What contributions does the information and communication technology (ICT) make to effective learning processes?

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1 What contributions does the information and communication technology (ICT) make to effective learning processes? ICT and effective, sustainable learning: principles, experiences and recommendations Associate Professor Roger Pettersson SLU, Box 7057, Uppsala, Sweden Wednesday 23 August th International Course on vocational Training and Education in Agriculture

2 Introduction ICT for educational purposes (sometimes called Educational technology, ET) is today established in the normal educational system of most schools and universities, whether on or off campus (Biggs, 2003). With the increasing use of ICT in our educational systems as well as the society in general, one important question to answer is "What contributions does the information and communication technology (ICT) make to effective learning processes?". In my lecture I will: Address how ICT can support effective, sustainable learning and give some prerequisites and general conditions that have to be met in order to carry out effective ICT-supported teaching/learning processes. Give some examples of how web-based learning has been used in the area of sustainability. Present an interactive ICT based Course Design Tool developed to help teachers design ICT-based courses. Effective and sustainable learning I will restrict myself to mention just a few key factors for effective and sustainable learning. First, Constructive Alignment (Biggs, 1999) is one of the most influential ideas in higher education today. It is the concept behind the current requirements for programme specification, declarations of Intended Learning Outcomes and assessment criteria, and the use of criterion based assessment. There are two parts to constructive alignment: Students construct meaning from what they do to learn. The teacher aligns the planned learning activities and assessments methods with the learning outcomes. Secondly, a number of principles for good practice in education were developed through an extensive research process at a range of higher education institutions in the USA (Chickering, Gamson and Barsi, 1989). Although the research is somewhat old, I still find the seven principles very valid. Principle 1: Good practice encourages student - teacher contact Principle 2: Good practice encourages cooperation among students Principle 3: Good practice encourages active learning Principle 4: Good practice gives prompt feedback 1

3 Principle 5: Good practice emphasize time on task Principle 6: Good practice communicates high expectations Principle 7: Good practice respects diverse talents and ways of learning To support effective sustainable learning, the curriculum should be designed so that the learning activities and assessment tasks are aligned with the learning outcomes that are intended in the course. Furthermore, the above seven principles should be followed. What contributions does the information and communication technology (ICT) make to these ideas and principles? I will come back to this question below. ICT and effective sustainable education, background and possibilities The rapid development of information and communication technology in the society, together with changes in pedagogical theory has led to a clear shift in the way computers are used in education (se table 1). Table1. Trends in education & ICT Behaviouristic tradition (Knowledge = Information) Constructivism individual (K = I x Process) Constructivism Sociocultural CAI (Computer Aided Instruction) ITS (Intelligent Tutoring System) Discovery based learning (e.g. Simulation models) CSCL (Computer Supported Collaborative Learning) To fully make use of these new possibilities, some prerequisites and general conditions have to be met in order to support effective learning. Important factors in all forms of education are: Structure and organisation Motivation Communication and feedback Assessment and evaluation However, if the course is mainly web-based with no or only few physical meetings, it is even more important than normally that you are well organized, motivating your learners, create good communication and, finally, that you give good and prompt feedback. 2

4 According to research (Stephenson, 2001) good e-learning is about structuring the learning activity and: Promote DIALOGUE Secure INVOLVMENT Provide SUPPORT Enable learner CONTROL If properly used, ICT have the potential to support an effective and sustainable way of learning by: Managing learners easily and reduce administrative time in favor of pedagogical issues Overcome restrictions of time and place, e.g. enabling off-campus or blended learning Support a range of individual learning styles (Principle 7) Take away barriers of classroom walls and open the learning environment (Principles 3 and 7) Help to shift the focus from the teacher to the learner (Principle 3 and 5) Support communication and collaborative learning (Principle 1 and 2) Favor asynchronous communication and deep reflection (Principle 5) Support quick feedback (Principle 4) Support important generic skills, such as information literacy and presentation techniques Help assessing and evaluating the learning process Make use of the way today's young generation communicate and solve problems in real life However, learning is still often dominated by quite traditional educational concepts and teacher competence in ICT-supported learning is often not sufficient to fully exploit these new possibilities. Managing learning with ICT (support transparence and Constructive alignment) A learning management system (LMS) provides a platform for the learning environment by supporting the management, delivery of learning activities and assessment of learning (in traditional classroom courses, off-campus courses and mixture of both i.e. blended learning). A LMS should also have a good support for collaborative learning. 3

