VIDEOCONFERENCING UNIVERSITY COURSES IN A BUSINESS SCHOOL: A POSITIVE FUTURE?

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1 Page 1 of 12 ANZAM 2013 Stream: Management Education and Development VIDEOCONFERENCING UNIVERSITY COURSES IN A BUSINESS SCHOOL: A POSITIVE FUTURE? A/Professor Keith Townsend Griffith Business School Lenka Boorer Griffith Business School Halley Kirkpatrick Griffith Business School 1

2 ANZAM 2013 Page 2 of 12 Stream: Management Education and Development VIDEOCONFERENCING UNIVERSITY COURSES IN A BUSINESS SCHOOL: A POSITIVE FUTURE? There is little doubt that technology is having an impact on the delivery of education in Australia and throughout the world. However, there is mixed evidence when it comes to understanding if the technology is increasing the effectiveness of teaching and learning. This paper examines the approach taken to video-conferencing a small, post-graduate university course in Australia. While somewhat of an experiment in the business school at this university, the paper will detail the process of course delivery throughout the semester. Course evaluation data is compared over three semesters leading up to the videoconferencing experiment including one semester while video-conferencing. Additionally, student exam results are compared over the time period to ascertain whether there is a noticeable difference in overall and average results. Primarily, this paper s goal is to document the experiment and present areas identified by the academic staff to improve delivery. 1

3 Page 3 of 12 ANZAM 2013 VIDEOCONFERENCING UNIVERSITY COURSES IN A BUSINESS SCHOOL: A POSITIVE FUTURE? The traditional model of knowledge transfer (or as some of us traditionalist prefer, teaching) has operated on the basis that an important role of universities is to expose students to a pre-defined body of knowledge (Beckem and Watkins, 2012); commonly at a fixed time and place (Sana, Fenesi, and Kim, 2011). However, this is changing and it is changing rapidly. Critics of the traditional model suggest that lectures involve passive learning ; the learner is simply receiving information for memory storage (Mayer, 2010). With the advent of the Internet there is an increasing use, and study of, a range of blended learning practices as delivery modes for university courses. The Business School at this university has engaged significantly in blended learning approaches, and each department (of which there are six) have employed Blended Learning Advisors (BLA) on an ongoing basis. In early 2013 a decision was made in one department, however, to go beyond the methods of blended learning used thus far: to deliver a course synchronised in time, but separated by distance some 75 kilometres via a videoconferencing link. As such, the lecturer was in one room with 16 participants in an introductory post-graduate course on Human Resource Management (HRM) and Industrial Relations (IR) and there were 12 participants in a room at another campus at the other end of the videolink. This paper documents this experience including steps taken by the lecturer and the BLA to improve student experience. Additionally, this paper compares student evaluation results across this course in three time periods (two semesters of traditional delivery and the videoconferencing semester) and the student exam results over a three year period. Blended learning approaches are here to stay, videoconferencing courses is a practice that is likely to increase in use, and this paper draws attention to some lessons learnt in one university s experiment with this mode of course delivery. 2

4 ANZAM 2013 Page 4 of 12 The Increasing Use of Blended Learning and Videoconferencing Researchers in the area of teaching and learning are split in their studies of student satisfaction with various methods of course delivery. Some have found students who study online to be less satisfied with their course experiences compared with face-to-face teaching (Tallent-Runnels, Thomas, Lan, Cooper, Ahern, Shaw and Liu, 2006). Others have found no significant difference between the modes of delivery (McFarland & Hamilton, 2005; Roach and Lemasters, 2006; Stizman, Kraiger, Stewart & Wisher, 2006). Clouding the matter further, other researchers have found that online students are significantly more positive in their course evaluations (Kleinman & Entin, 2002; Iverson, Colky & Cyboran, 2005). Nevertheless, blended learning the use of multiple methods of content delivery is now commonplace, certainly in Australian universities and specifically business schools. What is less common is the use of videoconferencing as a mode of course delivery. Videoconferencing is commonly used in certain areas of education, for example, medicine has used videoconferencing as a surgical tool, but also as a training device (Augestad and Lindsetmo, 2009). The decreasing cost of associated technology has meant that in the field of surgery, for example videoconferencing is seen as an excellent means of providing immediate feedback and knowledge transfer to remote locations, but importantly, surgery is a visual speciality (Augestad and Lindsetmo, 2009; 1364). To be frank, no matter what spin we might try to put on its importance, teaching HRM and IR in a business school is not brain surgery rather, it is a non-visual body of knowledge that must be understood to be applied. Research Methods (Developing a Videoconferenced Course) This section of the paper incorporates what would traditionally be seen as research methods, although our analysis is primarily a post-hoc interpretation of an iterative course development with an 3

