is yet to be defined

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Although homework had widely been used almost in every school around the world for decades, the real definition of homework is yet to be defined. Dr Harris Cooper of the University of Missouri-Columbia tried to define homework as tasks that are assigned to students by the teachers that are to be completed at home (Cooper, 1989, p. 7).

Although this definition tells us about the nature of homework, it is the parents who had been in the fore front in raising concerns about homework believing that the homework is the source of stress and struggle for the students (Public Agenda, 1998). Due to the unequal resources and opportunities to the students, the gap of achievement between the students has been in constantly increase( Lacina-Gifford & Gifford, 2004 ). "Homework reinforces the social inequities inherent in the unequal distribution of educational resources in the United States. Some students go home to well-educated parents and have easy access to computers with vast databases. Other students have family responsibilities, parents who work at night, and no educational resources in their homes" (Kralovec & Buell, 2001, p. 40).

Corno (2000) believes that the purpose of homework has to be widened and thus homework can be a modern educational tool that can provide social communication, contract among peers and increase sense of community among students (p. 529). Coron (2000) also opined that homework can bring about a real sense of natural and collaborative communities among students if they can use internet technology (Corno, p. 533).

As the homework is becoming more and more technology oriented, it is now essential for parents to get involved in helping their children completing their homework. A number of researches indicate that parental support and involvement in completing homework improves the home-school relationship (Barbour, 1998; Comer & Haynes, 1991; Cooper et al., 2001; Epstein, 1994; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2001; McCarthey, 2000; Segel, 1990; Snow, 1999; Swick & Graves, 1993; Taylor & Dorsey-Gaines, 1988). Parental involvement in homework makes considerable difference in a student's academic achievement (Bryan, Burstein, & Bryan, 2001). This finding is also supported by Piaget (1954/1981) who believes that the Children learn best when they have opportunities to interact with their environments.

Research has shown that online-homework has helped students to improve their grades in class tests (Taraban et al. 2005). The key feature of online homework is that students receive immediate feedback on their work which is opposed to the traditional paper-and-pencil based homework. Research has also found that online students do complete their course and homework significantly better than the traditional pen-and-paper based homework.

Besides the benefit to the online homework, there has been concerns raised by the researchers which suggest that students might be less motivated because of lack of technical knowledge getting less help from the teacher in ….

Variable: the level of computer skills can cause better of poor online homework performance. It means that students with greater computer skills and/or greater maturity are more likely to opt do well in online activities.

Designing homework (Bailey, 2004) is a key to its successful completion. Defining the role of homework and making it interactive can foster the partnership of students, promotes interaction between students and parents and contributes to students' satisfaction (Bailey, 2002). To make a homework or assignment effective it is very important that teachers make the instruction clear so that the students can complete the homework properly (Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2001; Fagella, 1990). Students should be fully informed of what is expected out of their homework. It has been observed that sometimes teachers fail to explain the objectives and expectations of the homework during the lesson (Taraban et al. 2005).

Integration of technology in the education has been in place in many schools. Multimedia software is one of the technologies that has been considered useful to promote educational achievement for almost a decade (Becker, 2000; Mayer, 2003; Moreno, 2006). The multimedia elements such as images, sound, animation, interactive books contribute a lot to improve motivation and comprehension level of the students as compared to the traditional printed texts (Greenlee-Moore & Smith, 1996; Labbo, 2002).

Researchers have found that there have been some mismatches between the instructional approaches of the teachers and the strategies for cognitive intake as well as processing of thee materials presented to the students (Boone & Higgins, 2007; Chapin & Messick, 1999; Higgins, Boone, & Lovitt, 2002). These mismatches are making difference in the performance of the students and their level of achievement. The incongruent levels of literacy is posing a big challenge to both teacher and students in preparing homework activity. Numerous evidences suggest that students are finding English and History as dull and unimportant; they are increasingly facing difficulty in understanding their textbook which is reflected in their poor afterschool activities (e.g., homework ) (Ciborowski, 2005; Stetson & Williams, 2005; White, 1999). In an another research English and History are found to be the least favourite subjects in the curriculum (Higgins, Boone, & Lovitt, 2002; Lounsbury, 1988; Shaughnessy & Haladyna, 1985).

Although science related subjects went a long way in terms of adopting technology, social studies education, on the other hand, for the most part is still focusing on traditional, teacher-directed, lecture-and-textbook-based approaches and activities (Diem, 2000; Friedman & Hicks, 2006; White, 1999).

