Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

From Paper Work to a PC World Online Practice for a Large On-Campus Class

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

From Paper Work to a PC World Online Practice for a Large On-Campus Class

Article excerpt

Introduction

Ostfold University College of Norway has emphasized particularly industry contacts and used relevant industrial tasks for their engineering students. The project work is a key method and basic skill for their engineering students through all the three years. The college has a partnership agreement with 50 companies, which are considered as learning laboratories for these students. The college's 500 engineering students are using project work as a learning method as an important part of their ordinary course activities. The students have involved in with local business companies and institution to give realistic problems to work with. The local companies also appreciated this arrangement and they seem to realize the values and experience of these students' projects.

The CEP course is linked to textbooks and practiced in cooperation with nearby companies where the students shall address company situations relevant to chapters in the textbook, describe, analyze, compare to theory and recommend for the company in small reports (3-5 pages). Second half of the course they shall make a project work on an environmental task for the company. For the project they are asked to act as consultants, make plans, budgets, accounting, and they shall report and present their work, result and recommendations. The students intended to learn their communication and cooperation skills, not only through their lecture books, syllabus and course materials, but also through their project teamwork and their analysis report writing (Westhagen, 1999).

For engineering students, working in groups with realistic problems gives training in defining and limiting a task, develops skills in communication and co-operation, and demands practicing of leadership and reporting. The company is treated as a customer. The students often suggest a company and a problem themselves. Plans concerning results, activities and milestones, economy and time consumption shall be documented. The project result is presented in a report, is presented verbally in a lecture and is also mostly presented in an exhibition stand or on a poster. The first year project is general for all engineering directions, an environmentally focused project.

There was a new practice for CEP course in 2002, and it was introduced an online communication center combined with traditional teaching and advising. There are approximately 150 college engineering students participated in this particular CEP course, and the courseware (LearningSpace) was a basic communication tool for them. The students used this online courseware to restore and transfer their messages, reports and documents. Though the courseware (LearningSpace) is primarily a distance learning tool, it was however not an issue for this CEP course, since the course was conducted on campus physically.

A Paperless PC World

There are few intentions to reason this new practice, and paperless work is the one. There is a need to eliminate the paper work for this CEP practice, especially for a large class with over 150 students where documents in papers become difficult to administrate (Allen, 1998).

Another need is process documentation. As the students are divided into 30 groups and the group process will be a part assessment for the final evaluations. The group process includes messages, questions, comments and debates throughout the course period, and there is a clear advantage to restore such information digitally.

A classical and debatable issue is how easy or difficult this practice will be for this online approach. There might not be a general or definite answer because the answer could be different by each case, though some research papers concluded no difference between learning under two conditions, online vs. face-to-face (Smith, Smith, & Boone, 2000). However, for this CEP course practice, it is our first try for such a dimension, in terms of class size, duration and total frequencies of online activities. …

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