5 Page 5 of 12 ANZAM 2013 interpretation and analysis of externally collected data. We shall first detail the development of the course. This course has existed at this university for many years and has traditionally been offered at one campus in semester 1 and alternately, the second campus in semester 2. Typically, the course has between 15 and 20 students enrolled, most of whom are international students enrolled in a graduate certificate aiming to qualify for the Masters programme at the university. International accreditation requirements were one factor that determined the course needed to be offered on both campuses in both semesters. The decision to videoconference this course was multidimensional, but it seems to be fair to say there was budgetary factors in the background. The convenor (first author and lecturer) of the course was informed on January that the course was to be delivered on two of the university s campuses through a videoconferencing arrangement. The first week of lectures were scheduled for four weeks later. The lecturer had previously approved research related travel to another city leaving a very compressed preparation time. Courses had not been offered through this delivery style in the business school previously and the lecturer, administrators, the BLA, and department heads were unsure of what to expect or how to prepare. The lecturer and BLA were stepping blindly into the great unknown with very limited time to prepare. The lecturer presented to the home campus students while videoconferencing to the distant campus, and the BLA assisted in week one of the course by being present at the distant campus. The three hour time slot each week had been used in the previous two years as a workshop model where interactive content was delivered in 20 to 30 minute blocks, followed by smaller group activities for ten minutes, with ten to fifteen minute class discussions. With a group of up to 20 students this was manageable and deemed with the support of learning and teaching specialists to be an appropriate delivery method. The intention was to deliver content the same way through the videoconferencing, although the first week s lectures made it very clear that this was not going to be 4

6 ANZAM 2013 Page 6 of 12 successful. Despite the technological developments, there remain some concerns identified in previous research regarding the use of videoconferencing as a mode of delivery, for example, time lags (see Wang, 2004). Some reasons for this concern include the time lag for discussing matters with the distant campus, while only around 3-5 seconds, still made for awkwardness. Furthermore, the capacity to write on the whiteboard some important points of discussion for all in the room to see would not be possible. A final important factor was the lecturer s style of delivery would be considered an active one, walking throughout the lecture room and encouraging active involvement from members of the class. The existing videoconferencing technology meant the lecturer was forced to remain static to deliver the material a much less engaging model. Furthermore, the technology set up meant that the lecturer s static position placed him looking in three different directions one way for the students in the same room of the home campus, another direction for the video display of the students at the distant campus and a third direction for the video camera. After the first week, a room change was made so there was only two directions a minor improvement. The video display on each campus consisted of a standard video projector display with the PowerPoint slides taking two thirds of the display on the left side, and the right side third was broken in to three smaller displays. The top right of the screen had an image of the lecturer; the middle right of the screen had an image of the other student group; and sadly, the bottom third of that section was unable to be used. The lecturer was facing a standard computer screen with a similar display meaning the image that he had of the distant student body was approximately 8cm by 5cm. This proved to be problematic as it was very difficult to engage with the group as individuals when the images of them were too small to recognize one person from another. A telling moment of engagement was when the lecturer realised the power of looking straight to the camera after addressing the student s in his presence and looking at the screen of the 5

