New Communication Technologies in Distance Education
August 2008

New Communication Technologies in Distance Education

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The new technologies are facilitating learning to different groups scattered at different locations, helping them in accessing the course content online. The implementation of e-learning can be understood in terms of the diffusion of technology, a process that involves not only logical reasoning, economic considerations and technical skills, but also, and perhaps decisively, the sentiments and frame of reference of the teachers, students and decision makers who are to be the end users

According to Everett Rogers (2003) the perceived attributes of innovations are: Relative advantage (how the innovation is perceived to be an improvement), compatibility (consistency with existing experience, values and needs), complexity (perceived difficulty in understanding and using an innovation), trialability (the degree to which an innovation can be experimented with), and observability (how visible the results of an innovation are to others).

Each of these five very useful concepts can be seen to have an ”external” dimension that can be measured and quantified, and an ”internal” dimension, the perception, that is relative to the individual. In order to distinguish clearly between these two dimensions as well as to bring out the complexity of introducing ICT solutions in a learning environment, we have chosen to combine diffusion theory of analysis of the observability on how these new information technologies are effectively used by the end users.

Despite this new trend a very few research has been done on the impact this new change has brought in meeting student’s learning needs and expectations, and learner’s ability to use these technology effectively, during their study. This research will focus on the types of types of Physical learning environments or resources learners use for online studying. Here a physical learning environment is defined as the place or physical surroundings where a student can gain knowledge or skills either by themselves, or by interaction with a teacher or other students.

Objectives of the study

Following broad based objectives were derived for his study.

  • To identify the types of physical learning environments and resources used by the students.
  • To analyze the theory and practice on the use of online teaching and learning.
  • To inform the course designers and teachers to apply appropriate teaching strategies and students support systems to meet the needs and demands of students.
  • To inform the appropriateness of the physical learning environment as an important component in the design of course materials and support systems to meet the needs and demands of students.

Methodology

The main aim of the study is to assess the place or physical surroundings where a student can gain knowledge either by themselves or by interaction with teachers and fellow students. How the students use the internet resources for their learning purpose. The research is done by using a survey technique. The survey is divided into two sections.

The first section asked the participant (Both distance education/Regular) questions relating to the types of information gathering techniques used for their study.

How often they have participated in different learning environments? The types of resources they have used in their previous study. Responses are collected on a four point likert-type scale ranging from –Never, Sometimes, Often and Always.

The second section sought students demographic information including the number of courses the participants had undertaken previously an online component and their previous level of education etc.These were used as variables such gender, age, income, education, occupation, personal access, frequency of computer use were included in the questionnaires.

Components of survey questionnaires
Section-1:

  1. Questions relating to the types of information gathering techniques used used.
  2. How often they have participated in different physical learning environments
  3. Types of resources they have used in their learning process.

Section-2:
Student demographic information
The course the participant is undergoing, e.g. Distance mode or regular mode.

Study sample
A particular cohort of participants were selected who were pursuing various courses offered in distance mode where online component is mandatory and students who where doing their course in regular mode. The data is collected from the students who have online component mandatory for their study. The study sample is collected from selected students who have some prior knowledge of ICTs and computer literacy.

The study was conducted in Chennai on Distance Education Students of Symbiosis, GNIIT, IGNOU Students for whom Online Component is Mandatory. Majority of the course materials used by these students are online or web based. As the questionnaires were send to the mailboxes of the respondents we were able to get only 17 participants.

The samples were also selected from some of the Regular College students who were pursuing there higher studies in college for whom the necessity of using online resource is more for their study. This is also done by sending the questionnaires online. Of this we were able to get 18 participants of the expected 83.

The variables used in this study were gender, age and mode of study. Data from the spread sheet were analyzed using Microsoft excel. The Table I shows the participants breakdown of the sample. We had 35 respondents of the total sample of 100. Of the 35 respondent 17 students were students for whom the online study component is mandatory.

Learning environment

The usual assumption with distance education students is that they learn at home with material provided with their educational institution. In this study 90% of the respondents indicated that they often or always study at home.Students have also indicated that they do study at their place of work, in the library, or in computer Lab.

Online communication

The main components of online communication are text based, E-mail, bulletin boards and Chat rooms. This table shows the usage of online communication by students as percentage.

