Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Establishing the IT Student's Perspective to E-Learning: Preliminary Findings from a Queensland University of Technology Case Study

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Establishing the IT Student's Perspective to E-Learning: Preliminary Findings from a Queensland University of Technology Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

E-learning has become an integral part of the teaching and learning process in higher education. The Australian Universities Teaching Committee (2002) suggested that despite its short history, "e-learning is experiencing a rapid penetration as education and training institutions at all levels of business and government, both nationally and internationally seek to capitalize on its promise of increasing access to learning opportunities as well as enhancing the quality of learning outcomes" (p. 2). In 2002 the Australian Department of Education Science and Training (DEST) released findings from a nation wide exploration into online education within 40 of the 43 Australian universities. With 54% of all units offered in higher education containing an "online component" DEST concluded that "Australian universities have made significant investments in online education, both in terms of the development of courses and support services and the infrastructure necessary to deliver them" (Bell, Bush, Nicholson, O'Brien, & Tran, 2002, p. 2). The benefits of e-learning, and consequently the driving forces behind the e-learning uptake in higher education, have been widely discussed. They include greater accessibility and flexibility, a more cost effective and cost efficient program of study, and a higher quality student learning experience.

In 2004 the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) stated that one of its' four ambitions was to "provide outstanding learning environments and programs that lead to excellent outcomes for graduates" (QUT, 2003, p. ii). QUT challenges its academic staff to meet this ambition by making "a coordinated and strategic effort to use increasing capacity and flexibility of ... [information and communication] technologies to transform our teaching and learning in ways which engage and challenge students" (QUT, 2003, p. 4).

Keller and Cernerud (2002) suggest that the current discussion on the use of information and communication technology in learning, or what is now more commonly known as e-learning, has primarily focused on ways in which the teacher incorporates new technology into their teaching. They suggest that whilst there are "reports of students overwhelming preferring to take class using e-learning than a traditional course" (2002, p. 56) very few studies explore e-learning from the students point of view. Since Keller and Cernerud's comments were published, however, several studies have been published exploring student perceptions and expectations regarding e-learning (Small & Lohrasbi, 2003; Wang, 2004). This paper will add to the growing body of literature exploring students attitudes towards e-learning through a discussion of how e-learning is being implemented and viewed by students within the Faculty of Information Technology at QUT.

E-Learning

A Definition Professor Stephen Heppell, Director of Ultralab, the Anglia Polytechnick University's learning technology research centre provides the following informal definition of e-learning:

"it isn't delivering knowledge, it isn't building 'teaching machines', it isn't edutainment, it isn't doing what we did before but cheaper. But it is the opportunity for [students] to explore new expertise, take new risks, develop new collaborations, gain new understanding ... It is about creativity not productivity.... It is about multiple media and multiple learning styles together with the opportunity to change the mix to suit the context, the learners, their predispositions and their entitlements.... It is also about allowing teachers to do what they entered the profession to do: inspire, lead and delight [students] whilst rejoicing in their rapid progression" (2002, para. 5)

More formally, e-learning has been defined by the American Society for Training and Development as "anything delivered, enabled, or mediated by electronic technology for the explicit purpose of learning" (Hicks, n. …

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