5 Dialog and collaborative learning using ICT support (Principles 1, 2 and 4) Communication are important in all education but the importance is accentuated in offcampus learning, and must be more structured to be effective on-line (Benfield (2002) and Salmon (2003). ICT however, can support dialog and collaborative learning in both campus courses and off-campus ones. According to Mason (1998), Asynchronous (non-simultaneous) systems, such as text based discussion boards: Allow time for "reflection" and "quality feedback" Facilitate interaction for those using their second language. Allow time for reading messages slowly and composing a response with the aid of a dictionary. Are simple to use May have an equalizing effect - the concentration lies on what is said, rather than on the person who says it Save the discussions and group work and makes it easy for both the teacher and learner to evaluate the whole learning process Synchronous (simultaneous) systems such as videoconferences: * Provide motivation to distance learners to keep up with the others and continue with their studies Develop team spirit and the sense of being part of a learning community Give good feedback - synchronous systems provide quick feedback on ideas and support consensus and decision making in group activities Pacing - synchronous events encourage students to keep up-to-date with the course and provide a discipline to learning which helps people to prioritise their studies. More and more of campus courses start to use ICT-supported communication, and regarding off campus courses "the trend is towards combining synchronous and asynchronous media in an attempt to capitalise on the evident benefits of both modes" (Mason, 1998) 4

6 Enhance feedback and motivation with ICT (Principle 4) Using ICT, the learner can have a quick feedback, either from fellow students or from the teacher/tutor. This can enhance both the learning process and increase motivation. According to research (DUKOM, 1997), quick and personal feedback was very important for most students. To give all students a quick feedback, takes of course a lot of time. One should therefore use the strength in collaborative methods i.e. the students should give feedback to each other first before you answer them. Engage learners in a variety of learning activities (Principle 3 and constructive alignment) Sometimes more easily than conventional teaching and sometimes activities not practicable under conventional teaching (Biggs, 2003). On-line learning activities is sometimes called e-tivities (Salmon, 2003) On-line educational multimedia (Principles 3, 4, 5 and 7) Potentially, educational multimedia may increase the pedagogical quality by stimulating several senses at the same time, being repeatable even from home, and focus on understanding, not practical skills. The pedagogical challenge is to create educational media with high interactivity and in some cases also on-line collaborative assignments. The risk is that there is less contact between learners, reduced "real life" laboratory experiments and thereby less practical skills. To avoid this, always have a debriefing after virtual labs, give them collaborative assignments, train practical skills separately, and finally, focus on understanding and principles, not practical skills Assessing and evaluate learning on-line ICT can also help the teacher design new forms of assessments (Biggs, 2003 and New Assessment Strategies) and speed up the evaluation process. Using electronic evaluation systems can reduce the time teachers spend on the administrative part of evaluation and, the results can be available and published on a homepage immediately. In this way, an oral evaluation can be done using the results from the electronic evaluation, enhancing the pedagogical quality of the evaluation greatly. 5

7 Experiences Some courses I am or have been involved in where ICT is used to support learning. Towards a sustainable Europe ( ) A joint European distance course in environmental issues. A text based groupcommunication tool as well a video conferencing technology was employed to communicate with European partners. Food in Europe ( ) A joint European (EADTU) distance course. The aim is to give a fundamental knowledge base in food science with the European dimension. The course is fully flexible in terms of enrolment. The Global seminar ( ) Food security and its relationship to sustainable development are issues of increasing global concern. This multidisciplinary international course explores interrelationships between food, population, the environment, and socio-economic development through a case study/discussion approach. Global Nutrition ( ) The main aim is to initiate and support IT-network collaboration in training and research among departments and universities globally and to provide a professional update of current global nutrition issues. Each year academics from universities in Africa, Asia and/or Latin America are invited to learn about current issues and controversies in global nutrition and how to use ICT in higher education/research in the field of nutrition. Chains_iT (2005) -it/index.html A course about international horticultural production chains. Within the course students learn to understand, analyze and search for solutions of complicated multidisciplinary problems within international horticultural production chains. ICT is used as part of the programme. 6

