Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

A Neomillennial Learning Approach: Helping Non-Traditional Learners Studying at a Distance

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

A Neomillennial Learning Approach: Helping Non-Traditional Learners Studying at a Distance

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Relying on text-based instruction may be disenfranchising many students, whilst technology enhanced environments can provide significant advantages to a growing market of non-traditional learners. This paper reports on research investigating the perceptions of first year distance education students studying a foundation communications course using a multimodal learning environment. It demonstrates higher levels of engagement are possible when a neomillennial learning approach is adopted for designing course materials catering to a diverse student body, whilst maintaining a balanced environment for more traditional learners. A strong acceptance was moderated by a desire to still receive some print-based materials. However, students reported a preference to receive an electronic version when given a choice.

Keywords: Transmodal delivery; neomillenial, multimodal design; multimedia; learning styles.

INTRODUCTION

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) is a dual-mode institution with 'triple-option' teaching modes (on-campus, distance education, and online). It is currently the second largest distance education provider in Australia (see Table 1), with 75% of its students studying in this mode, with almost 90 nationalities represented. At USQ, as with many other institutions in Australia, distance education course materials have traditionally been delivered via static printbased packages. However, advances in technology and the greater use of multimedia in education have provided an opportunity for course leaders and designers to enrich students' learning experiences by providing technology-based learning resources that comprise a range of multimedia and online components. A range of forces including, pedagogical, opportunistic, pragmatic, and psychological motivations, have encouraged many educators to adopt these educational technologies to enhance the delivery their courses (Sankey & Birch, 2005). However, it has become increasingly clear that maintaining so many different approaches is economically unsustainable. Aligned with this concern is the increasing demand from off-campus students to be provided with more than simply a correspondence model.

This paper seeks to demonstrate that higher levels of student engagement are possible, and that course materials can be designed to cater to learners with a range of different learning modalities and backgrounds. It also investigates the implications of catering to a wide range of students, proposing that one approach is to consider the notion of a neomillennial learning approach. 'Neo-' in this context meaning 'new', 'millennial' referring to the learning modality required for the new millennium. This should be done whilst considering the ever increased growth of non-traditional learners in our universities and the problems associated with these students accessing an ever increasing quantity of internet based materials. It is proposed that this approach may initially be facilitated by giving students the opportunity to discover their preferred learning modality and by the integration of a range of multimodal learning and teaching strategies. This hypothesis will be supported with a summary of key points from research conducted on the first iteration of the Transmodal delivery of a first year foundation communications course, CMSWOO: Communication and Scholarship, provided to off-campus students at USQ. This study investigated students' perceptions of this new multimodal delivery approach during Semesters 1, 2 and 3 of 2005. In researching CMS1000 a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches were employed, an approach that has given the researchers, and more importantly the University, a clear indication of how students perceived this new multimodal approach to course delivery, that draws on students' comments and their perceptions of these environments.

DIFFERING APPROACHES TO LEARNING

Taylor (2004) argues that traditional approaches to learning and teaching will not have the capacity to meet the escalating demands of higher education in the future. …

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