Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Enhancing Student Performance in Online Learning and Traditional Face-to-Face Class Delivery

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Enhancing Student Performance in Online Learning and Traditional Face-to-Face Class Delivery

Article excerpt

Introduction

The MSc Management of eBusiness and MSc IT with Web Technology are innovative online learning programmes offered by the School of Computing at the University of Paisley. The programmes provide the skills that modern managers need to understand and manage modern eBusinesses and web-based technology.

The programmes are built on a framework of modules. The modules provide interactive learning through the use of self-assessment questions and multimedia activities and exercises. Each module comprises a number of units, which cover a separate topic of the course. The programmes offer a range of business, management, IT and eBusiness related modules that enable business managers to fully understand the strategies and technologies that can harness the potential of the Internet and eBusiness. The typical profile of the students taking the programmes is of a mature graduate in a senior management position within well-known national and multinational organisations where the role of the Internet and eBusiness is of major strategic importance.

The online distance learning environment has a major contribution to make to the educational requirements of the twenty-first century by encouraging general acceptance of the concept of knowledge as a vital element in social development and economic growth. Keeping pace with changes in technology and meeting the increasing demands of the knowledge-based economy will require a highly-skilled and educated workforce capable of working collaboratively to find solutions to diverse economic, social and environmental problems. The key to success is in large part continuing education, which means that online learning, with its open access and opportunities for active collaboration in an egalitarian environment, will have an important role to play in meeting the challenges of the future.

The Process of Learning

While some students regard the process of learning as simply involving the acquisition of information to be reproduced in an examination room, others experience it as a transforming process which leads to greater personal understanding. Marton and Saljo (1976) identified two differences in the ways that students carried out a reading task which were defined as 'deep' and 'surface' approaches to learning (Entwistle & Ramsden, 1983; Marton, Hounsell, & Entwistle, 1984; Saljo, 1979).

In the deep approach the student's aim is to understand ideas and relate them to previous knowledge and experience. This involves looking for patterns and underlying principles, as well as critically examining the logic and argument presented. The student shows an active interest in the content of the course. Learning is also viewed as personal development; students feel that the experience of learning has changed them in a personally meaningful fashion. It is more than just understanding what others mean; it has altered their way of seeing a particular aspect of reality. The learning is significant (Grant, Stansfield, & Land, 2000). It is at this final stage that learning can become an absorbing and exciting process and students can become genuinely enthused by it. The essence of a deep approach is that students are looking for the point of what is being learned, for links and relationships between ideas and the real world. They identify relationships between their own previous understanding and experience. In doing this they do not just reproduce the knowledge, they actively engage with it, subsuming it within their own cognitive order or map. This kind of learning is essentially transformative (Grant et al., 2000). The role of online technology in promoting deep learning was central to the work described in this paper.

By contrast to the deep approach, in the surface approach the student's aim is simply to get through the course without considering its significance. The course is seen as containing unrelated pieces of knowledge which are to be memorised for examination purposes. …

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