Very Large Scale E-Learning Practices in the Open Education System at Anadolu University

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1 Very Large Scale E-Learning Practices in the Open Education System at Anadolu University Prof. Dr. Engin Ataç Lifelong Learning and Research Center Anadolu University Turkey Ass. Prof. Dr. M. Emin Mutlu Open Education Faculty, Anadolu University Turkey Abstract: In Turkey, the open education opportunities for higher education are provided by Anadolu University. The basic instructional materials were books, TV programs and face-to-face tutorials when the Open Education System was first established in In the 2000s, as the number of students began approaching one million, and with the advancement in educational technology, Open Education Faculty began to provide e-learning services to enhance students learning process. Some of these e-learning services offered are internet-based practice exams, exercises, course books and television programs, on-line tutorials, multimedia CD ROMs. Hundred thousands of Open Education Faculty students make use of these e-learning services regularly. This study presents the developments and implementation of e-learning services provided by the open education system at Anadolu University. Introduction In the 1980 s, many higher open education systems, modeled after the British Open Education University, were implemented across the world to solve the higher education problems of their respective countries. Today, open education universities attract far more students than conventional higher educational institutions. Thus, the open education universities which have more than 100,000 students are labeled as mega universities by Sir John Daniel (Daniel, 1999). In the mid 1990s, Internet technology began to be used widely in education. The educational opportunities the Internet technology provides became to be known as e-learning. The initial implementation of e-learning in higher education was such that the teacher and the students were brought together on the internet as if in a classroom, the only difference being from a distance. Thus, virtual and online universities were founded based on e- learning technology and departments offering distance education programs at formal universities were established. A number of universities with distance education opportunities have also formed e-learning networks, making collective use of their efforts (Trindade et al., 2000). Implementation of e-learning technologies at open universities with ten thousands or hundred thousands of students by creating virtual classes for each student is not only very costly but also not feasible. One of the most effective ways of making use of e-learning technologies in open education universities is to offer high quality e- learning services as a means of support for courses. In such a system, the core material for courses remains to be course books but supported by e-learning services. The students are free to make use of e-learning services (Paulsen, 2005; Weller, 2004). Large-scale e-learning at Open Education System at Anadolu University has gained great importance in recent years. There are also intensive e-learning applications in some associate degree and graduate programs which have much fewer students. In the following sections, first the Open Education System at Anadolu University is described, then the implementation stages of large-scale e-learning is discussed.