Embracing educational technology in teaching social science subjects can help the students shifting from memorization of dates and information to a more student-centered, hands-on, authentic learning experience (Bitter & Pierson, 2005; Trinkle & Merriman, 2000). Research suggests that educational technology can help history and social studies learning by promoting student-cantered instruction, increasing learner motivation, and extending and deepening understandings of historic and civic concepts (Molebash, 2002). Other studies which suggest that computer-adapted tutorial programs for the social studies subjects can have reported modest positive outcomes (Twyman & Tindal, 2006). Two other research studies that were carried out a full decade apart, came up with similar conclusion. First one carried out by Higgins, Boone, and Lovitt (1996) which found out that online learning technology guides students towards noticeable gains for ninth grade social studies students with regard to recall, comprehension, and attitudes. Boon et al. (2006) came up with similar results while researching high school students' use of technology-enhanced cognitive organizers.

Teacher's role is very important to make a learner independent in terms of doing his homework regularly. Teachers can come up with necessary strategies and educational technologies in order to help students in their homework. Online homework can help the students in reminding their homework as well as provide some assistance that may encourage them in doing it.

Research has found that the integrating ICT to teaching, administration and management can improve the quality of teaching in the Key Stage 3.

Home work has been widely regarded as the contributing factor to the enhancement of school learning and academic achievement (Cooper,1989;Walberg,1985). A number of literatures including books and articles have been published devoting various aspects of homework (Hong&Milgram,1999;Doyle&Barber,1990).. A study was carried out to determine if the use of online home work management system MyMathLab (MML) can contribute to an increase in academic performance compared with traditional paper-based, instructor-graded homework. The study concluded that the student who used the MML system have come up the very performance (70%) compared with the traditional paper-and-pencil based group (49%). [ref this report]

Online line homework sometimes provide immediate feedback which is opposed to traditional paper-and-pencil based homework. Some learning management software even provides grades and scores which are very helpful to the students as they can measure their performance instantly. This homework system even more detailed information on homework by breaking the feedback down into the major kinds of information provided.

Distance learning or online learning proved effective in one of the researches where students who were participating from distance or of off campus, performed in the same way as regular on campus students. However there are some variables that contribute in the level of learning i.e. type of course, length, computer skills etc.

Web based homework assistance systems have been gaining ground in various educational institutions for many years. Systems like Blackboard (www.blackboard.com), MasteringPhys- ics (www.masteringphysics.com), WebAssign, (www.webassign.com), and Web WorK (htrp://webwork.rochester.edu) are being used by many colleges in the United States and by thousands of students across the world as their homework assistance tool. Island (www.studyisland.com) and PowerSchool (www.powerschool.com) are gaining popularity with K-12 students and teachers in the USA and in many countries in the Europe. WebCT (www.webct.com), Homework Service (https://hw.ucexas.edu/bur/overview.html), and WebWorK are becoming very common name in higher education It is likely that the use of Web-based homework assistance systems will increase in the forth coming days as the digital divide between students is narrowing gradually. Some of these technologies are open source and free which is another reason for such popularity in both students and teachers community. Due to the gradual progress in technology, the intelligent tutoring system or online tutoring system is increasingly becoming more sophisticated. Some intelligent systems for math guide students in solving math problem much the same way human tutors do in the classroom. Some systems have been developed to imitate the human tutor by reproducing the activities i.e. dialogue patterns and strategies that are used by human tutor. Contrary to that there are some systems that provide immediate feedback on the student's work by highlighting right or wrong answers through using colours.

One of the key features that made home work assistance system popular is its immediate feedback feature through automatic grading and recording system. . This system helps teachers in saving their time as well. This is especially true to those teachers who would like to grade all of their students' traditional paper-and-pencil homework carefully by hand but do not have time. carefully by hand but do not have time. In turn, this can prompt students to take homework more seriously because they know it will be graded and the grade will be recorded. With these systems, students can often get immediate feedback on their answers and work and sometimes help toward solving problems.

Although most of these Web-based homework-assistance systems can provide benefits, they have some limitations too. Some of these systems proved ineffective when students are required to enter a single answer for each problem. On the other hand teachers may be less able to figure out where students are having difficulties as they cannot see scrap work like the students on paper. Cheating may be easier among students because they could possibly get the answers from their friends or from internet without having to show how they found out the answer.

Some research, however, came up with opposite results. According to a U.S Congress-mandated study (Dynatski et al., 2007) educational software products form math and reading could not bring about significant change in terms of students' performance in the test in compared to the traditional classroom based paper-and-pen system.

