The Impact of Web-Based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching

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1 The Impact of Web-Based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching Case Study Four: A Tale of Two Deliveries Discipline context Marketing Aim Comparing online and on campus postgraduate student perceptions of Lectopia Results Online students appreciated the tools as adding an element of communication previously unavailable. On-campus students used the tools as back up, but preferred to attend face-to-face lectures The teaching context This case explores student experiences in a Marketing unit, undertaken by two very different cohorts of students as part of their Master of Commerce and Master of International Business degrees. All 50 students in one cohort attend on-campus lectures as full time and part time students. This cohort includes a large number of NESB students. 80% of of these students speak English as a second language. 70% of them are Asian, of either Confucian (Chinese) or Buddhist (Thai) heritage. These cultural backgrounds influence many students individual willingness to interact directly with their teacher in a physical classroom. The case study co-researcher has noticed that there is a natural reserve shown in that environment which disappears when they are outside the classroom speaking and interacting with each other. The other cohort has 23 students enrolled as external and studying online. Most of these are located outside Sydney, interstate or overseas. Some are on-campus students who find it convenient, for one reason or another, to do this unit online. The lecturer describes himself as using lectures primarily to help build a conceptual framework for his students, to inspire and motivate them and to demonstrate 1

2 procedures. He has found that WBLT has had little negative impact on his ability to do these things. In fact, with such as large number of NESB students from a range of language backgrounds, he finds that WBLT helps him support students different needs individually. There are 50 students in the on-campus lectures and he has not encountered a drop in attendance since introducing WBLT two years ago. All students in both cohorts can access ilecture in the unit pages on the University s LMS, along with resources, useful links and announcements. The LMS communication tools are made available for students to correspond with the lecturer and other students via private and the discussion panel. The Unit Convenor encourages students to use ilecture and suggests that keen ones will use it regularly; he suggests that: the others will leave it until the last couple of weeks in the semester to panic leading up to the exam. Issues to be explored One aspect of this research was to explore how students perceive WBLT as a learning tool in Marketing across difference delivery modes; online unit and face-to-face. The units have the same lecturer and same content but from the experience of last semester, communication and engagement patterns were different in the two groups. The co-researcher wanted to investigate the usefulness to students of WBLT as a learning tool. He was interested to see if WBLT was of more importance to the online students than to on-campus students. The research methods The case study used surveys to investigate students use of WBLT. The student survey developed in Phase One of the larger study was adapted for use with the two groups of on-campus and online students. A paper-based survey was delivered to on-campus students in the lecture of week ten, which was also made available online for those students who didn t attend this particular lecture. An online survey was used to gather responses from online students. Summary and discussion of findings Face-to-Face (f2f) Students Student attendance at all on-campus lectures is consistently high, usually 90%. The survey confirmed that students who did attend lectures believe they concentrated better than they would have in a remote situation and found the lectures personally motivating. They valued their ability to interact personally with the lecturer, particularly when discussing details of their major assignment (worth 35% of marks). 2

