elearning Methodology

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1 1 Introduction elearning is the education methodology that takes advantage of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) to address the continuing educational needs of students. "Internet-enabled learning", or "The use of network technologies to create, foster, deliver, and facilitate learning, anytime and anywhere is called elearning. With the advances in internet technology, web based elearning systems are gaining popularity. Being online, these systems provide an opportunity to learn any course/subject from any part of the world at anytime. It may be helpful in resource saving in terms of time, money, paper, etc. that will improve the accessibility to the course instructors as well as students. In consideration with the changing trends in ICT and scarcity of time, the role of e-learning has increased. Once the course contents are digitized using some Content Management System (CMS) and the same are made available on the web, they can be effectively used by the researchers, instructors and students. 2 Electronic vs. Traditional Learning Chalk and talk is still the predominant method of delivering instruction and traditional face-to-face meetings can still be effective. But, currently there is a lot of research into a combination of online learning and face-to-face meetings that is called hybrid or blended learning. Using an online environment and saving course time for discussion, questions, and problem solving will be quite effective in content delivery. Many instructors have found that they can save time and increase student learning by allowing students to engage in the material outside of class. This allows them to use face-to-face time for troubleshooting. Online discussions give many students the opportunity to express themselves in ways they couldn t in a regular class. Many students are reluctant to speak in class because of shyness, uncertainty, or language issues. It s a boon to many students to have the ability to take their time to compose questions and answers in an online discussion, and instructors report much higher participation levels online than in class. Primarily the traditional methods of learning have been in use in the education. But research has shown that electronic communication, information and imaging technologies offers methods for delivery of education, training and learning much more convenient than traditional methods. (Fritz et al. 2002; Murphy et al. 1998). 3 elearning Features Supports increased communications between staff and students, and among students. Providing frequent and timely individual feedback, for example through computer assisted assessment, and positive reinforcement. Supporting economic reuse of high quality expensive resources.

2 Encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning. Creating an environment that promotes an active approach to learning. There are number of other reasons to think about using online learning: Student Demand: Students are becoming more technically savvy, and they want to get many of their course materials off the Web. Once online, they can access the latest information at any time and make as many copies of the materials as they need. Student Schedules: With a Learning Management System (LMS), students can communicate with the instructor or their peers whenever their schedules permit. They can also take quizzes or read course material during their free time. Working students need flexible access to courses, and a CMS) is a powerful way to give them what they need. Better Courses: CMS can make the classes more effective and efficient. By moving some parts of the course online, the teacher can effectively take advantage of scheduled face-to-face time to engage students questions and ideas. Today, CMS s are more mature and easier to use than they ve been at any time in the past. The underlying technology is becoming more robust, and programmers are writing good web applications. 4 elearning in Agriculture Sector elearning takes advantage of modern information and communication technologies to address the continuing educational needs of students. The elearning methodology has been started with the need to learn independently, comfortably and at the desired pace at any time anywhere. It has been fostered with the development in the ICT sector. In many sectors of education it has found its place. Agriculture Education has been viewed in many developing countries as a significant contributor to sustainable development and poverty alleviation. So, in Agriculture sector also need for improved agricultural education has been felt with the development of Agricultural Science and technology all over the world. elearning in agriculture has been initiated in almost every country. But compared to other business and management fields, elearning in the field of agriculture is still in the early phases of development and adoption. Early pioneers - primarily the American and Australian agribusinesses and colleges of agriculture, are now utilizing elearning methods as a major part of their education programs. At the same time, universities, businesses, and some well-funded international development organizations are producing and utilizing high-quality elearning programs backed by trained personnel and resources. In developing countries only first steps have been taken in this area. But, no major elearning system is presently available on the internet in the area of Agricultural Education. So, there is a need to develop an elearning system which will act as a platform for agricultural educationists of all disciplines to put their content on. It will also provide an opportunity to the learners of agriculture science to get benefited by the e-lectures, e- 62

3 assignments, quizzes and e-submission process provided by the system while sitting at any place, anywhere. 5 Development of elearnagriculture With the increasing demand of online courses in the field of Agriculture, an elearning system at IASRI has been planned and developed for post graduate courses in Agriculture Sciences (http://www.elearnagri.iasri.res.in/home). The system has been developed in way that the teaching, learning, evaluation and administration of the courses and users can be accomplished online. Presently it has been enriched with the fundamental courses under the disciplines of Agricultural Statistics and Computer Applications. Each course has been distributed into well defined topics with each topic having the online features of glossary, interactive lessons, multimedia enabled presentations, quiz and assignments. The open source Learning Management System, MOODLE has been used for creating the elearning documents, management of contents and users. The modular nature of MOODLE has been used in this system to add the new features such as an equation editor, frequently required mathematical symbols and a new user interface. The system provides an opportunity to the agricultural educationists to create and link their course contents online. 6 Features of elearnagriculture Fig.1 : elearnagriculture Home Page The system presently contains some basic courses under the disciplines of Agricultural Statistics and Computer Applications. The course material has been designed and developed using multimedia tools. This makes the courses very interactive and user friendly. A common template has been designed to provide uniformity in the structure and content of all courses. The course material has been designed and developed by the course 63

