Using Technology-Mediated Learning Environment to Overcome Social and Cultural Limitations in Higher Education

By Bhatti, Arif; Tubaisahat, Abdallah et al. | Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Annual 2005 | Go to article overview

Using Technology-Mediated Learning Environment to Overcome Social and Cultural Limitations in Higher Education


Bhatti, Arif, Tubaisahat, Abdallah, El-Qawasmeh, Eyas, Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology


Introduction

The importance of higher education to gain prosperity and to develop human resources has been realized by under-developed countries. Students in higher education require a very flexible environment to communicate and collaborate with their peers to accomplish tasks needed to succeed. In western countries where higher education is common, individuals regardless of their gender can meet, communicate and collaborate at anytime at any place of their choice. University campuses provide facilities and resources that students can use any time. In some countries and societies, it is not possible due to the cultural and social reasons.

ZU was established for national female population of United Arab Emirates. The university has five colleges and most of the faculty members are western educated to provide students learning opportunities in American style of teaching ensuring a very high quality of education. ZU operations and policies reflect the impact of social and cultural values on higher education. Advances in networking technologies and the Internet have a significant impact on teaching and learning in higher education (Hodges, 2004; Muhlhauser, 2002; Smith & Winking-Diaz, 2004). ZU campuses are fully networked that allow students to connect to the university network and Internet from anywhere on campus. Each student is required to purchase a very recent laptop that she is supposed to carry with her while she is on campus. Each faculty member receives a laptop with a three-year replacement schedule. Normal working hours are 8 to 5 and students are allowed to be on campus during this period. For cultural and social reasons, students are not allowed to be oncampus after normal working hours and on weekends.

Social and cultural values of a society could impose different rules based on the gender. Females in a society are usually subject to different set of rules as compared to their male counterparts in the same society. These rules could severely limit the learning opportunities for females. In this paper, we will present a case study using hybrid teaching approach to answer how technology could overcome these limitations without violating and changing any established society rules.

In a technology-mediated learning environment, students and teachers use a wide range of Internet based tools to communicate, collaborate and share resources; these tools provide anytime anywhere learning opportunities.

In this case study, we have used the following tools in our learning environment: Blackboard, a web-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) that has discussion forum functionality and assessment tools, email and conferencing communication tools. We also used server-based computational tools such as databases, web-servers and compilers needed for CS/IS courses.

This paper discusses how educational technology could be used to enhance traditional instructor-led teaching to alleviate the impact of social and cultural values on higher education to make the learning environment a place to pass information and knowledge from teacher to students, from students to teacher, and from students to students; and a place for creative thinking, and learning. The rest of the paper is organized as follows: Section 2 discusses motivation and related work. Section 3 explains teaching and learning environment at ZU. Section 4 presents methodology and results of a case study based on a database course to show that technology-mediated environment can overcome limitations and constraints imposed by the social and cultural values. Summary and future work is presented in Section 5.

Related Work

Distance education is used to accommodate those students who could not attend regular school to learn in a traditional learning environment. Invention and adoption of Internet has a significant impact on distance education and traditional classroom based teaching.

Web-based learning (WBL) has become a major trend in teaching and learning. …

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