7 Page 7 of 12 ANZAM 2013 distant students he looked directly at the camera and asked a question. The only answer that came back was a cheer from the distant students who finally felt that they were being spoken to directly. Online real-time survey software was used at the start of each lecture to ask around five questions of the students that related to the week s lecture. This allowed some level of cross campus engagement because all students could use their personal electronic devices to complete the surveys and the results were visually displayed at each campus. In the second and third week of lectures the BLA was not present at the distant campus. However, it became very clear that a teaching presence at the distant campus was essential. The lecturer approached the Acting Head of Department who agreed to allow a teaching assistant appointment at the second campus. Additionally, the BLA worked with the lecturer to use the web-based platform Blackboard Collaborate in an attempt to allow students to engage directly with the other members of the class in real time and avoid the awkwardness of attempting to be involved through the slight lag in the videoconferencing system. However, following minor problems with wireless connection and getting the students involved in using the system after three weeks Blackboard Collaborate was abandoned by the lecturer as it was felt that it was just another thing that was not quite right. The role of the teaching assistant became an important one to engage directly with the distant campus students. What is more, the lecturer travelled to the distant campus on two occasions throughout the semester to reverse the delivery of the content. This was clearly appreciated by the students at the distant campus. The following section of this paper analyses some student evaluation data over three time periods along with some consideration of student results in examinations. The Student Experience The first author has delivered this course for two years on the one campus prior to the videoconferencing mode of delivery in As such, we can compare two datasets in an attempt to 6

8 ANZAM 2013 Page 8 of 12 understand what experience the students have had with this course. While student evaluations of courses and exam results are clearly not complete evidence of student learning, they can be a proxy for understanding whether there are differences between the traditional delivery of content and the videoconference delivery in this context. Table one shows the results of the six compulsory SEC questions (Student Evaluation of Course). Numbers listed in the table are the percentage of positive results in a five-point scale, ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The number presented in parenthesis are the percentage of negative results in that same five point scale. If the numbers do not total 100 per cent, it is because the remainder are neutral responses. The university considers the results of these surveys, while small numbers, to have a representative response rate that allows adequate analysis based on research from Nulty (2008). This on-line student evaluation survey is open for a four week period at the end of the semester and closes prior to the final exam. The exam result that is included in table 1 is an end of semester exam that is fifty per cent of the overall course mark. It consists of ten short answer questions and the students can choose six. Each of these questions correlate with one week of the substantive lecture topics and are worth five marks each. The second part of the exam consists of five long answer questions and the students choose two. These are worth ten marks each. Table 1: Comparative Results of Student Evaluation surveys and exam results. SEC Question 2011 (n12) 2012 (n12) 2013 home campus (n14) 2013 distant campus (n12) This course was well organised The assessment was clear and fair I received helpful feedback on my assessment work This course engaged me in learning The teaching on this course was effective in helping me to learn

9 Page 9 of 12 ANZAM 2013 Overall I am satisfied with the quality of this course. Median End of Semester Exam Result (50%) Mean End of Semester Exam Result (50%) (7.1) 77.8 (11.1) Analysis of results Statistical analysis of comparative samples of this size would be problematic, however, we can make some assessment of changes at face value across the three time frames and within the videoconference/in person mode of delivery. The main areas where there appear to be differences in student evaluations include the 2013 distant campus students 100 per cent positive in regard to the two questions about assessment items. This is more positive than the 2013 home campus and the 2012 in person delivery, and equal to the 2011 results. While the distant campus students rated lowest in This course engaged me in learning, both videoconference groups were lower in these measures compared with previous traditional deliveries of the course. The lowest positive score by far is 77.8 per cent on the question regarding the quality of the course from the distant campus. Coupled with this, one of perhaps the most telling results is that both videoconference groups, the distant and home campus students delivered for the first time a negative score of any kind. This was present in the statement Overall I am satisfied with the quality of this course. An optimistic interpretation would be that this is the result of the new form of delivery and a reflection of the lecturer s own learning process throughout the semester in dealing with 8

10 ANZAM 2013 Page 10 of 12 videoconferencing. A more pessimistic view might be that there are some problems associated with videoconferencing courses of this type. What is perhaps more of a concern are the exam results. The results for 2013 home campus do not seem to be significantly different from the 2011 results, even if there is a drop from 2012 results. However, there is a mean score difference of around five marks, or ten percent of the overall course assessment for the 2013 distant campus exam result. This is of concern if the mode of delivery is having an impact on the student s learning achievements and attention must be given to this in future semesters. Another important measure of success is attendance at lectures. This course was delivered on Friday nights from 6pm to 9pm, commonly regarded as the graveyard shift. Despite this, the best efforts of the teaching team to engage the students the lowest attendance level on any of the thirteen weeks of the course was 25 of the 28 enrolled. This attendance is a reflection that the videoconferencing did not have a negative impact on student attendance. Making Videoconferencing Work This course will again be delivered by videoconferencing in semester 2, The ongoing mode of delivery will be determined following an assessment at this time. However, the first delivery has made some successful and some problematic factors very clear. Firstly, it is essential to have a teaching presence in both rooms. It appears that students at the distant location can be more easily distracted and less engaged if there is no teaching presence with them. The second factor regarding successful delivery is student involvement. Active involvement in learning has long been considered a key factor in knowledge retention (Honey and Mumford, 1995). Certain courses might be able to have a videoconference version of a standard talking head lecture with success. This course has a great deal of applied experience and requires active involvement of 9

