Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Blending Audience Response Systems into an Information Systems Professional Course

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Blending Audience Response Systems into an Information Systems Professional Course

Article excerpt

Introduction

'Traditional' models of teaching and learning in higher education typically comprise a mixture of lectures, used for transmission of facts, out of class activities that involve preparation or assignment work, and seminars that provide face to face interaction with smaller groups. Technology, in the form of presentational systems, recorded lectures and Learning Management Systems, has increasingly been used to augment or automate some of these modes of operation (or 'delivery') thus reinforcing the idea of the transmission of knowledge from expert to learner. More recent approaches to course design and implementation acknowledge the role of these technologies but also recognise that there is a need for them to sit sensitively within the broader learning environment. One term employed to represent combinations of information and communications technology (ICT)-based and face-to-face learning is blended learning. Bliuc, Goodyear, and Ellis (2007) described blended learning as a mix of different methods, including face-to-face and online teaching, the latter often referred to as 'e-learning' (Wong, Tatnall, & Burgess, 2014).

Stav, Nielson, Hansen-Nygard, and Thorseth (2010) suggest that 'excellent' teachers arrange their curriculum into an educational system where tasks and assessments are integrated in a suitable learning environment. Learning can clearly take place even in large classes, but to be most effective teachers should be able to adapt their pace, content, or approaches to student levels of understanding on a more immediate or conversational level. As part of a blended learning environment, Audience Response Systems (ARS) can be used to capture and analyse student responses on a real-time basis and can provide a means to capture real-time student responses. A reluctance to engage in question and answer session by raising hands in large groups can be mitigated by the use ARS technology (Swanson & Piascik, 2014). As well as offering value to large classes, these technologies can also be used in small group settings where they can support discourse around topics that students may find uncomfortable. For example, attitudes and personal actions within ethical situations can be elicited using an ARS and the general group view subsequently presented on screen without any individual being identified.

One of the keys to helping to ensure the successful utilisation of ARS is to take a holistic approach to its implementation. This article outlines the initial stages of a case study of an Australian university that examined the incorporation of ARS into a Masters level unit (course). ARS was predominantly introduced into the unit to encourage students to indicate their own views related to ethical issues encountered by information systems professionals. The results of anonymous 'polls' would hopefully encourage group discussion of the issues that were raised.

As is typical in case studies, multiple approaches were used to source data for the case, including course documentation, a survey of participating students, and the results from the ARS itself. The unique aspect of the implementation is that it follows a blended learning assessment framework to guide the process. The framework suggests that the readiness of stakeholders, the selection of blended learning alternatives, and how the impact of the initiative will be measured should be considered before the introduction of ARS occurs.

This article begins by introducing a blended learning framework and describing how ARS can be considered to be part of a blended learning package. The case study outlining the introduction of ARS into a postgraduate level unit in an Australian university is then presented.

Literature Review

Blended Learning

Wong et al. (2014) introduced a 'Blended Learning Assessment' (BLA) framework to consider all aspects of blended learning (see Figure 1).

The BLA framework discusses three aspects that should be considered before a blended learning program is implemented: Readiness of the institution, lecturers, and students to adopt the blended learning program; Intensity of adoption--the selection of blended learning options from those available; and Impact--where the quality and extent of learning are assessed. …

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