3 Half those on-campus students claimed to have listened to lectures on WBLT regularly and most listened to lectures on ilecture part of the time or at least focused on selected segments to overcome misunderstandings of concepts or marketing terminology, or to clarify misunderstanding of the lecturer s English pronunciation. WBLT became particularly important to on-campus students when studying for their final exam (worth 50% of marks), with 87% agreeing that they used the tools to revise for exams. Most claimed they would use ilecture more often if visual elements were fully captured and synchronised with the voice elements. The results indicate that on-campus students prefer personal attendance at lectures and face-to-face interaction with teacher and fellow students. These students also view WBLT as a useful aid to learning and comprehension; always bearing in mind that most of them speak English as a second language with varying levels of competence. Students from Confucian and Buddhist backgrounds such as those from China and Thailand are more likely to ask questions in the online discussion forum than face-toface in the lecture theatre, therefore the online environment provides useful opportunities for students who may be shy about personal communication. These students will raise issues and discuss them online, even though their names can be seen on the discussion. They willingly raise elaborate questions in the LMS Private Mail where they DO remain invisible to colleagues. Online Students Online students have no choice but to engage with WBLT and the LMS. They are forbidden by visa restrictions to attend on-campus lectures and, of course, many of them are too distant to do so anyway. A couple did attended on-campus classes regardless, without identifying themselves, wrongly confident that the lecturer would be unable to recognise them as ring-ins.strangers tend to stand out in the classroom environment after the first lecture and there is always a shortage of seating in a 50 person classroom. Online students pattern of use for WBLT was not dissimilar to their on-campus counterparts. They would listen to several weeks of lectures at the one time. They deliberately chose particular segments of a lecture to listen to and reported they often listed to parts of it more than once. WBLT proved to be a useful comprehension tool for non-english speakers and was a useful revision aid towards exam time. They mostly agreed that ilecture was useful to work through the material at their own pace. It puts them in control of their most hard-pressed asset: personal time. There is one important difference in use of WebCT facilities by online students compared to f2f on-campus marketing communications students: onliners respect their WebCT mail profoundly because it is their ONLY link to teacher and lessons. They check it and use it regularly once or several times a day, seven days a week. That factor makes it easier and more reliable for the teacher to notify them anytime of sudden new developments in marketing that may break as stories in the daily papers or on TV or radio or on relevant websites. Apart from the fact that some of them are simply unable to attend on-campus lectures because of distance or responsibilities, it does appear that online students enjoy employing the technology to be able to control and manage their own time, 3

4 engagement with the teacher and studying, learning, revision, exam preparation processes. They recognise that WBLT demands a high level of personal discipline because there is no daily timetable for personal appearances to follow but recognise that has always been the case for those committing to distance education, in whatever form it may have been delivered. The majority of online students found their online lectures motivating and enjoyed online exchanges with their fellow students as they supported each other in developing an answer to their 4000 word major assignment. It is true that online students are awarded up to 15% of their marks for active participation in online discussions, but that was not sufficient to motivate some of them who rarely, if ever, participated online. Submitting assignments online and doing Final Exams online (by typing on a keyboard rather than handwriting, and sitting for an open book format exam rather than a conventional closed book exam) also appealed to people accustomed to doing so much work in daily life on a keyboard in front of a screen. Conclusions Marketing postgrad students find WBLT a useable practical tool for studying a subject of ideas, much of which they will find themselves applying in the real world of commerce in which they already operate. Availability of lectures and supporting visuals online makes no diminishment in personal attendance at f2f classes for those committed to them. Online students find WBLT to be useable, practical and convenient. It is a practical tool for time management as they pursue their education while fulfilling other responsibilities. They would, however, prefer to have visual materials synchronised with audio content. Perhaps this is a symptom of our annual apparent increase in consumer expectations of all services they enjoy. Each year seems to bring better services, more glamorous and entertaining graphics experiences, more bang for our buck, especially where technology is concerned. The lesson learned include that there are opportunities for producing more video content, incorporating the teacher demonstrating points of interest and making himself more of a visual presence online. The goal would be to provide more of a sense of intimacy and relationship for online or external students and to be more entertaining, thus engaging. If the lecturer accepts responsibility for making full use of all the facilities available in the uni LMS and associated WBLT, the student experience can be enhanced beyond current levels of satisfaction, which are already quite high: there were no Dissatisfied students in online or f2f classes surveyed. Future plans Online students utilised private mail more regularly than on-campus students who enjoy more communications options with their (same) teacher. To make more efficient use of the LMS communication tools, the unit convenor will encourage on-campus students to use unit s online site and mail/communications facilities. 4

5 One idea to be explored in future is the offering of marks for Discussion Board participation and contributions. It will also be the case that extra information of interest and relevance to the unit will only be made available online. Audio ilecture content will be modified to contain signals indicating PowerPoint slide changes and references that will make the audio better synchronised with audio. This will benefit on-campus and online students, making revision and study easier by facilitating speedy movement through the lectures Attempts will be made to develop and publish video content for the lectures for online students so they feel more intimately connected to the theatricality aspects of the lecturer s performance. Macromedia Captivate3 software and YouTube facilities may be employed for this purpose. Support for this publication has been provided by The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Ltd, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. 5

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