Building Lectures and Building Bridges with Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

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.

Literature overview

There are two main streams of literature that are relevant to the background context of the present study. …