There are other studies which compared Web-based physics homework versus paper-and-pencil homework and the result was negative as they did not find any significant difference between the two homework conditions (Bonham, Deardorff, & Beichner, 2003; Pascarella, 2002).

Web-based Homework Versus Paper-and-Pencil Homework

Previous research has shown positive results for using Web-based homework assistance instead of traditional paper-and-pencil homework. MasteringPhysics, a widely used web-based physics homework assistance system, was proved helpful in solving physics homework problems. Students can find out the answers and feedback on the common student errors. []

The Andes system is another example of intelligent tutoring system that is also designed to assist the physics homework. It provides not only the solution of any problem but also takes it forward in "scaffolding question" system. It helps students to complete whole derivations step by step and receive feedback after each step. This step by step helps students to find out where their errors are or to find out what to do next.

One of the important features of the web-based homework assistant system is that it provides both individual and group work. A research by Lou, Abrami, and d'Apollonia (2001) found out that a group of students performed significantly better than individual in completing their online homework. Another study was conducted by Uribe, Klein, and Sullivan (2003) to examine if the students can perform better in doing their Web-based homework ether by individually or in dyads. They found out that the students who worked in dyads performed significantly better than the students who worked alone in pen-and-paper based format. The result thus suggested that web-based collaborative environment is better for the students for the problem-solving activities. This result echoed the study by van Amelsvoort (2006) who found out that students exhibited better performance as a result of collaborative discussion and writing.

It has been the matter of long argument whether higher student satisfaction is the results of better academic success or the opposite (Bean &C Bradley, 1986; Pascarella, Whitt, Edison, Hagedorn, & Terezini, 1996). In a research Irons etal. (2002) confirmed that the satisfaction of the students increases if communication tools are provided. It has also been found that if students are provided computer technology assists the learning process then their performance and satisfaction increases. (Wilson & Weiser, 2001). Web-based learning system can help in designing the course or homework more effectively which is one of the most critical element affecting student satisfaction (Stein, 2004) and learning.

Due to advent of the good number of web-based education assistance system, the number of virtual high schools has increased. This is mostly true in the case of the United States and in the United Kingdom (Rice, 2006). Central to the web-based learning assistance system is that it encourages students to create a virtual community involving cognition, peers, and teacher(s), enabling them to construct knowledge in an interactive and iterative manner (Ng & Nicholas, 2007).

Constructivist learning theory (Bruner, 1966; Piaget, 1955, 1972) has been named for the in terms getting most out the web-based learning system. This theory asserts that "individuals construct their own representations of knowledge which is build upon pre-existing knowledge through active engagement with the learning, either at the operational level of physical manipulations or at the cognitive level of processing information or stimuli (or some combination of both)".

The studies showed that asynchronous discussions were a significant factor in an online learning environment in order to success and getting learning satisfaction. Through this way students are able to project their own presences and had opportunities to reflect on their peers' contributions by writing their responses which make their learning much more enjoyable (Hooff, 2005).

Stacey (1999) and Fung (2004) have found that cognitive aspects of learning can be found in collaborative learning environments because, in this process, students are exposed to different perspectives that help them develop judgment and critical thinking. Another benefit of online learning is that (Swan, 2003) online learning environment haf much less teacher dominance and at the same time it offers a more democratic atmosphere for learning, where all voices were heard.

Asynchronous online discussion allows students to reflect and react, as well as to manage discussions that allow them to express their deep thinking in writing (Lim &Tan, 2001;Markel, 2001; Poole, 2000). The web-based learning system (Maker, 1993) can provide challenges to the students as well which is to take up tasks that challenge their organizational and management skills such as remembering to log in to read postings; their thinking, their independence in learning in a nontraditional environment, and their ability to plan the content to be researched.

The online learning can be (Maker, 1993) challenging to the students to take up tasks that can challenge their independence in learning, their thinking, their organizational and management skills, and their ability to plan the content as well. Study [] has showed that some students are capable of overcoming these challenges, even at their young age. Online learning can enrich their learning experiences as well as can contribute in the richness of thinking.

Sometimes the role for teacher/facilitators of online learning is very important in creating motivation to the younger students as it is observed that motivation does not arise in some of them spontaneously due to their less organized internal locus of control (Cavanaugh et. al., 2004).

It was reported in Papert's (1991, 1993) studies that children find their learning fun and engage themselves in learning more when they engage in creating a public artifact that others will see, critique, and use.