2 History Anadolu University was established in 1981 from an older institution, the Academy of Eskisehir, Economics and Commercial Sciences (EAECS). In accordance with the Higher Education Act of 1981, it was also authorized to provide distance education in Turkey on a national scale. As a result in 1982 the former Faculty of Communication Sciences of the EAECS was transformed to become the Faculty of Open Education, or, as it is called commonly, the Open Education Faculty (OEF). This faculty was an outgrowth of the newly established Anadolu University because at that time, it was the only institution that had experience in the technical and theoretical aspects of distance education. The first educational television pilot project of Turkey was undertaken here during the 1970's under the auspices of the Educational Television department of the EAECS (McIsaac, Murphy & Demiray, 1988). In the Academic Year, the OEF started to offer two, four year undergraduate distance education degree programs in Business Administration and Economics. That year 29,478 students enrolled in the programs marked a new era for Open Education System at Anadolu University. An everlasting re-engineering process, consisted of integrating modern technologies, strategies and models into the distance education system has been launched. Consequently, all the conventional materials (textbooks, TV programs, etc.) have been redesigned or updated; the quota for student admission has been abolished; new pedagogical (e.g.; Online Exam Preparation and Multimedia Programs on CDs) and social support services (e.g.; News from Our University a TV Program aired nationally on TRT4 Channel, Anadolu Haber a weekly newspaper) were employed; new programs such as English Language Teaching and Pre-School Teaching bachelor s degree programs in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, completely online Information Management associate degree program, and so forth have been offered. By , the number of enrolled distance students at Anadolu University reached approximately 1 million. Today, the OEF, along with other two distance education faculties, is offering 8 different BA degree and 22 associate degree programs to students in Turkey, the Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic and some of the European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, and France. The programs vary from Business Administration to Preschool Teacher Education. e-learning at Anadolu University The distance programs of Anadolu University are primarily print-based, correspondence type and require self-study. In other words, students are expected to study their textbooks at their own pace, alone, and to take scheduled centralized exams administered at remote locations. Correspondence study is also supported with several services including broadcast television programs aired by a state channel throughout the country, video and radio programs distributed on cassettes, CDs or DVDs, remote evening classes, and computer-supported learning environments. The rationale behind this sort of an instructional approach is common to all open and distance learning initiatives in emerging countries. These are based on (1) outreach to as many learners as possible in cost effective ways, and (2) providing alternatives for learners limited access to the other technologies including VCRs, computers and even television broadcasts. Distance learning is a necessity for Turkey rather than a convenience owing to the shortage of higher education institutions and the increasing demand for education. Since printing and mailing do not cost as much as advanced technologies, Anadolu University is able to accept thousands of learners every year into its programs. In addition, recent figures show that the majority of distance education students cannot access computers and other technologies, despite the improvements in technology distribution. For instance quite a number (30 percent) of the current distance learners of the University live in rural areas where they have difficulties receiving television broadcasts, especially the channel that airs the University s programs. Also, the percentage of students who own a computer and have Internet connection at home is even lower. This situation is related to the home computing ratio in Turkey. In general figures show that only around 12.5 percent of the population has computers at home and only 7 percent have an internet connection (TUBITAK, 2000). Although the number of students who are able to access the Internet at work or in Cyber Cafés is growing, students are having difficulties (such as heavy work conditions and high costs) using the Internet for learning. Thus, the majority of Anadolu University s distance programs are still correspondence-based. The number of learners in online (only 2 percent of all learners) and hybrid (10 percent) programs is quite limited despite the improvements.

3 Despite the access problem, the administrators of the University are aware that computers and Internet can provide vast opportunities to overcome the problems of the distance learning system and to transform it from being traditional to being innovative. Therefore, the University has been in search of integrating computers and online tools into its programs since late 1990s. Table 1 summarizes the milestones of this everlasting integration (reengineering) process (Ozkul, 2003). Years Applications Information Internet-based practice exams Students can test and evaluate their performance using the Internet-based practice exams which is designed to simulate real exams Open Education Multimedia CD- ROMs Anadolu University On-line Courses More than 250,000 copies of CD-ROMs that consist of multimedia tutorials, PDF versions of the textbooks, and video recordings of TV programs. Various learning and content management systems such as WebCT, Moodle, and Macromedia Breeze are used in the development of online courses for on-campus students Internet-based Information Management (IM) Associate Degree Program IM program was the first internet-based undergraduate degree program in Turkey and aimed to prepare intermediate-level personnel for businesses by equipping students with skills necessary for managing information related problems Internet-based Practice Software Internet-based practice software is actually drill and practice type of multimedia learning material delivered via Internet to students to practice what they read in textbooks Textbooks on the Internet The textbooks are converted into PDF files and delivered on the Internet TV Programs on the Internet TV programs of many of the courses were converted into digital copies and delivered via the Internet English Language Teacher Training Program Open Education e-learning Portal Tutorials on the Internet (e-tutorials) Audio books (for students with visual disabilities) Internet-based Graduate Programs Table 1: The e-learning services the Open Education Faculty has realized since e-learning Portal E-learning services that are offered to distance education students on the internet did not have a standard structure as each was developed independently at a different time within a different project. Because each service was designed differently, when a student wanted to use these services synchronously s/he needed to open a new session for each one. To provide easier access for the student, and to enable the system manager to monitor the students activities, Open Education e-learning Portal (http://eogrenme.aof.edu.tr) was designed and implemented. This e-learning portal enables students to access all the e-learning services through only one login process. In the

