Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

University Enhancement System Using a Social Networking Approach: Extending E-Learning

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

University Enhancement System Using a Social Networking Approach: Extending E-Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction

Several discussions, opinions and projects have emerged in areas of e-learning especially from a social networking context, and application of ICT to solve both academic and administrative problems of schools, most notable higher institutions of learning. According to OECD (2005), the impact of ICT on tertiary education has been felt more in administrative services like admission, registration, payment of fees etc, than learning and true information dissemination. The level of adoption of e-learning is still in the infant especially by universities in the developing countries, basically because of the poor application of ICT and other social factors that inhibits the implementation of information technologies.

Although, recently, a large number of these universities are now making use of the internet for enhancing administrative services, the absence of a standard platform/system either on their intranet (within the campus) or internet (for access on/off campus) to accommodate a new learning paradigm and administrative approach, is lacking. However, the internet experience is daily increasing as people (students, lecturers, administrative staffs and others) get more familiar with the different tools available on the internet. And with the birth of the new internet termed Web 2.0, which according to Anderson (2007), Brown & Adler (2008), and O'Reilly (2005) could facilitate a change of paradigm in learning; from a top-down system focused in teachers and established knowledge, to a networked approach where teachers should change their roles to become coaches and facilitators of the learning process. It is obvious that the traditional pedagogical approach is no longer meeting the needs to prepare young learners to function effectively and satisfactorily in today's hectic labour market (Aviram, Ronen, Somekh, Winer, & Sarid, 2008).

Research has shown that most newly proposed/developed learning and administrative systems for higher institutions are built on a new (different) pedagogical model, which argues a personalized and social approach while leveraging and incorporating Web 2.0 tools. We suggest in this paper that to effectively impact the learning pattern of higher institutions, the focus should not only be on the students and their lecturers (the academic community), but also the non-academic or administrative community within the institution should be considered and integrated into the system. We therefore advocate for a system where several learning barriers can be eliminated by opening the learning environment to include non-academic staffs (who can contribute immensely to the entire learning experience), and integrating the key departments/sections (academic and administrative) into the learning system with a view to improving the information flow. This would provide students with relevant information alongside large academic resources and also aid the workers in performing their activities effectively.

Considering our selected case study, a private university in the eastern part of Nigeria that has a total population of about 5000 students, spread across 4 schools and 15 departments. 90 percent of the students reside on campus while others are non-resident students. The university has invested a lot of money in information technology; presently the university has an online portal where registration for semester is done, including payment of fees, accommodation and course selection, and class timetabling. The portal is accessible using the university's intranet or over the internet, however, the portal is disengaged when the registration activity ends. This obviously manifests the university's concern for enhancing the registration process (administrative) rather than the learning process (academics). While conducting our research on this institution, we also realized that not only is there the absence of a proper functioning e-learning system of any kind, other administrative units like campus life, medical services, student affairs, guidance and counselling and several others that are closely related to the academic activities suffer from the lack of application or use of appropriate technologies. …

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