Open Online Assignment Submission: First Year Students' Behavior and Views

Article excerpt

Introduction

Homework assignments are a necessary and usual component of learning at all education levels. They are intended to promote assimilation and application of principles and procedures presented in class. Homework assignments can engage students at different cognitive levels from simple knowledge recognition up to synthesis and evaluation (Bloom, 1956). They are intended to enable students to evaluate their knowledge and to provide necessary instructional information to the teacher.

In higher education, homework assignments are particularly important as the knowledge input during lectures is very concentrated, leaving little time for elaboration or practice. Students in higher education (especially at the freshmen stage) may find homework assignments very difficult, difficult, with difficulties stemming from a variety of sources (Ronen & Langley, 2004). The growing sense of accountability for student learning in institutions of higher education necessitates finding ways of providing appropriate scaffolds to support students in performing learning assignments. The search for innovative support methods may require a reconceptualization of learning away from the solitary, individual, teacher-student path and leading towards the socio-cultural learning paradigm, where students are seen as belonging to a group and interacting with each other through multiple channels.

The advancements in ICT during the past decade have afforded new effective communication channels which can be utilized in different ways to promote students' ability to undertake and successfully perform serious homework assignments. One such channel is the discussion group within a course site. The discussion group is a "public forum" where each student can read and post messages. The Open Assignment Submission (OAS) regime we are proposing means that students will post their completed assignments in a designated assignment forum during a fixed period. Posted assignments can be viewed by all group members as well as the instructor, revised versions can be added until the set deadline and comments of all kinds can be added by peers.

The notion of employing an open forum for homework submission may seem at first sight as promoting plagiarism and dependence. Our previous research (Ronen & Langley, 2004) has led us to believe that, given appropriate homework assignments, the potential advantages far outweigh the drawbacks. The current case-study is framed within the Academic Literacy course in the department of Instructional Systems Technologies (Langley, 2007). Within this study we shall attempt to describe and evaluate how first year students act, and the attitudes they express after initial implementation of the OAS regime.

For an extensive survey of the literature regarding learning from worked examples and from peer examples, as well as the social-cultural approach to learning and instruction especially in an information technology environment, we refer the interested reader to our previous study (Ronen & Langley, 2004).

The Study

Context and Subjects

The current study deals with student behaviour and views regarding Open Assignment Submission (OAS) in the assignment forum, during the first weeks of the semester. The research subjects were 55 first year students attending the Academic Literacy course, scheduled as a weekly 90 minute lesson. The students were divided into two groups with separate lessons and access to separate course sites: grpR (32 full-time students who study two semesters a year) and grpG (23 working students who study three semesters a year).

The study consists of two parts: The first analyzes students' responses to a self report questionnaire, dealing with behavior and views regarding OAS, and the second part analyzes data retrieved from the learning management system concerning events of viewing peer work in the assignment submission forum. …