Technology in the Classroom: Using Video Links to Enable Long Distance Experiential Learning

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The focus of MIS education is to learn both business and technical skills that are directly applicable on the job for which a student would be hired either after graduation or, to a lesser extent, between semesters as an intern. This postsecondary education is necessarily general in nature because of the high variability in work practices found in the companies that higher graduates; however, some specificity exists in the tools, techniques, programming languages, and DBMSs used in the classroom. The result is that MIS graduates are later trained in the specific tools, languages, DBMSs, systems analysis techniques and business processes by the company that hires them, because each firm does things differently and the more general MIS education cannot cover all specific techniques. The higher education model therefore proceeds from general to specific as the student moves from the classroom to the company as an employee, a deductive approach. Upon graduation, the firm must then train the recent hire on their specific tools and techniques, and so at this point, the education model proceeds from specific to general, an inductive approach.

But what if the model were reversed (somewhat) by allowing the firm to train students in their techniques and methods while still in the classroom? Would this benefit the student and the educational process? Would the student become more competitive upon graduation? If so, how would such a model be accommodated? The technology to accomplish this has been around for some time, but its use has been prohibitively expensive. Using more modern and less expensive technology, the virtual, real time classroom has not only become possible, it offers a richer learning experience on a much larger scale than has heretofore been offered.

This type of virtual classroom and experiential learning goes beyond what has been offered in recent history. Video links and teleconferencing have been used in the classroom, but have primarily been confined to linking prerecorded video case studies (Boling, 2007) and other students in remote classrooms (e.g., West, 2010). In the former case, teachers are able to link via a web browser to a case study found somewhere on the Internet and present this to the class, while in the latter case, classrooms located in various parts of the world are able to interact in real time with one another. Additional uses include exercises to enhance team building and interpersonal skills (Alexander & Pryor, 2009) and service-learning through the development of community projects (Hoxmeier & Lenk, 2003; Wei, et al., 2007). While these uses are appropriate, innovative and exciting for the participants, this technology has not been fully exploited to create a virtual classroom and implement a model of experiential learning.

What role would the firm play in such a model? The purpose of this paper is to document a classroom experience and reveal the methods by which it was accomplished, highlighting the obstacles, the failures and the successes that resulted.

2. BACKGROUND

The capstone MIS course in many universities involves a group project that attempts to bring together all of the principles presented in previous courses. Students are given a project and expected to determine the user requirements and convert these into software artifacts that include a back end (the database), a front end (the user application) and any connections that are required in between. They must utilize some sort of analysis and design methodology to uncover all the user requirements and convert this into both a logical and physical design. Tools used may include integrated development environments that document all requirements, model them and convert the models into a software design that includes both the data storage techniques and the user interface (usually graphical in today's classrooms). The project is therefore non-trivial because of all of the activities that must be performed and made as realistic as is possible in the short amount of time that is available. …