Integrating ICT into Higher Education at the University of Moncton: A Study of Onsite vs Online Students' Perceptions

Article excerpt

For the past two decades, information and communication technologies (ICT) have

transformed the ways professors teach and students learn. This study aims to investigate the

perceptions of onsite students (blended mode) and of those taking the same courses on the

Internet (online mode). To guide the study, a moderator-type theoretical research model was

developed, out of which eight hypotheses were formulated. The model was tested in a field

experiment. To collect data, we used a multimethod approach, that is, a Web survey involving

open- and closed-ended questions. The sample was formed of 192 onsite and online students

from the three campuses of the University of Moncton (Moncton, Edmundston, and Shippagan).

The quantitative data analysis was performed using a structural equation modeling software,

that is, Partial Least Squares (PLS); the qualitative data were analyzed following a thematic

structure using QSR NVivo software. In this paper we present a summary of the quantitative

results (closed-ended questions) supported and enriched by the qualitative results of the students

(open-ended questions).

INTRODUCTION

For the past two decades information and communication technologies (ICT) have transformed the ways professors teach and students learn. Some professors have actively shifted the information flow from a face-to-face mode (student listening, onsite presence) to an entirely online mode (student reading, onsite non presence); that is, they have designed courses and curricula offered completely online using the Internet and the Web. Others have developed the hybrid or blended mode (a combination of face-to-face and online activities; less student onsite presence, ongoing use of ICT both inside and outside the classroom). Hence, knowledge acquisition and dissemination have been re-conceptualized, and new methods developed in order to satisfy the rapidly evolving needs of a population of individuals in search of more knowledge, heterogeneous, and geographically distributed.

In today's global economy, organizations (including universities) who want to survive and strive to stay highly competitive must continually innovate at the human, material, and technological levels. Alavi and Leidner (2001) pointed out that, during the past decade, universities and corporate training facilities have at an increasing rate invested into ICT to improve education and training. Marshall (2002) added that actual classrooms are more and more enriched by technology. Recent studies by the National Center for Education Statistics (Waits & Lewis, 2003), the Sloan Consortium (Allen & Seaman, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010), Aggarwal and Legon (2006), Borstorff and Lowe (2007), Martz and Shepherd (2007), Kinuthia and Dagada (2008), as well as Washburn (2011) showed a growing appeal and acceptance of online learning. Other recent studies by Kim and Bonk (2006), Gomez et al. (2007), Eynon (2008), Young and Ku (2008), Steele (2008), Moskal and Dziuban (2011), and the Garrison and Vaughan's (2008) book showed the growth of blended learning. Further, it is argued by Giddens (1999) that one of the more important functions of the university is to allow people to play a significant role in today's new economy. Thus, universities, faculties, and professors are currently looking for ways to improve teaching and curricula, as well as develop new modes capable of satisfying the actual and future needs of organizations and societies. Out of their recursive attempts, the four fundamental questions often revisited are the following: (1) What are we teaching? (2) What should we be teaching? (3) What is the best way to teach it (pedagogy)? and (4) What are the impacts on students?

The study described in this paper aims at helping universities to stay highly competitive in the current global shift in higher education, an approach that is innovative in its exploration of new directions as regards the last two above-mentioned questions. …