8 QMHortChain (2006) horticulture/index.html Students learn how to handle complicated multidisciplinary problems related to international horticultural production chains. The exam assignment must be finalized working together on distance using modern communication media on the internet. Presentation of an on-line interactive Course Design Tool The development of on-line courses requires a number of new skills and competences, including knowledge regarding distance learning and learning technology. I will present a web-based course design tool that gives teachers an interactive support when designing new courses, especially on-line courses. See Recommendations in summary In order to use ICT effectively in education you should: Put together a course team with different competences Take courses in web-based pedagogy Feel confident with the technology Evaluate your target groups technical competence and equipment Use a simple but reliable Learning Management System, LMS Align the planned learning activities and assessments methods with the learning outcomes Create a learning environment that is structured, collaborative and supportive Focus on good communication & feedback Remember the seven principles and DISC Be creative using different e-tivities to activate the students If relevant, create interactive multimedia (with a clear pedagogical value) Assess and follow the whole learning process Use ICT to support the evaluation process 7

9 References Benfield G. (2002). Designing and managing effective online discussions, ons.pdf Biggs, J. (1999) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Buckingham: Open University Press. Biggs,J. (2003). Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Open University Press Chickering, A W, Gamson, Z F & Barsi, L M Principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Racine, Wisconson: The Johnson Foundation. Mason, R. (1998). Globalising Education. Routledge (UK) New Assessment Strategies Stephenson, J. (2001). Teaching & learning Online. Pedagogies for New Technologies. almon, G.(2002). E-tivities: The key to active online learning. London: Kogan Page Salmon, G. (2003) E-moderating. The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. London: Kogan Page 8

10 Dan Roger Pettersson Professional address: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) Learning Development Centre, (UCL) SLU. Box 7057, Uppsala. Telephone: +46 (0) (work),) Homepage: Education , Basic school : College, Natural Sciences 1983: FK exam (B. Sci.), Biology, Uppsala University 1988: Ph.D., agroecology, SLU (Primary production in arable crops) 1995: Associate Professor ("Docent") at SLU. (Plus several pedagogical courses in basic pedagogy, distance education and Flexible learning) Work Experience : Field Assistant,at SLU and School teacher at Tiunda, Uppsala : Research Assistant, at SLU : Research Associate, at SLU 1991: Post-Doc 1 year, (SJFR) at University of Edinburgh : Researcher 1997: Learning technology consultant (50%) at the Pedagogical Unit (avd. dir.) at SLU. 2001: Head of Department (Centre for Learning Technology, (100%), SLU :Head of Department (Learning Development Centre), (100%), SLU Projects and Consulting Activities Preparing different types of teaching materials (Book chapters, multi-media, home-pages etc.) Superviser of several Ph D students. Project leader for "Effects of elevated CO2 on productivity and competition in a semi-natural grassland eco-system". 9

11 Project leader for "pedagogical use of IT in education at SLU". Co-coordinator for an EU-Canada project "Sustainable agriculture and student mobility". Project leader for "The plant and the soil-system" an on-line learning and 3-D multimedia resource. Long experience of teaching and course management, both on and off campus Experience of working with continuing education within the subject fields of SLU. Member of the Management Committee of COST-619 (elevated CO2 and grasslands) Member of the Science and Technology committee within the EADTU (European association of distance teaching universities) SLU representative in the committee for"virtual mobility and ICT" within the DEMETER project (a SOCRATES Thematic Network for Agricultural and Related Sciences). SLU representative in an international collaboration in a new educational methods "A Global Seminar". SLU representative in an international collaboration in a European environmental master program "Endangered European Environment Master". ADEC (American Distance Education Consortia) Award 2001 for "A global seminar". Project leader for a Distum project "Collaborative learning on-line". Responsible together with LTU och BTH for developing KUMMEL, a national on-line interactive support for net-based course-development (Swedish Netuniversity). Main-responsible for developing a national on-line interactive support for course development according to Constructive alignment (Swedish Netuniversity). 10

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