4 student database, there are over one million student records. Annually, Open Education e-learning Portal receives over 285 million hits, a total of 3,871,077 visits and over 42 TB transactions. It contains the following services: e-book: Currently, 209 e-books (PDF and Flash Paper format of the print textbooks) with a total of 2717 units can be accessed from the Internet. Between May 2005 and March 2006, 134,935 students used this service 1,128,679 times. e-television: There are 1145 TV programs (digitized broadcast TV programs) for the 156 courses on the Internet. Between May 2005 and March 2006, 133,230 students have used this service 1,123,176 times. E-television program files with a size of nearly 2 TB are downloaded monthly. e-practice: This drill and practice type of multimedia material help learner practice the theoretical information provided via textbooks. The main reason behind the decision of drill and practice strategy was the students goal orientation and their needs. Front-end analyses had shown that a big number of students needed and in fact asked programs that prepare them to the exams. So, drill and practice strategy was attracted more attention by the students. There are 738 e-practice units of 50 different courses on the Internet. Between May 2005 and March 2006, 131,143 students have used e-practice of 3,659,118 units. e-exam: E-exam service is the most commonly used e-learning services by distance students. Prior to actual exams, students are able to evaluate themselves through this service. There are over 11,000 questions for 124 courses. Between May 2005 and March 2006, 202,539 students have participated in 8,575,818 e-exam sessions. e-facilitator: This service enabled students to be able to ask their questions related to the course content. In addition this service allows a student to see other students questions and the tutors answers. At the moment, one tutor is responsible for each course. As the number of open education students who use this system increased, the number of tutors per course increased. Between May 2005 and March 2006, students asked 3052 questions. e-audio Book: In the open education system, there are a number of physically disabled students, some of whom having visual disabilities. To accommodate such students needs audio-recorded books are prepared. Thus, those students will be provided with CD ROMs containing MP3 files. Not only students with visual disabilities but also other students who are interested in audio textbooks can use this service. Between August 2005 and March 2006, 49,548 students used this service 168,926 times. A considerable increase in the success of students who use the e-learning services has been observed when compared with those who did not. In the academic year, the average success of 91,000 students who benefited from the open education e-learning services was 19 % higher than those 619,000 students who did not benefit from it (Mutlu et al. 2004). The internet-based practice software in the Open Education System is the biggest e-learning project in Turkey in terms of the number of students targeted. English Language Teacher Training Program English Language Teacher Training Program began to admit its first students in the in accordance with the protocol signed by the Ministry of Education and Anadolu University to help meet the increasing demand for English teachers at primary and secondary education. The program is equivalent to other English Language Teacher Training programs in Education Faculties across Turkey. Thus, graduates of this program receive a bachelor s degree. The program had its first graduates at the end of Totally, 9529 students are enrolled in the ELTT program. According to the agreement with the Ministry some of these student teachers are able to work as part-time teachers after compelting first two years. In fact quite a number of students used this opportunity (especially in rural areas) while they are continuing their education. The model implemented in this program also facilitates this opportunity and make it a universally unique system. English Language Teacher Training Program employs a blended approach. In other words, during the first two years of the program, students must attend the on-campus courses but later during the last two years, they are required to study by themselves via their textbooks and are voluntarily able to attend the online pedagogical support courses. These online courses, designed to accompany the textbooks, contain audio, animations, detailed lectures,