4 instructors actually teaching these courses. The courses are offered online, so the students have the flexibility to enroll themselves in the courses of their choice, can study and evaluate themselves at their preferable time. Each course has been divided and arranged into several Topics/Lessons. Each topic has the following common features: Goals and Summary Interactive lesson Glossary Audible presentation Quiz Grading News Forum 6.1 Goals and Summary The goals of each topic have been given in a precise language so that the learners of a particular course can get to know the purpose behind the topic and a general insight into the content they will be going to learn under that topic. The summary of each topic gives a summarized view of the topic. All the content that has been included in the lesson content is depicted briefly in the summary. 6.2 Interactive Lesson The lesson content under a topic is divided into various pages and the Text, Tables, Equations and Images to be included in that page were identified. Some real life solved examples have been added in most of the lesson pages. These solved examples enhance the clarity and practical useability of the content. It was also tried to add a test question after each lesson page so that the user is tested for the content he read in that page. A feedback is provided for each answer that the user selects. If the answer was correct then only he can move on to the next page in sequence, otherwise he has to attempt it again. The equations were added using the Dragmath equation editor integrated with MOODLE. 6.3 Glossary A glossary has been developed for each topic of the course. It contains the definitions of all important keywords used in the lessons. The keywords have been alphabetically arranged in the form of a dictionary. The glossary has the auto-link feature through which the keywords get auto-linked to their definitions wherever they appear in the courses. 6.4 Audible presentation Each topic has been enriched with multimedia enabled presentations. The presentations depict the whole lesson content in a brief and interactive way. With some presentations audio has been recorded in the voice of the teacher and uploaded in the system as SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model). These presentations are very beneficial to the students in understanding the concepts very easily through graphics, animation and voice embedded with these presentations. 64

5 6.5 Quiz A quiz containing a series of questions was created for each topic. The type of questions that have been included in the quiz were Multiple choice True False Matching choice questions Short answer questions. The student can retake the quiz after submission. 6.6 Grading The students are evaluated and graded on the basis of grade system chosen by the teacher. For each correct answer in the Quiz, the teacher can give appropriate grades in the range of -1 to +1 along with a feedback. After submission of the Quiz by the student, an overall percentage grade is provided by the system. Based on the grading and feedback the student can opt to retake the quiz and perform better. 6.7 News Forum In every course of the system, a forum has been created for general announcements and distribution of assignments by the teacher. The students can discuss any topic with other students and teachers through this forum. Every subscribed user of the forum are sent copies of every post in that forum. The teacher can force the subscription on all the students so that everyone in the class will get copies. 7 Future Prospects The system elearnagriculture has been developed to provide an online elearning platform to the students and teachers of agriculture education. Presently, only two disciplines have been considered in elearnagriculture for the development of prototype courses. The students can access the course material at their preferable time and can complete their assignments whenever and where ever they are. They are also free to discuss their view point and problems within the user groups as well as with the teachers. They can also collaborate for the betterment of the course content. The elearning system will support increased communications between staff and students, and amongst students. It will provide frequent and timely individual feedback through computer assisted assessment. It will support economic reuse of high quality expensive resources and encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning by creating an environment that promotes an active approach to learning. There is a wide scope of adding courses of other disciplines. Once the material of all courses will be created and integrated with the system, it will be helpful to the people involved in teaching and learning agricultural education online and will act as a significant online resource. 65

6 The system can be enriched with more courses using its common platform. It also provide an opportunity to the agriculture educationists to create and link their course content in a real time format using the multimedia tools like graphics, audio and animation. References: 1. Fritz, S.M.; King, A.W.; Moody, L.B, Schauer, J. & Rockwell, S. K. (2002). Analysis of distance education research. Presented at the 29th National Agricultural Research Meetings ( ). 2. Murphy, H. & Terry Jr., H. Robert. (1998). Opportunities and obstacles for distance education in agricultural education. Journal of Agricultural Education. 39 (1),

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