11 Page 11 of 12 ANZAM 2013 the student body. This was perhaps the most difficult component of the course delivery making the distant students feel that they were involved in the course and not simply watching what was occurring 75 kilometres away. In practice, this was achieved through small group exercises facilitated by the teaching personnel on each campus and having the students deliver answers through the videoconferencing technology to the whole student body. The course is currently being redesigned to have a greater incorporation of active involvement throughout the semester. Student preparation is the third factor that can contribute to the success of this mode of course delivery. There was at least one chapter or journal article and most commonly two placed on the Blackboard Learn intranet website for the students in addition to the basis of the weekly lecture notes in a PowerPoint display. The imperfections of the teleconferencing including the minor, but present lag, meant that seamless interactions between the two student groups and the lecturer was problematic and will no doubt be improved in time with technological advancements. However, having the students actively engaged with the subject matter in preparation means that a preliminary discussion could be held over what matters were confusing the students before they are raised again throughout the lecture. Finally, the technology is, of course, critical. Having a fixed camera is problematic and having a class room of people appearing on a computer screen in an 8cm by 5cm frame is simply inadequate. For universities to continue delivering courses by this method, significant investments must be made in infrastructure to improve the delivery. Conclusion Our research here is preliminary and is designed to take stock of what is not a common mode of course delivery in business schools, but is likely to become more common particularly for multicampus universities. This paper was not designed as a research project in the typical sense, rather a 10

12 ANZAM 2013 Page 12 of 12 post-hoc analysis of a videoconferenced course at a major Australian university. While the lecturer was not provided sufficient time to understand the matters pertaining to videoconferencing and prepare the course accordingly, some lessons were learnt on the hop. This preliminary study provides the basis for ongoing investigation in to how effective this mode of delivery is for different styles of courses and perhaps even, what academic staff might be better placed to deliver courses by videoconferencing. References Augestad K and Lindsetmo R. (2009) Overcoming Distance: Video-conferencing as a Clinical and Educational Tool Among Surgeons. World Journal of Surgery. 33: Beckem J and Watkins M. (2012) Bringing Life to Learning: Immersive Experiential Learning Simulations for Online and Blended Courses. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 16 (5): Honey P and Mumford A. (1995) Capitalise on your learning style. Prussia, Pennsylvania: Organisation Design and Development, Inc. Iverson K, Colky D and Cyboran L. (2005). E-learning takes the lead: an empirical investigation of learner differences in online and classroom delivery. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 18(4): Kleinman J and Entin E. (2002). Comparison of in-class and distance-learning students performance and attitudes in an introductory computer science course. Journal of Computing Sciences in Colleges, 17(6): Mayer R. (2010) Merlin C. Wittrock s Enduring Contributions to the Science of Learning. Education Psychologist, 45 (1): McFarland D and Hamilton D. (2005). Factors affecting student performance and satisfaction: Online versus traditional course delivery. The Journal of Computer Information Systems, 46(2): Nulty D. (2008) The Adequacy of Response Rates to On-line and Paper Surveys: What can be done? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 33 (3): Roach V, and Lemasters L. (2006). Satisfaction with online learning: a comparative descriptive study. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 5(3), Sana F, Fenesi B and Kim J (2011) A Case Study of the Introductory Psychology Blended Learning Model at McMaster University. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2 (1): Article 6. Stizman T, Kraiger K, Stewart D, and Wisher R. (2006). The comparative effectiveness of web-based and classroom instruction: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 59: Tallent-Runnels M, Thomas J, Lan W, Cooper S, Ahern C, Shaw S, and Liu X. (2006). Teaching courses online: A review of the research. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), Wang Y. (2004) Supporting Synchronous Distance Language Learning with Desktop Videoconferencing. Language Learning and Technology, 8(3):

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