5 and drill and practice components. These courses are designed and produced in a short time period (8 months) by course teams which consisted of instructional designers, content experts, computer experts, and graphic artists. Each online course has a coordinator and a number of tutors. The number of tutors assigned for a course depends on the number of students registered for that course. The purpose of the tutorials is to moderate the students discussions regarding the content and answer students questions. The tutors must answer group discussions within 24 hours, and student questions within 48 hours. The tutorials last for 25 weeks in accordance with the syllabus. Over 100 field experts and designers worked to prepare the on-line courses, 45 tutors are conducting the tutorials in the academic year. In the , out of the rd and 4th year students, 6295 benefited from this service. Graduate Programs Same as undergraduate studies, there is a big gab between demand and supply for graduate education. Due to mainly legal and organizational issues as well as shortage of faculty, limited number of graduate programs is offered during work hours and mainly individuals who aim academic careers are able to attend the graduate studies. This situation also increases the gap between industry and university. Anadolu University has been trying to decrease these gaps by offering various online graduate education opportunities since e-mba, e-accommodation and Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children masters degree programs are online graduate programs Anadolu University offers. Anadolu-SUNY, ESC, emba program is a dual diploma e-mba program master s program based on distance education techniques and accessed on the Internet, with the collaboration of Anadolu University and the State University of New York (http://emba.anadolu.edu.tr), approved by the Higher Education Council. e-accommodation masters degree program aims to train qualified workforce for the tourism sector and to furnish those in managerial positions with the skills and expertise required by the sector (http://ekon.anadolu.edu.tr). Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children is a distance education MA degree program aiming to train those teachers who already work in schools and centers around Turkey but who do not have the necessary training in teaching developmentally disabled children. It also aims at increasing the knowledge and skills of teachers with a formal education in this field (http://geycop.anadolu.edu.tr). Although these programs supply a portion of the demand for graduate education, legal and organizational issues as well as shortage of faculty, cost of education and learners economic conditions still barrier the improvement of these programs. Conclusion Anadolu University Open Education System is a modern distance education model that is equipped with a very flexible structure and a strong organization to meet the educational needs of Turkey. With its advanced infrastructure in technology and qualified and productive human resources, Anadolu University constantly improves and renews its distance education model. And through its distance education model, Anadolu University has contributed to the higher education in Turkey. The open education model, which has been conceived as education through television by the community since its establishment, has begun to be conceived as internet-based education due to the advancements in the 2000s. In the academic year, over 290,000 of the 1 million students regularly used the e-learning services. The number of students benefiting from open education services is expected to increase as the number of internet-based courses and e-learning services increase and as the Internet infrastructure of Turkey develops. References

6 Daniel, J. S. (1999). Mega-Universities & Knowledge Media. London: Kogan Page Limited. McIsaac, M. S., Murphy, K., & Demiray, U. (1988). Examining distance education in Turkey. Distance Education, 9(1) Mutlu, M. E. (2004). Information Management Associate Degree Program: The First Internet-Based Distance Education Experience in Turkey, The Eleventh Annual Distance Education Conference, Texas A&M University, Houston-Texas, January 20-23, Mutlu, M. E. (2004). E-Learning Applications in the Open Education Faculty of Anadolu University, European Association for Distance Learning (EADL) Conference 2004, Istanbul, May 26-28, Learning%20Applications%20in%20Open%20Education%20Faculty%20of%20Anadolu%20University.pdf Mutlu, M. E., Erorta, Ö. Ö. & Yılmaz, Ü. (2004). Efficiency of e-learning in Open Education, First International Conference on Innovations in Learning for the Future: e-learning, İstanbul, October 26-27, Ozkul, A. E. (2003, March). Distance education in Turkey: Anadolu University. Paper presented in the 2nd Conference on Distance Learning, Patras, Greece: Hellenic Open University. Paulsen, M. F. (2005). Success Factors in Large-Scale Online Education, Plenary speech at the EDEN Conference, Helsinki, Finland Trindade, A. R., Carmo, H. & Bidarra, J.(2000). Current Developments and Best Practice in Open and Distance Learning, June 2000, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, ISSN: , TUBITAK-BILTEN (2000). Bilgi teknolojileri yayginlik ve kullanimi arastırma raporu [Report on diffusion and use of information technologies]. Ankara, Turkey. Weller, M. (2004). Models of Large-Scale e-learning, December 2004, The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks (JALN), Volume 8, Issue 4

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