The results shows that most of the students use E-mail often for their study, most of them hardly prefer chat, sizeable proportions are using bulletin board. 50% of the students have never used chat rooms for their study.

Use of paper based resources by Online Distance education students Most of the online distance education provide following course materials for the study of the students, Textbooks, Printed Study Guide, Handout provided by lecturer and study resources. This table shows the frequency of use of paper-based materials by online students.

The results of survey indicate that more than 90% of the respondents preferred Text books always. Majority of respondents were not interested in the Handouts provided by the lecturers.

Usage of ict resources by students

The results indicate that all respondents at some stages of their learning have used online grade checking, at some stages of their learning. When using online course materials over 90% have indicated that they often and always use online search tools. Electronic Library access is however not used as frequently with only 15.0% indicating that they always use this resource. This survey indicates that ICTs were very well used by the students.

Interactive components such as quizzes and online tests are widely used by the students. Nearly 70% of the respondents preferred using online quizzes.

Also around 75% of the respondents were using internet for submitting the assignements. Also around 65% of the students always used URL links for their study purpose. The access to electronic library is very poor as the data indicates nearly fifty percentages of the students hardly use these resources.

Preferred learning environment
The preferred learning environment of the regular students and the online students can be compared in this table

Both regular as well as distance education students prefer to study among themselves, similarly most of them prefer using tutorials.

Preferred physical learning environment are quite same for both distance learning students and regular campus based students. None of the regular students preferred to study using videoconferencing session.

Use of ICT Components-Comparison between regular and distance education students
This table shows the comparison chart of the regular and distance education students More than 50% of the students don’t prefer using online chat for their studying purpose. Online search tools were often used by both regular and distance education students.

The types of physical learning environment the students preference can be analyzed by in this table

Regular Students

Online students

Learn by Yourself

50

40

Learning in tutorials

35

38

Learn with a friend

8

8

Learning through self help group

2

8

Learning in front of class by giving presentation

5

2

Learning through videoconferencing session

0

1

E-mail is preffered by both regular and distance education students. Online digital library is accessed by very few regular and distance education students this is explicit from the data collected from the sample.

Discussion
The results from the study show that for the majority of respondents learning is done at home with either paper based or web based materials.

It will also appear from this result that use of online resources tends to be mainly for assessment related tasks and to a lesser extent for online resources associated with the delivery of course content and
reference materials.

The physical learning environments and resources used by distance and regular students were somewhat same.

The result of this study shows that there is limited use of online resources. The results from this study suggest that regular students in this study favour independent study over other form
of study.

With the range of communication options available  the distance
education students learning through online mode tend to most often use e-mail with the results showing nearly double usage  of that of regular on-campus students.
On the other hand there was limited use of a chat rooms and discussion forums. It is difficult to say whether the design and development of online courses enable students to more fully integrate with their online environment or the entire range of online components were available for use.

Recommendations
IT has been shown that the physical learning environments of distance students are not all that different from those used by regular on-campus students.

Unexpected results from this study are that distances students’ needs are apparently appear similar to that of the on-campus students. This is both in relation to resources and communication needs.

Both distance and on-campus students in this study made a made selective use of online resources.

Both group indicated that most of their study was done at home using paper based or web based materials.

Students are able to use ICT’s; there is need by course designer’s and developers to maximize its potential for learning purpose.

The results from the study suggests that more research needs to be done to more fully understand the environments students use for
their study to make online course maximize student study needs
and demands

Objectives of the study

Following broad based objectives were derived for his study.

  • To identify the types of physical learning environments and resources used by the students.
  • To analyze the theory and practice on the use of online teaching and learning.
  • To inform the course designers and teachers to apply appropriate teaching strategies and students support systems to meet the needs and demands of students.
  • To inform the appropriateness of the physical learning environment as an important component in the design of course materials and support systems to meet the needs and demands of students.

Methodology

The main aim of the study is to assess the place or physical surroundings where a student can gain knowledge either by themselves or by interaction with teachers and fellow students. How the students use the internet resources for their learning purpose. The research is done by using a survey technique. The survey is divided into two sections.

The first section asked the participant (Both distance education/Regular) questions relating to the types of information gathering techniques used for their study.

How often they have participated in different learning environments? The types of resources they have used in their previous study. Responses are collected on a four point likert-type scale ranging from

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