Constructivist educational theory goes in line with the web-based homework system as it encourages learners to construct their own conceptualizations and find their own solutions to problems. Constructivism claims that learning is the result of individual mental construction. Learners, according to this theory, learn through establishing link between new information against the given information. Learning, in constructivist thinking, is inescapably affected by the beliefs, context and attitudes of the learner. Here, learners are given more latitude in becoming effective problem solvers and teachers play the role of catalyst which stimulates the creative mentality of the students as well as help them in identifying and evaluating problems. []

Constructivists believe that knowledge and truth are constructed by the learner by himself and do not exist outside of the mind of the learner (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992). Therefore in constructivists learning theory learners construct their own knowledge by actively participating in a range of learning process which forms their learning. Constructivist instructional developers value learner autonomy, collaboration, reflectivity, active engagement and generativity,.

Behaviourist theory mostly enjoyed its popularity during the mid sixties for both on-campus and distance teaching. Behaviourist instructional strategies heavily depend on predetermined outcomes, Seels and Glasgow (1990, p3)

Behaviourists rely on the development of a set of instructional sequences which plays key roles in determining predetermined outcomes. In a web-based environment this behaviourist theory cannot serve the purpose as technologies have revolutionized and fundamentally changed the whole learning and teaching paradigm. Constructivist approach learning withless emphasis on the sequence of instruction rather it emphasizes on the design of the learning environment. (Jonassen, 1994. p 35).

REVIEW OF CONSTRUCTIVIST THEORY

Despite of having diverse views on the term 'constructivism', there are some common beliefs in this theory:

a. Learning, here, is an active process of constructing rather than

acquiring knowledge which is opposite to behaviorism and

b. Instruction is viewed as a process of supporting that construction rather

than communicating knowledge. (Duffy and Cunningham,

1996. p 171).

Constructivist theory was influenced by cognitive psychology principles. Deviating away from the behaviourist theory, constructivist gave more attention to the learning process and a greater degree of autonomy was given to the learner:

"Cognitive theory concentrates on the conceptualisation of students'

learning processes. It focuses on the exploration of the way

information is received, organised, retained and used by the brain."

(Thompson et al, 1996. P 11)

In constructivist theory students enjoy more control and participation in their learning and the teacher takes on the role of 'coach and facilitator' (Wilson, 1996 p6/7), or 'co-learner' (Harper and Hedberg 1997).

"Constructivists view learning as the result of mental construction. Students learn by fitting new information together with what they already know. People learn best when they activle [sic] construct their own understanding."

Asynchronous discussions offer a flexible and a convenient communication forum in order to engage students and enhance learning. This is why many Web-based course providers on asynchronous discussions to enhance learning. "Online asynchronous discussions support high levels of thinking and interaction in a convenient, flexible environment (Berge, 2002; DeArment, 2002)."

Researchers found learning benefits when students are actively engaged in asynchronous online discussions. Students have the opportunity to review and reflect on their understanding of the course content or the any after school activity i.e. homework. Through this process they develop substantive comments that contribute to the community learning environment (Allan, 2004; Tu and Cory, 2003; Flynn & Polin, 2003). Instructors states that online discussions is more beneficial to international students who need extra time to clarify and develop their remarks (Chickering & Ehrman, 1996; Warschauer, 1996). However, effective discussions are required through thoughtful design, facilitation, and assessment but posting messages to address the instructor's questions is not enough for effective learning" (Tu & Corry, 2003, p. 304).

Web-based discussions or interaction are convenient for learning because they are not time or place dependent. This interaction not only ensures students' response at their own pace but facilitate an equal opportunity to express themselves (Palloff and Pratt, 2002; Peters, 2000). Discussion boards, in asynchronous discussions, provide a permanent record (Meyer, 2004; Clouse, 2003) of interaction. In addition, asynchronous learning environment promotes collaborative participation and thus it contributes for a social construction of knowledge (DeArment, 2003; Thomas, 1999).

Blanchette (2001) found that in an asynchronous learning environment questions at higher levels generates performance of higher cognitive levels. More interaction has also been observed among the learners of asynchronous learning environment.

The learning management systems (LMS) can be used across many subjects in the secondary curriculum. The LMS systems are more than just a tool. Most of these LMS are designed with the perspective of asynchronous learning environment in order to encourages more interactive learning and unleash the immense potentiality of virtual teaching. These systems pave the way to implement pedagogical approaches of constructivist nature, that are characterized by the construction of knowledge through the completion of different activities (Jonassen,1999; Knuth&Cunnigham,1993; Khalifa&Lam,2002). LMS are designed to encourages and motivate for self earning process with an special emphasis in real world problem solving.

Constructivist teaching fosters collaborative learning (Tan,Lin,Yang, & Zhao,2008) by encouraging students working in team or group.

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