This paper presents the results of an analysis of the performance of two cohorts (2008 and 2009) of students in the introductory corporate finance course at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). In 2008, a traditional approach was taken to the delivery of the course in both face-to-face and distance modes. In 2009, the delivery of lectures was undertaken with the assistance of a Tablet PC and the (live) lecture recording 'screencasts' produced using the technology were made available to all students.
The present study investigates the efficacy of teaching technologies by exploring the differences in student engagement and performance during the Tablet PC semester against the control or non-Tablet PC semester. However, rather than investigate these factors in isolation, this study focuses on the engagement and performance within the added dimension low, medium and high socio-economic status (SES).
The educational psychology literature identifies a relationship between SES and academic achievement. The interaction of variables and the ways in which SES may influence (directly and indirectly) academic achievement help to explain our results and illuminate some important possible paths for future research. However, it should be noted that the objective of this investigation is not to examine and identify a relationship between SES and academic achievement (which is the focus of much of the educational psychology literature) but rather to highlight some possible benefits to the use of teaching technologies within a context in which the students enrolled in a university course are characterised by a diversity of SES. Specific investigation of the association between SES, achievement and teaching technology deployment is a broader research program that requires careful consideration of particular points of measurement and methodology.
A research program that focuses on aspects of delivery of tertiary level education to low SES students is important for several reasons. Of course, there are many social justice and equity issues that can be brought to bear in justifying special focus on low SES students. In Australia, contemporary government policy intensifies the need for research and action with regard to tertiary education and low SES students. The Australian Government's (2009) 'Transforming Australia's Higher Education System' policy document, which was drafted in response to the Bradley Review of Higher Education in Australia (Bradley et al. 2008), places significant emphasis on participation in higher education of people from low SES backgrounds. More than AU$400 million of government funding has been allocated to support participation targets with the ultimate goal of having 40 percent of 25 to 34 year olds bachelor degree (or above) qualified by 2025 and low SES students constituting 20 percent of undergraduate enrolments by 2020 (Commonwealth Government 2009). The challenges facing the Australian university system are substantial.
The role that technology can play in helping to overcome these challenges is an important research program for this reason. This paper represents some very preliminary steps and generates conclusions from a higher education institutional context where, already, more than 20 percent of students are from low SES backgrounds.
This paper is organised as follows. First, an overview of the literature is presented with focus on those studies that deal with the relationship between SES and academic achievement. Then, the approach taken to the delivery of introductory level corporate finance is described and the pivotal role played by the Tablet technology is outlined. The data is analysed after that, highlighting a substantial improvement in student performance during the Tablet PC semester mainly from low and medium SES backgrounds. Results are discussed and some directions for future research are presented.
There are two main streams of literature that are relevant to the background context of the present study. First and foremost, the 'educational psychology' literature examines the effect of SES on academic achievement directly or indirectly. These studies investigate sociological-psychological aspects of education, development and achievement, including the relationship between SES and self-efficacy (and achievement). Second, in the 'economics and sociology of education' literature, various aspects of education and education policy are examined from an economic and sociological perspective. These investigations examine the relationships between various SES-related variables and variables such as drop-out rates, choice of subjects and careers. Together, these two streams of research examine the complicated fabric in which SES and other aspects of education and student behaviour are intertwined.
The investigation of the relationship between SES and academic achievement has been explored on many occasions. The meta-analyses or reviews of the literature undertaken by White (1982) and Sirin (2005) highlight the extensive nature of the literature in this field of study. A relationship exists between SES and academic achievement but the relationship is sensitive to a variety of measurement and methodological factors. As Sirin (2005, p.438) explains, "... methodological characteristics, such as the type of SES measure, and student characteristics, such as student's grade, minority status, and school location, moderated the magnitude of the relationship between SES and academic achievement." The relationship is still clear and strong enough, however, to permit statements such as the following: "Socio-economic status differences in children's reading and educational outcomes are ubiquitous, stubbornly persistent and well documented" (Aikens and Barbarin, 2008, p.235). The relationship between SES and academic achievement is due to a complex interaction of a number of variables, it appears to be generally accepted that SES impacts to a considerable extent on various aspects of students' learning experiences.
Some of the most important insights generated by the extant investigations into this relationship are the ways in which SES affects academic achievement. In addition to measurement problems, the underlying relationship is a complex one to investigate (even if the other factors were absent). This is because the effects of SES are 'channelled' through family, neighbourhood and school contexts (Aikens and Barbarin 2008). These contexts are shaped by factors such as access to books and other resources (Evans, 2004; Duncan, Yeung, Brooks-Gunn and Smith, 1998; Whitehurst and Lonigan, 1998; Duncan, Brooks-Gunn and Klebanov, 1994); various familial interaction variables, including 'negative parenting', violence, separation and disruption (Evans, 2004; Raviv, Kessenich and Morrison, 2004; Emery and Laumann-Billings, 1998); and numerous extra-familial variables, including crime, low quality social networks, aggressive or disadvantaged peers, and low school and teacher quality (Evans, 2004; Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara and Pastorelli, 2001; Sampson, Raudenbush and Earls, 1997; Bandura et al. 1996; Federman, Garner, Short, Cutter, Levine, McGough and …