Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

An Exploratory Survey in Collaborative Software in a Graduate Course in Automatic Identification and Data Capture

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

An Exploratory Survey in Collaborative Software in a Graduate Course in Automatic Identification and Data Capture

Article excerpt

Introduction

Teaching a course remotely will always have challenges associated with it. These challenges typically do not arise from the students' comprehension of the materials, rather the technology used to deliver the course; communication with the instructor; and the "loneliness" of the independent distance student. Research on distance learning has evolved as much as the technologies used. While much research has focused mainly on effectiveness of the technologies, current research includes a specific focus on how distance education students learn best. When technology is included as part, but not exclusive to the design of the course, and "adapted for the current environment, it can enable and support enhanced forms of learning" (Kirkwood & Price, 2006, p.1). Thus, the instructor must choose technologies that not only enhance learning, but increase learner satisfaction, comfort, and adaptability, significant determinants of the effectiveness of a course (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2003). The technological base of a distance education course should reinforce course goals, student needs, and desired learning. Improvements to distance education courses can be done through adjusting and refocusing instruction, not simply by adding new technologies. Bates (1995) points out that, "Good teaching may overcome a poor choice in the use of technology, but technology will never save poor teaching; usually it makes it worse" (p. 8).

Research by Garland (1993) on student barriers to persistence in distance education include those related to situational (learning environment, time management, support), institutional (costs, procedures, scheduling), and dispositional and epistemological factors. Among these, student success falls largely within dispositional and epistemological factors, which are those related to the student's "psychological and sociological nature" (Simonson et al, 2003, p. 69). Examples include determining educational or professional goals, juggling various roles of home, school, and work, time management and availability, learning style differences, and "adult pride" in achievement or failure level (p. 69). What mattered most was the willingness (motivation) of the students to communicate their needs and concerns to the instructor, as well as making themselves available to complete tasks online. The weekend master's students also had to adjust learning off-campus, which in itself is an alienating factor. Two of the students, each who flew to Indiana from either Texas or Boston, shared their feelings of disconnectedness from being in an off-campus course, but particularly when coming for the three weekend sessions to a culture and climate decidedly different from their home states.

Based on the pedagogical tenets of learner-centered instruction, courses focused on constructivism, hands-on, and inquiry-based learning--the foundations of an effective classroom--are essential in distant education. When based on these principles, distant education mirrors the effectiveness of traditional education. Among many studies from which to draw, in particular, the results of a study by Cheng, Lehman, and Armstrong (1991) found "no significant difference in the overall course performance or attitudes" between an off-campus class graduate class using computer conferencing and their traditional counterparts on campus.

Another important aspect in developing a successful distance education course is recognizing the unique characteristics of the students, thereby designing instruction to meet their needs. Distance education students differ in learning style from their classroom counterparts, which includes structuring their own learning and having "a higher need and desire for control over their learning environments" (Roblyer, 2003, p. 195). Additionally, distance education learners are generally more abstract learners, have a higher degree of intrinsic motivation, and an internal locus of control. …

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