Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Information Technologies in Higher Education: Lessons Learned in Industrial Engineering

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Information Technologies in Higher Education: Lessons Learned in Industrial Engineering

Article excerpt

Introduction

In today's world where knowledge and information are key factors driving productivity, competitiveness and increased wealth and prosperity, nations are placing a high priority on developing their human capital. Employers now require workers to have the skills necessary for collaborating, working in teams and sharing information across global networks. Even more important, they must be flexible and able to learn quickly in a dynamic world where learning how to learn and rapidly acquiring new skills are essential. According to the World Bank Institute (Hawkins, 2002), these demands raise three fundamental questions: What defines a quality education in today's global information-based economy? Has education kept pace with a rapidly changing world? Are there good models for reform that we can follow?

It is in this context that Brunner & Tudesco, (2003) refers to the integration of new technologies into pedagogical practices as the "Digital Revolution in Education," noting that the emergence of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) is a genuine educational revolution whose consequences cannot yet be envisaged.

Despite this trend, there is as yet no solid evidence regarding what contribution these technologies can make to the educational process, and the results so far obtained suggest a mix of positive, negative and insignificant effects.

There is thus a need for more analysis of these technological tools based on concrete experiments in order to evaluate their use in different educational contexts and observe the various success and failure factors that explain the results obtained. In this spirit, the present work aims to provide an analysis of an experiment involving the incorporation of ICTs into the teaching-learning process of the industrial engineering program at the Universidad de Tarapaca in Chile. Two technologies were utilized in the experiment, the first a mobile classroom technology and the second a distance education application. In addition to analyzing the results, we report on the perceptions of the students and their satisfaction with the technological tools employed.

ICTs in education

ICTs are paving the way for new forms of communication and collaboration between students that are changing the work environment both for them and their teachers. Technology motivates students and energizes the classroom (Hawkins, 2002), and also prepares them for their future roles in today's society (Bustos & Nussbaum, 2007). The advantages conferred by these technologies are many. They facilitate the updating of educational material, promote various types of interaction between teacher and student, increase the flexibility of strategies for availability of and access to knowledge by enabling learning independent of time and place, allow students to form learning communities, permit facilitators to easily review student progress and encourage a student-centered environment that takes into account the many differences between students (Jolliffe et al., 2001).

Distance education

One of the first and most significant technologies to make its mark in the world of learning is distance education via the Internet. The advantages of e-learning compared to traditional course delivery include flexibility, accessibility and convenience for students, cost and time savings for educational establishments, and the ease and speed with which courses can be updated and revised. However, distance education also means the adoption of instruction methods that differ from those generally used in traditional courses (Northrup, 1998; Moore & Kearsley, 1996), for in the new structure of teaching that emerges, the instructor takes on the roles of facilitator, monitor and collaborator (Shedletsky, 1997).

The educational results for e-learning courses, where students access learning materials through a Web platform and all student communication is computer-mediated, have so far been varied. …

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